March 21, 2018
The Most Important Thing to Check in Your Vehicle is…
There is really not just one thing to check on your vehicle that would ensure you a problem free trip to Florida and back. Instead it would be a rather long checklist, consisting of at least 100 important items! But for now, let’s just focus on one crucial item. Brakes!
What good is a moving vehicle, if you can’t stop? If your engine doesn’t run, you’re stuck where you are until you can get it fixed, but this does not endanger lives. If your engine runs but you can’t stop, not only is your life in danger, but so are your passenger’s lives and anyone else on the roads with you.
Why is it so difficult to determine how long brakes will last?
A traveling sales person driving on the highway for 40,000 miles a year, could have brakes lasting 100,000 miles, while the soccer parent traveling just 12,000 miles around town a year, may have to replace their brakes after only 40,000 miles. Why? Stop and go driving is much harder on a vehicle’s braking system than long-distance highway driving is. There are additional factors to consider as well when trying to determine how long brakes will last. The weight of the vehicle, driving habits, the size of the brakes as well as the quality of brake pads and rotors all effect brake life.
What Happened to the E-Brake?
Have you noticed a growing number of vehicles no longer have a “Emergency Brake”? Now, they are called “Parking brakes” and they are electronic. Now, we also have a growing dependability on autonomous braking systems in “Emergency” situations where the vehicle itself actually stops - before hitting a pedestrian, or the vehicle in front of us. But, guess what? Our brakes still have to work correctly for this system to work! I’ve seen a whole bunch of these newer systems on our customers vehicles, and if this function is able to be switched off, it usually is. I shut this feature off on my car. Why, you ask? Because, with all the potholes in this area, the last thing I need is my vehicle fighting me to “stay within the lanes”.
Will My Car Warn Me When I Need Brakes?
Some European vehicles have wear sensors in their brake pads that produce a symbol in the dash when it’s time to replace them. Keep in mind, however, that even with this system, the rear brake pads may not have this sensor, and there may only be 1 sensor for the front. That means it may only indicate on 1 brake pad/wheel out of four – and your other wheels may be worse. Some vehicles have a wear sensor that is metal and it makes a scraping noise as the brake pad its mounted to, wears down to the minimum specifications.
Not all vehicles have a feature to warn the driver of brake pad wear. This means that the only way to ensure your brakes are safe is to have them checked by a mechanic who will measure the thickness of the pads and condition of the rotors or drums. Because the braking system is hydraulic is requires Brake fluid to function properly. It is important to maintain the proper fluid level and testing the fluid quality can help determine how effectively it is protecting things like brake lines, calipers and the master cylinder.
Bottom line is, make sure your vehicles braking system is in top working condition BEFORE something happens and you can’t stop! If you can’t check these things yourself, find a local ASE certified mechanic that you trust and have them check the brake system thoroughly at least once every 6 months.