Brake Service

What is the most important safety device on your car? If you’ve ever partially lost your braking system in the past, you’ll agree that it’s not something you want to experience again. Inspecting your brake components twice a year for wear and damage can protect you and your passengers. Additionally, it will also help save you money by catching any damage before it becomes too costly.

Brake System Components That Can Fail

The master cylinder, the heart of the vehicle’s braking system, holds the brake fluid when it is not being delivered to the brakes through the brake lines. If brake fluid leaks because the master cylinder is worn or brake lines are plugged or broken, the fluid cannot be delivered, and the brake pads will become ruined.

The brake fluid itself can become dirty or contaminated as it draws rust-causing moisture and picks up other debris, or it can break down from excess heat. Clean fluid is either clear or slightly yellow, while dirty fluid may be brown or even black. Old and dirty fluid can damage ABS brake systems internally.

The brake lines connect to the master cylinder through a combination valve, which combines a metering and proportioning valve. It regulates the pressure on the front and rear wheels to make sure both sets of brakes are applied simultaneously. A malfunctioning combination valve may cause the wheels to lock up.

Brake pads and shoes can be made of ceramic, metal or organic materials, while the disc rotors and drums they press against are made of metal. Because the pads and shoes create friction to stop the car, they gradually wear down over time and may wear away completely, letting the metal of the calipers and cylinders they are attached to grind against the rotors and drums and damage them. Some pads have a metal strip attached that sounds a warning whistle when the pad becomes too worn, but this strip sounds only when the car is in motion and the brakes are not applied.

Make Brakes A Priority

With the current state of the economy, many people don’t have money saved up for emergency car repairs, and they let small problems with their vehicles become big problems. While a small crack in your windshield that progresses to a larger crack is a problem that may be able to wait, a problem with your brakes, even a small one, is not something that can be put off. Each time you drive a vehicle with brakes that are not functioning properly, you put yourself and everyone you encounter on the road in danger. Not being able to slow down or stop when you need to could prove to be fatal, which is why you need to make brake repairs a priority when you first notice signs of a problem.

Pads

The most common types of brake repairs are brake pad replacements. A disc braking system involves the use of calipers that grip the rotors in order to stop the vehicle. Pads provide a cushion for the process, which reduces wear and tear on the rotors. If you notice changes in the amount of pressure required to slow down or stop, your pads are likely worn out. A slight vibration may also be noticeable. You may also hear squeaking or a squealing noise when you apply the brakes. All of these are signs that your brake pads need replacing, so you should make an appointment right away to have them checked and replaced if necessary.

Rotors

If you don’t maintain your pads, you will wear out your rotors more quickly. Worn rotors can significantly affect your ability to slow down or stop when you need to. It may feel as if you are pumping your brakes when trying to slow down, due to air in your brake system as a result of worn rotors. In addition, worn rotors can affect your ability to maintain control of your vehicle. The rotors become warped because they don’t wear evenly when the pads are worn, and this affects your entire suspension system.

Your steering wheel may vibrate so vigorously that you can lose your grip on the wheel, or your steering can be affected by the vibrations. Braking when you are driving fast can also be affected by shaking and shuddering of the suspension, which could put you at risk of having an accident. Replacing rotors is one of more expensive types of repairs, and maintaining your pads will help prevent premature wear on rotors.

Drums

Drum brakes are composed of three key parts — slave cylinder (sometimes also called the wheel cylinder), shoes and drum. When the brake pedal is depressed, fluid is directed to the slave cylinder, positioned between two curved brake shoes. As the cylinder expands, it pushes the shoes outward against the inside of the spinning drum. The drum is attached to the wheels, so when enough force is applied to the drum, the whole car stops. The amount of force needed to stop a moving vehicle depends on several variables like size and speed, but as you can imagine, this sequence of events produces a lot of heat.

When heat buildup is more than friction components can handle, you get a condition known as brake fade, and that’s not a place you want to be. Also, because heat causes metal to expand, too much heat will expand the drum itself, meaning the shoes have to travel even further to stop it, greatly reducing efficiency. The upside to drum brakes is that they’re cheaper to manufacture (a benefit passed on to the consumer) and easy to service. Generally all that’s needed is to pluck out a few springs and replace the shoes — a task that a pair of skilled hands could perform in a matter of minutes.

Fluid

Your brake fluid is part of a hydraulic system that causes compression of the fluid when you apply your brakes, which allows the calipers, with the aid of the brake pads, grip the rotor to slow down your vehicle. A similar system is utilized in the case of drum brakes, in which the fluid compresses to allow the brake shoe to press against the brake drum, slowing down your vehicle.

Moisture can get into your lines, and the water, unlike brake fluid, becomes steamy when heated. The steam does not work as well for compression as the brake fluid, which can affect your braking performance. Fluid flushing is one of the other necessary types of braking repairs that keep your system working at optimal levels.