The brakes are one of, if not the, most important safety feature on your car. Without good working brakes you can not only cause serious harm to yourself or others but can find yourself on the wrong side of the law. To make sure neither of these happen we’re going to show you a few tips that will help you keep an eye on the quality of your brakes, and may even save you some money on repair bills.
This is something that not enough of us do, and it’s one of the easiest maintenance tips you can be shown. To visually insect your brake pads all you need to do is look at the amount of friction material that is left on the pads. This can be done easily if you have alloy wheels that have large gaps between the spokes, and more often than not you won’t need to remove the wheel to check. Manufacturers tend to recommend that there should be a minimum of 3mm (1/64 inch) of friction material on the pads. If you go below this amount you run the risk of having the metal backing of the pads coming into contact with the rotor. This is where expensive damage can be caused and your car becomes unsafe to drive.
If you want to give your brake pads a thorough inspection then you will need to take the wheel, and occasionally the caliper, off the car. This is a good way of checking the overall condition of the pad and to see if there are any cracks in it, but it may be out of the skill set of many of the average driver. As usual if you have an concerns, go and see a mechanic.
You can use other unorthodox methods for keeping an eye on your brake pads. As you may well have noticed there will be a build up of dust from the pads on the wheels after you have been driving for a while. If you notice that the amount of dust is getting less and less then it could mean that the pads are starting to wear a bit thin. This method isn’t recommended due to the fact that there are many reasons why the amount of dust is less than usual, but it can be used as a good reminder for checking your pads.
If you haven’t visually checked your brakes then the noise they make can often be a good indicator to how they are. If there is a high pitched screeching noise whenever you apply the brakes then there may be a problem with them, such as there being metal on metal contact due to the pads having worn out. Banging is another noise to look out for as well, it could be a sign that your brakes are binding. As soon as you start to hear anything out of the ordinary then either check them yourself of take them to a mechanic to have a look at.
Another one of your senses that can be used to your advantage. We spend years of our lives driving, and because of this if something feels or sounds different we tend to notice. If whenever you apply the brakes your car begins to vibrate or pull to one side then it’s highly likely that there’s something wrong with them. Vibration under braking is a symptom of warped discs whereas your car pulling to one side can be a symptom that there is uneven wear on the brake pads, but it could also be a more serious problem, such as an issue with the hydraulics (a blocked pipe or something similar). Grinding is another sensation that you need to look out for. It will more often than not be a foreign body, like a rock, having got between the pad and rotor, but could also be an indicator of wear. Always check your brakes if there is a grinding sensation. Even if there is a rock in the brake system it can damage the pads and cause them to prematurely wear.
If you do get the opportunity to check your rotors, run your hand across them. They should have a smooth, glass-like feel to them. If you notice anything such as grooves then you may need to have them replaced. These grooves will cause uneven and premature wear to your brake pads.
As with everything with a car, the sooner you get it fixed the cheaper it works out in the long run.