Remember when you roll up to a traffic stop, and that awful screeching noise you hear coming from somewhere near you like nails clawing at the insides of your gut? You probably looked out of the window and tried searching for the car it came from only to realize it was you all along as you reach stops after stops after stops. That sound is your brakes telling you that they need attention, and quick.
Brakes serve one purpose – braking. It sounds simple enough, but it is undoubtedly the most important job for your car other than driving. If you live in the city, your foot probably stayed on the brakes more than you did the gas pedal. If you live in the Greater Toronto Area like I do, then the brakes become your best friend. These little companions are the only thing stopping you from hitting that vanishing pole when you reverse park, or that trigger happy brake-checker in front of you, or even the pedestrian that jumps out of nowhere only to glare at you when you almost missed him. With such great importance for these suckers, these guys should receive a lot of attention from us, right?
However, that isn’t the case. You probably never thought about them until your mechanic nags you to replace them or when that horrid sound gets unbearable. Every day we think “Just a little more. Just a little more” until our mechanics have to stop us from delaying anymore. Just last year, I neglected my squealing brakes until I had my first date. I am not going to pull up with my car fresh from the car wash creaking to a stop. The consequences of not replacing your brakes don’t just stop there. Other than embarrassment and possible nagging from your parents, your brakes may make the difference between life or death. As your brakes continue to wear out, their braking power starts to go down. What it means is it’ll take longer for your car to stop. That minuscule difference in braking power would save your life, others, and a whole lot of regrets down the road.
There are three main parts to the brakes of your car. The brake disc, the brake caliper, and the brake pads. When you step on the brakes, the brake caliper pushes the brake pad against the brake disc, and as a result, creates friction – the wonderful thing that helps stop your car. As you keep braking during the life of your brakes, the wear and tear build-up and eventually smoothen out the surface between the brake pads and brakes, resulting in a longer braking time and braking distance. Usually, the brake pads are replaced often and are the main culprit of almost every failing brake. But there’s more to brakes than brake pads. Luckily, there are signs we can count on before our brakes totally give out. And checking them only takes a few minutes and just a bit of alertness while driving.
- Clues before you drive.
Most modern cars come with an abundance of warning systems that turn on when you drive. For brakes, there is the Antilock Braking System (ABS) and a brake system light. The brake system light engages whenever you put on your parking brakes. However, when they turn on without your parking brakes, it’s usually an indicator that your brakes need to be checked.
You can also check your brakes by eyeing them. The golden rule is when your brake pads are only ¼ inch thick, you should start shopping for new ones.
- Clues when you drive.
That screeching sound when you stop? That’s also a clear sign that you need to get your brake pads checked. Most brake pads have a little warning system installed, a metal part that makes a loud squeal whenever your brake pads are nearing the end of their lives. However, this squeal can also happen when the surface of your brake pads and discs are “glazed”. Your brake pads and discs create this smooth surface when they are always in contact. The friction smoothens the surfaces and thus “glazes” them. This usually is a sign for you to change your calipers, as they may be sticking and forcing your brakes to be engaged even when you are not on the brake pedal.
Given time the screeching sound would end up into a loud grinding sound. And that is the prelude to the death of your brake pads. If you want to save some major bucks, this is a stage you want to prevent as your discs start getting damaged. Your discs could also get warped and cause strong vibrations when you break again.
- Brake Fluid
Brake fluid is easily one of the things we all forget about, and as such, I created a little subsection for it. I never knew what brake fluid does and how important it is until I got my regular oil change from my mechanic. The common telltale signs that your brake fluid should be changed is – as with most foods as well – the scent and the color. New brake fluid is transparent, as it gets older and used for your constant stops in the city jam, it darkens in color and even produces a burnt odor. However, changing brake fluid is a complicated job, if done wrong you might end up creating more problems than before. What we can do is ask our mechanics to check the brake fluid whenever we get our oil changed or check if the level reaches the minimum mark on the brake fluid tank.
Checking for these signs of worn-out brakes saves you a lot of trouble in the long run. Not only will you stop receiving glares at the stop for your gut-wrenching loud squeals, but you’re also saving hundreds of dollars from protecting other parts in your brake system from changing your brake pads for under a hundred dollars. Not to mention, functional and healthy brakes could be the one thing that stands between saving a life to a life filled with regrets. So every time you hear screeches or feel like your stops take longer than usual, give your mechanic a call to see if anything is wrong with your brakes and whether you need to replace any part of your brake system, and be sure to save money by shopping with NADPE for Genuine OEM Parts at a discounted rate.