Brakes are the single most important safety system for your car or truck.
Your car’s brakes require regular maintenance in order to work properly. If you’ve ever had your car lose the ability to stop while driving, you know how unnerving it can be. Have your brakes inspected every 10,000 miles to avoid a big repair ticket later, or worse.
Brake pads wear down a little bit every time you stop. Once your pads wear out, if you continue using them they will damage your rotors, which is a more expensive fix and could lead to catastrophic failure. You should replace your pads regularly as maintenance in order to avoid this.
Here, we’ll mostly be talking about disc brakes, the most common type of stopping system found on a car. If you come in to have us inspect your car’s stopping system, we’ll check your pads and rotors. We’ll also check the hydraulic system that connects your brake pedal to the caliper to ensure it’s working properly.
If you’re experiencing noise when braking or if they’re making noise while driving, you might need new pads. Or you might need new pads and rotors. Or maybe you don’t need any new parts at all, just a small adjustment. Either way, bring your car to us for an inspection and we’ll talk you through your options.
If your brake pedal feels spongy, or it just doesn’t feel right, bring it to us. Your car’s hydraulic system likely needs to be serviced. We’ll diagnose it and give you our recommendations.
In order to properly inspect some stopping systems, we have to remove the wheels. In this case, we would charge for diagnostics. This is in everyone’s best interest since we’ll know the full extent of the situation before starting the repair. This makes for fewer surprises, and that’s best for everyone.
How brakes work
In order to understand how your car stops you’ll need to understand some basic vocabulary:
- Brake pads: Pads are what make contact with your rotors to cause friction in order to stop your car.
- Brake rotor: Rotors are metal discs connected to your car’s wheels, they are what the pads squeeze in order to stop your car.
- Brake caliper: Calipers hold the pads and contain pistons.
- Master cylinder: The master cylinder is like a plunger that drives the pressure created from your foot hitting the pedal to the pistons (or other braking mechanisms).
- Piston: Pistons are metal rods that press the pads into the calipers.
- Hydraulic system: Hydraulic systems use pressurized fluid to transfer power from your foot hitting the pedal to the pistons via hydraulic hoses (called brake lines).
These components work together to make your car stop when you want it to.
When you press down on the pedal you’re moving the master cylinder. The master cylinder then pushes hydraulic fluid through your brake lines towards the calipers (and pistons).
When the hydraulic pressure from the master cylinder reaches the brake calipers it pushes the pistons out of the caliper. These pistons push the brake pads onto both sides of the rotor. Here, the brake pads are essentially grabbing the rotor. This causes the rotor to stop rotating. Since the rotor is attached to your car’s wheel, this makes the wheel stop turning.
All of this is happening on each of the four calipers every time you hit the brake pedal. It’s impressive they last as long as they do, considering they’re dragging across a rotor spinning at thousands of revolutions per minute.
If you’re hearing noise when hitting the brake pedal or noise driving down the road, something could be wrong with your pads or rotors. Squealing can mean you need pads because they’re worn down. New brakes out of the box can also squeak due to the pads and rotors not being broken in. Either way, you should always have confidence that your car will stop when you want it to, so it’s worth getting it checked out.
If your brake pedal doesn’t feel right or if it feels spongy, something is likely wrong with your master cylinder or another component in the hydraulic system. You should definitely get this diagnosed.
If you’re experiencing anything that doesn’t feel right involving your car’s braking system, get it checked out. Bring it to us, it could be a minor fix that may help you avoid a bigger problem down the road.