A Guide to Brake Security and Preventive Maintenance.
Braking security and preventive maintenance are essential for ensuring the safe operation of any vehicle, either on or off-road. Proper maintenance and inspection of your brakes can help to prevent accidents and extend the life of your vehicle’s braking system, saving you a lot of time and money in the long run. In this article, you will find some key points to consider to keep your brakes running as good as new or even better.
Preventive maintenance and regular inspection are paramount for safety and to address potential problems on time. Look regularly for signs of wear or damage, such as uneven pad wear, warping, marks, or sign of corrosion of the brake rotors, and leaks, swell, and damage in the brake lines. Check the fluid level and condition and ensure that the brake pads have enough lining compound and are thick enough to work properly and without damaging the rotors.
It’s essential to think about your brakes as a system. If a single component fails, the whole system probably does. Some parts are more critical than others, but it’s important to play safe and avoid unnecessary risks. It’s also important to remember that even when they are built to be tough, brake components don’t last forever; they have a lifespan that varies depending on your driving habits, road condition, and weather, among other things.
It’s important to know that other parts affect your vehicle’s braking performance and should be appropriately maintained. For example:
- Tires are the only part of your vehicle that keeps it connected to the road. Just a small squared patch is in contact with the ground as you drive, accelerate, and brake. No matter how well-cared your brakes are, if you don’t have a good set of tires with enough grip to help translate the braking force into the road. It’s also important to have a set of tires compatible with the use of your vehicle. In short conclusion, tires are vital to achieving optimal brake performance.
- Proper wheel alignment is also vital to help your vehicle to brake safely. Misalignment can make your car pull as you drive and can also cause it to pull as you brake, mostly at high speeds; that’s when you need the most braking performance.
- Suspension is another system that affects brake performance. For example, a defective shock or strut will affect your vehicle’s weight distribution, and it can produce a front-end nosedive when you brake. Besides, defective shocks and struts make the wheels bounce, reducing the tires’ contact with the road, which translates into longer stopping distances. Besides, worn suspensions overstress your brakes, leading to premature wear.
- Other components, such as control arms, bushings, and tie rods, can cause misalignment or make your car pull to one side as you brake.
- Damaged or worn wheel bearings can cause vibrations that prevent the vehicle from braking smoothly. Besides, a bad wheel bearing can also make the wheel wobble, which it’s unsafe per se and can affect the brake caliper’s ability to grip the rotor, leading to reduced braking performance. Last but not least, bad wheel bearings can cause additional and premature wear of the brake pads, leading to increased brake maintenance costs and unnecessary repairs.
10 Point Check List To Keep Your Brakes As Good As New
1. Brake Pads
Don’t wait until it’s too late to change your brake pads. Most brake pads have wear indicators called wear tabs; as they are exposed and get in contact with the rotor, they cause a high-pitched metal-on-metal noise as a warning that the brake pads are extremely worn and must be replaced. Don’t wait until the wear tabs are exposed or to see a brake pad indicator light on your cluster; it might be too late, and besides being dangerous, the metal-on-metal friction can damage your brake rotors.
Check your brake pads visually at least every six months and every time you change the oil. If you feel something is wrong with your brakes, check them as often as needed, it won’t do any harm. You can check your brake pads yourself, as shown here, or let your trusted mechanic do it for you.
When it’s time to replace your brake pads, it’s always best to spend a few extra bucks and purchase the best product you can buy; safety can’t be bought with money. You can find more about brake pads and lining compounds here.
2. Brake Rotors And Other Components
As you check your brake pads, you will also have a good view of your rotors, and you will be able to spot visible signs of tear and wear like warping, and you will also be able to check their thickness. Brake rotors should last between 30,000 and 70,000 miles; however, their lifespan can be reduced if they are not properly cared for. For example, they can get damaged by neglected and extremely thin brake pads or exposure to sudden temperature changes. You should inspect your brake rotors at least every time you replace your brake pads, but the ideal would be to take a good look at them every time you change your oil
You will find a thorough guide about how to check your brake rotors in this link, or you can ask your trusted mechanic to check them.
Calipers are also vital parts of the braking system; they push the brake pads against the rotors every time you press the brake pedal. They can cause dangerous braking problems if they fail. They aren’t as easy to check as brake pads, rotors, or brake fluid, but it’s important to do so to prevent accidents and unnecessary damage to other braking components.
Calipers are designed to endure extreme conditions, but, like every mechanical component, they can fail. Calipers have pistons that are protected by rubber boots. These rubber boots protect the delicate moving parts from dust, road debris, water, and other particles that can lead to corrosion or make them stick. A good habit is to check them at least once a year or more frequently if you take your vehicle to muddy and difficult off-road trails.
Here you will find an interesting guide about how to check your calipers.
