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Why service your brakes?

The importance of brakes for ensuring your safety cannot be understated since the brakes are the most critical component of your car. Today’s cars have many improved features regarding brakes, but they should still undergo regular maintenance checks to avoid failure and more costly repairs down the road. If you notice any operational issues, you should always seek help as soon as possible.

Service maintenance for brakes should occur at least once a year to inspect the condition of the hydraulic system and operating hardware. The friction materials such as pads, shoes, rotors, and drum require constant monitoring because they are used and wear down every time you apply your brakes.

The main components of a brake service include the following components:

  1. Brake Pads
  2. Brake Rotors
  3. Brake Calipers
  4. Brake Master Cylinder, Brake Fluid and Brake Lines

Brake pads are the components that typically need relatively more frequent inspection then the others. Consult your Vehicle Owner’s manual for the proper timeline, however we advise that these should be checked every time you have a tire-swap from season to season. Your mechanic, can give you a quick visual estimate as to the thickness of the pads, and how much further they can last you while the wheel’s are off. We also recommend a through yearly inspection of the pads.

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What are some signs that your brake pads need to be inspected/replaced? The following might be some indicators:

  • It takes you a longer distance to stop, then what you were previously used to
  • You foot needs to compress the brake pedal much further, then what you were previously used to
  • Whenever you press your brake pedal, you notice a squeling sound. This likely is as a result of the wear indicators contacting the rotors, signalling the very low thickness of your brake pads.

Brake rotors, these are the big circular discs that you can see once your wheel is taken off the wheel rim.

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The rotors work hand-in-hand with the brake calipers and brake pads to slow down your car. Fundamentally, the calipers squeeze the brake pads to contact with the brake rotors/discs to slow down the movement of your wheel, thus causing your car to stop. One signb of wearing of the rotors is that when you come press your brake, there is a wobble of the steering wheel. This might imply warping of the rotors. Ideally, this should lead to a replacement, however if that isn’t an immediate option – depending on the thickness of the metal remaining on the rotor, your mechanic might be able to turn and re-surface your rotors to give it a little more usable time. Usually, rotors last for twice as much as your brake pads in terms of the vehicle life-cycle.

Brake calipers, these are the red colored portion in the below picture.

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They are contain pistons, whose purpose is to help squeeze the brake pads against the rotors/disc and cause a reduction in the spinning of your wheels. Usually, unlike brake rotors and pads, calipers do not need to be replaced due to regular wear but due to deterioration, corrosion or an issue with the breaking system. They last much more than the life-cycle of your brake rotors and pads. However, they are an extremely crucial part to the braking process and need to be inspected atleast once a year or as per your Vehicle Manufacturer’s recommended interval.

Brake Master Cylinder and Brake Lines, these are the final components that complete the end-to-end vehicle braking system. The brake master cylinder is essentially a hydraulic pump. When you press the brake pedal from within the car, it forces the master cylinder to push out brake fluid through the brake lines to the brake calipers, which in turn cause the brake pads to compress and grip the rotors. It is important to check your brake fluid at regular intervals, bake fluid is hydroscopic – which means that it has affinity for moisture from the air.  Moisture in the brake system is bad, as it can cause premature wear of the brake system. Typically a good time interval to flush your brake fluid is every two years or as per your Vehicle Manufacturer’s recommended interval. Also a visual inspection of the brake lines, can give you a good indication of any leaks or rusts. Air in the braking system is extremely risky as it can cause you to loose braking ability, and compressing your brake pedal all the way down – could cause no braking action at all. The folks over at WikiHow, have a really interesting article with images on how to correctly inspect your brake fluid levels.