Brakes are one of the important parts of any vehicle! They help to ensure that you and your passengers are safe on the road. That is why it's so important to know When to Change your Brake Pads. The easiest way to find out is by scheduling a Brake Inspection.
It's really normal for us to wait until something breaks before we actually look into fixing it. With an automobile this can very often be a mistake! Especially with something so vital as your car's brakes. The last thing that anyone wants is: to find out that their brakes are bad in an emergency, when it's too late! If someone runs out in front of your car; or if someone slams on their brakes in front of you, unexpectedly - those are times that you really need to be able to depend on your brakes.
What Are Brake Pads and Brake Shoes?
First lets talk a little bit about Brake Pads and Brake Shoes and how they work. Most modern vehicles have both disc brakes and drum brakes: disc brakes in the front, drum brakes in the back. More expensive vehicles may have disc brakes in both the front and the back. Usually only very old vehicles will have drum brakes in both the front and the back.
1. Brake Pads:
Vehicles with disc brakes have brake pads; and they also have brake calipers. When you press your foot on your brake pedal, the brake caliper presses the brake pad against the brake disc. Brake pads have a friction material on them, which cause friction between the brake pad and the brake disk. This friction causes heat, in order to slow down your wheels. If you are wondering (like I was) how much heat: stopping your car can heat your brakes to 950°F or even more! That is a lot of heat! In order to make sure that your break pads can withstand that kind of heat, they are made out of special materials that don't melt at those high temperatures. Some brake pad materials are: composites, alloys and ceramics.
Watch this video:What Are Brake Pads?
2. Brake Shoes:
Wheels with drum brakes don't have brake pads; they have a brake drum and brake shoes. Brake shoes are a lot like brake pads, they're just shaped differently. Drum brakes also use friction to stop your vehicle, but they work differently than disc brakes. The drum is hollow and it turns along with the wheel. When you press on the brake pedal, a cylinder pushes the brake shoes against the inner surface of the brake drum, also creating friction and slowing down your wheels. The brake shoes also have a friction material, just like brake pads do.
How Often Do We Need to Replace Our Brake Pads/Shoes?
Well, the brake pads and shoes on all cars wear out eventually. Once they begin to lose material, they get thinner; which means that they can no longer generate the same amount of friction and heat as before. As this happens it makes it harder for you to stop your vehicle quickly, increasing the distance that's required for you to stop as well. This can make emergency braking very dangerous for you! That makes it very important for us to know how often we need to change our brake pads.
What Factors Impact How Fast Our Brake Pads/Shoes Wear Out?
1. Your Driving Habits:
Everyone has their own driving style. Someone who rides their brakes or stops abruptly is going to cause their brakes to wear out faster. Alternatively, someone who tends to coast to a stop, with smooth, gradual braking, will wear out their brakes slower. This is another good reason why you should leave an adequate amount of space between you and the vehicle in front of you. Having enough space to slow down before braking will expand the lifespan of your brakes.
2. Your Brake Pad Materials
We already talked briefly about the different materials that brake pads are made from. Different materials have a different amount of durability.
3. Your Driving Environment
Different environments are going to require a different amount and type of braking. If you are driving often in the city during high-traffic hours (otherwise known as stop and go traffic) you are going to be using your brakes a lot more often. If you are driving out in the country, on open roads with long distances between traffic lights, and less traffic, you are going to be using your brakes a lot less. However, driving in areas with a lot of hills, elevation changes, or winding roads - these environments can cause you to ride your brakes more often, in order to control your speed around corners and when driving down hills.
What Are Warning Signs That It's Time to Replace Our Brake Pads/Shoes?
1. Vehicle Warning Light
One obvious sign that something is wrong with your brakes is clearly the Vehicle Warning Light. Don't take those warning lights for granted. If your Warning Light comes on, schedule an appointment for a Brake Inspection as soon as possible.
2. Screeching or Squealing Sounds
Screeching or squealing sounds from your brakes can cause you an immediate alarm and worry. However, those sounds don't always mean that your brakes are worn out just yet. When your brakes are exposed to wet, damp conditions, a layer of dust can form on your brake pads which can cause a screeching sound when you brake. If, after you brake a few times, the sound disappears, this is a good sign that your brakes are still fine. However, when your brake pads begin to wear down, this will cause a screeching sound as well - that's because there is a small, metallic shim indicator in your brake pad that is meant to warn you when your brake pads are wearing out. If the screeching sound happens more regularly, it's a good time to schedule an appointment for a Brake Inspection.
3. Grumbling or Grinding Sounds
Grumbling, grinding, or growling sounds from your brakes, are not a good sign. These sounds mean that not only are your brake pads worn out, but that your brake discs brake calipers are pressing up against each other - without the brake pad as a buffer! It means that your brake pads no longer have that friction surface to make the heat that causes your vehicle to stop. This means that it's DEFINITELY time to get your brake pads replaced. You really want to make sure that you get them replaced BEFORE you start to hear these sounds.
4. Vehicle Pulling
If you start to notice that your vehicle is pulling to one side when you brake, this may be a sign that the friction materials are wearing out unevenly. If this is the case, you may need to have your brakes adjusted. Another thing that could be causing it is foreign matter in your brake fluid. In that case, you may need to have the brake fluid drained and replaced.
5. Vehicle Vibration
When you press on your brakes, if you feel a vibration or pulsating in your brake pedal, this can often be a sign that your vehicle is out of alignment. However, it can also be a sign that your rotors are warped. The reason that you start to feel this vibration is because the brake pads are no longer able to grab the surface evenly. If you start to feel these vibrations it's important to stop periodically and allow your brakes to cool off. Then you need to schedule an appointment for a Brake Inspection right away.
Time to Make an Appointment
If you have been experiencing any of these warning signs, don't delay. Your brakes are important and you really don't want to wait until they break down all the way before you have them inspected. At Graham Auto Repair we recommend that you have your brakes inspected at least once per year (unless of course you are someone who rarely drives your vehicle). If it's been a long time (like, longer than a year) since you've had your brakes inspected, we suggest that you make an appointment as soon as possible. ESPECIALLY if you are experiencing some of the warnings that we talked about. You can schedule an appointment online or call us at 253-847-2221. We look forward to serving you!
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