3. Brake Fluid
Brake fluid is in charge of transmitting the force from the brake pedal to the calipers. Brake fluid doesn’t last forever; most vehicle manufacturers recommend changing it every two years or when you notice a decay in your vehicle’s braking performance and the systems seem to be in perfect working conditions. Brake fluid can become contaminated by cracked brake lines, master cylinder problems, and the passing of time.
Another very important thing is to use at least the fluid type recommended by the manufacturer. However, you should upgrade your brake fluid if you installed a big brake kit or if you use your vehicle for towing or extreme recreative driving, where your brakes will be subjected to more stress and will generate more heat. One of the most important qualities of brake fluid is its boiling point. High-performance brake fluid has a higher boiling point, ensuring that your vehicle will safely stop even in the most extreme conditions.
4. Brake Lines
Brake lines are often neglected until something is wrong. Good brake preventive maintenance wouldn’t be complete without taking care of brake lines as well. They take pressurized brake fluid to the calipers, so they can apply force to the rotors and stop the vehicle; that’s why it’s important to keep an eye on them.
Stock brake lines are usually made of rubber or metal combined with rubber; that’s why they are prone to crack, degrade, and wear out over time. They are constantly exposed to temperature changes, weather, dust, mud, and of course, the high pressure caused by braking. They can also tend to swell over time, which can reduce the brake fluid pressure causing your brakes to lose efficiency. They usually don’t completely break and start leaking, giving you enough time to notice the problem and replace them. But you shouldn’t take unnecessary risks; that’s why it’s important to check them regularly to prevent accidents.
Besides, if you usually take your vehicle off-road and subject it to extreme conditions, consider upgrading your brake lines. There are many improved aftermarket brake lines designed to endure the most challenging conditions and incredible levels of brake fluid pressure. Upgrading your brake lines is a great preventive measure to reinforce your brakes and reduce your vehicle’s stopping distance.
5. Keep Your Brake System Clean
Dirt and debris can accumulate in your brake system if left unattended, causing the brakes to lose efficiency. Make sure to keep the brake system’s components clean and free of debris to ensure optimal braking performance and extend its lifespan.
Keep your brakes; remove dirt, dust, and other contaminants that can accumulate over time. You can use a good-quality brake cleaner to remove dirt and debris from your braking system’s most sensitive parts. Keep your brake pads, rotors, and calipers away from oil or other harmful substances. Use a dry cloth to clean your brake components, avoiding contact with other automotive fluids or lubricants.
Keep your wheels clean; they tend to accumulate contaminants and brake pad dust which can contaminate your brakes or get caught between your brake pads and rotors, causing premature tear and wear.
Keeping your brakes clean is essential to ensure optimal brake performance and reduce the risk of accidents.
6. Keep It Cool
Brakes reach incredibly high temperatures as you brake, especially when using your vehicle in heavy traffic or on steep terrain, not to mention track days, which deserve an article on their own. High temperatures can cause the brake fluid to boil, as discussed above. That’s why it’s important to use proper brake fluid and avoid using the brakes excessively while they are hot. However, if you can’t avoid using your vehicle under rough conditions: for example, you are an avid off-road driver or you need to haul heavy loads, you can make further modifications to upgrade your brakes and keep the temperature down.
You can achieve this in many ways, but one of the most efficient ways is installing a big brake kit. These kits usually include bigger brake rotors that allow you to install bigger brake pads and are designed to dissipate heat more efficiently because they have a bigger surface. Besides, aftermarket brakes are designed to dissipate heat better, so they are an attractive alternative if you enjoy driving with a heavy foot.
7. Drive Safe And Adopt Good Driving Habits
- Many people use to tailgate or drive unnecessarily fast, for example, when approaching a stop sign or a red line. This way of driving puts unnecessary stress on the brakes and wears them out faster. Reducing your speed with anticipation and letting your gearbox slow down as much as possible before you apply the brakes is an excellent way to extend their lifespan.
- Remember not to rest your foot on the brake pedal while driving.
- Weight is one of the factors that put strain on your brakes. Remove any unnecessary weight from your vehicle to make your brakes’ job easier.
8. Off-Road Extreme Care
Bear in mind that off-road vehicles are subjected to harder driving conditions and roads than street vehicles. That’s why they need more maintenance, and brakes are no exception.
If you use your vehicle off-road a lot, check your braking system more often and keep it clean. Besides, do quick checks before and after you take your vehicle for an off-road ride.
9. Be Aware Of Damage Symptoms
It’s important to pay attention to any signs of wear or damage. As you drive, you may hear strange noises or feel that your brakes don’t behave as usual. Learning to be aware of these signs and taking action as soon as you notice them will help you ensure your safety on the road and prevent more costly damage.
10. Get Professional Help
Brakes are a sensitive part of your vehicle. Knowing how to service your car yourself is great, but don’t hesitate to seek professional help and advice if you have doubts or find problems that exceed your technical knowledge.
If you follow these steps, you will have the peace of mind that you will be driving a safe and as sound as new vehicle. You just have to enjoy your driving and schedule frequent checkups to keep it that way.