Most people are really concerned about keeping their car going. They'll change the oil, make sure they're using the right octane gasoline and even have their belts checked and their transmission fluid and antifreeze flushed on a regular basis. But knowing if you really need a brake repair so your car stops as consistently as it goes is vitally important as well.
There are several signs it's time to either have your brakes checked, or changed. Most of those signs manifest themselves as either sounds or, when it's past time to change them even a feeling on your foot as you press the brake pedal. And when it's to the point where it's dangerous, you may even feel it when you press the brake pedal in the steering wheel.
Brakes in modern cars come in two basic types: disc brakes and drum brakes. Years ago, the lining on the brake pads was made from asbestos, but now are either ceramic or a semi-metallic blends which makes them more reliable. However, they still wear out. Each time the brake pedal is pressed, the brake pads are hydraulically pressed against either the drum or the disc to slow the car, or to stop it. These pads pressing against the cast iron drum or disc will eventually wear out and need replacing. But how do you tell when they need replacing?
Short of putting the car on jacks or on a lift and taking the wheel off to apply a caliper to measure the amount of material left on the pads, there are some less technical ways to tell if it's time to have them checked or changed. However, there are some signs that actually mean you should run, not walk, to your local brake shop.
When brakes wear, they create dust from the pads. This dust will show up on the wheels of the car, and may even show up on the outside if you have rims with slots or holes in them. While this is normal, seeing a lot of brake dust on your rims may be a sign of trouble. Some brake pads are designed with special materials in them or they'll have a protrusion on the pad at a certain depth. This will cause your brakes to squeal when you apply them. Generally, when brakes start squealing, it may be time to have them checked for wear.
But definite warning signs are when you press down on the brake pedal and unusual things happen. You'll know it is definitely time to change the brakes when you feel a grinding or vibration under your foot when you mash the brakes. If you have ABS brakes, you'll feel a jump under your foot as the anti-lock brake system engages, but the grinding sensation means the pads have worn out and the rivets that hold the pads to the mounting plate are beginning to dig into the cast iron of the drum or disc. You're actually causing damage to that drum or disc every time you mash the brake, so having the pads changed as soon as possible is vital.
If the brakes aren't repaired, eventually the pad will seize to the drum or disc or will tear loose completely causing the hydraulic hose to the pad and brakes to fail, letting all the brake fluid out. This means when you mash the pedal down, it will go to the floor and the car will not stop. Even if you mash the pedal and it feels soft, or changes where it wants to stop the car, you may need to have the brake fluid checked.
Keeping your car going is important to your day to day activities. Making sure your car stops is important to your life. Check your brakes, the fluid and change them when needed. It is of life and death importance
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