When Should Your Brakes Be Replaced?
Your brakes – they’re holding you back!
We know, we know – it’s a tired joke, but brake maintenance is no laughing matter. The first rule of thumb for good brake maintenance is to accept the importance of well-maintained brakes and the role they play in the protection of your life, your passengers’ lives, and the lives of those around you.
First things first – it’s good to know what your brake components actually are.
Disk brakes: what are they?
If you drive a car, light SUV or truck, your vehicle probably uses disc brakes to come to a stop.
Disc brakes slow your vehicle’s forward momentum by applying frictional pressure from the caliper to the rotor (the spinning part of the wheel). This is done through
the gripping of the brake pad. The force the caliper applies is created through hydraulics. Take a look below:
Photo Credit: Less Schwab
The smooth silver disc seen above is the rotor. The dull metal housing encasing the left side of the rotor is the caliper. The visible black portions beneath the caliper (sitting on the surface of the rotor) is a brake pad.
Because of how fast a vehicle’s wheels rotate while driving, and how much a typical car or truck weighs, brake pads actually undergo extreme stress every time you slo
w down or come to a stop. Just imagine how much worse it is when you slam your brakes on an emergency!
Brakes, undoubtedly, have a lifespan which can be impacted by road conditions and driving habits. A routine maintenance schedule combined with some basic knowledge is your best option to make sure you’re always driving on the safe side. When in doubt, a professional inspection is your best choice.
With that said, however, here are some easy indicators that you can use to know when it’s time for a check up!
1. A high-pitched squeal
This one’s the easiest.
The vast majority of brakes are designed with an audible indicator of wear. It’s an engineering design of simple genius for car owners. If you hear a high-pitched squeal when you hit your brakes, you don’t need to kneel down and try to figure out the amount of wear on your brakes.
It’s time to book a maintenance appointment.
2. The flashing light on your dash
Photo Credit: Edmunds.com
Check your driver’s manual to confirm if your vehicle has a brake trouble indicator on the dash.
If you have that feature and it turns on while driving, especially if you are not currently depressing your brake pedal, call your mechanic. The manufacturers have put that indicator in for a reason.
3. Visual inspection
If your wheels are designed in such a way for you to easily view your brakes, you can actually take a look yourself. You won’t have an expert opinion, but you can use a basic rule of thumb.
Kneel close to your tire, so you can see the “meat” of the brake pad. Check to see if it is at least a minimum of ¼ inch thicker than the caliper, along the plane of the rotor. If you can see that much brake pad, you can rule out lifespan wear.
If you can’t visibly see your brake pads or if you’re worried about a specific underlying issue, you’ll have to take off the tire for a better view.
4. Shudder, shimmy, quake
If you can hear or feel a light, rapidly repetitive shudder when you step on your brakes (that isn’t in an anti-lock braking situation) it’s quite possible that the rotor inside your brake system is no longer smooth and may require either planing or replacement. This is important because it impacts the efficiency of your applied brake power and can lengthen the distance you need to come to complete stop.
Yes, a shimmy or a quake could also indicate an issue in your suspension, but badly warped brake rotors can vibrate through your vehicle making exact diagnosis difficult for the driver. Your mechanic will let you know what the actual issue is.
Safety first, always
Modern engineering is constantly evolving – and combined with safety regulations, cars are continually becoming safer with each passing year. All of Mac James’ vehicles also go through a multi-point inspection for wear and tear, and safety features are at the very top of our list.
If you want some advanced in-car information as a driver and owner, you should pick out your next car based on expert independent recognition for safety. Take for example, the 2014 Chrysler 200.
This trusty vehicle has earned a “Top Safety Pick” from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, an independent organization that conducts thorough vehicle tests to determine crashworthiness and provide ratings for systems that warn the driver or brake automatically to avoid a frontal collision.
At Mac James Motors, we put safety first. Our team will always be more than happy to walk you through any of our vehicles’ inspection reports before you even take a glance at the keys. Let’s get in touch to see what we can do for you! In the meantime, stay social with us on Facebook and Instagram, and take our “car-o-scope” quiz below to see which car might fit your personality the best.