Car Care

Are your brakes slowing you down?

Spring has sprung so if you’re in that spring cleaning mood, how about taking a quick look over your vehicles brakes? With summer just two short months away now is the perfect time to ensure they’re in tip-top condition.

While a Warrant of Fitness (WoF) inspection will check the performance of the brakes on the day, it’s not an invasive inspection so nothing is dismantled to monitor their wear or indicate how long the components are likely to last. It is up to the individual to ensure their vehicle is routinely maintained.

Brake rotors and discs can sometimes be overlooked by those wanting a quick pad replacement on the cheap, where the vehicle simply gets some new pads thrown in. This is far from ideal, as when brake pad friction material wears, it can score the rotor leaving large grooves around the centre and edges. If a new flat pad surface is placed against the scored disc, the brakes will be quite noisy and may take a long time to wear in and operate as intended.

Brake discs don’t always require replacing. This is why there are companies that offer brake disc skimming services. Essentially it is a lathe that mills the surface of the disc at a rate of .02mm at a time to keep it flat. This is all well and good, but there will come a time when the disc rotor reaches the end of its serviceable life and will require replacement. This is determined by a minimum thickness specification that’s stamped on top of the disc by the manufacturer.

If the brake pedal starts pulsing underfoot when slowing down from higher speeds, it’s likely an indication that the discs have overheated and are now warped. This can often happen after continuous braking down long hills, or towing heavy loads. Depending on the extent of damage, you may get away with an easy machining job. Otherwise you’ll be looking at a fresh new pair of discs and pads.

And don’t forget about the condition of the brake fluid itself. Brake fluid is hydroscopic, meaning it absorbs moisture from the atmosphere. Brake fluid with high moisture content can corrode the system from the inside out and can boil, resulting in brake fade. We recommend replacing your brake fluid every two years.

There are a number of important braking components that should be reviewed by a professional technician on a regular basis. A full brake inspection should check the wear of friction materials on pads and shoes and the condition of rotors and drums, ensure lines and hoses haven’t corroded, perished or been damaged, examine calipers and wheel cylinders for leaks and make sure nothing is seized, including park brake mechanisms.

So, whether you are planning a summer road trip or taking the boat out with the lads, make sure your brakes are in good shape. The last thing you need is to be stranded on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, or worst case, unable to make it to your destination due to an accident caused by a poorly maintained vehicle.

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