Braking systems have become complicated, but basic principles still apply. There is a friction material – the pads or shoes – that use hydraulics to push them against metal discs or drums. The friction of these items rubbing together are what stops your car. It’s kind of like how squeezing the handbrake on a bicycle pushes the brake pads against the wheel of the bike.
Now pads just wear away with use – kind of like a pencil eraser wears out. The good news is that replacing brake pads is a straight-forward repair.
If you hear squealing or grinding when you use the brakes, it is time to have them checked out. A qualified brake inspection will check the entire braking system, not just the axle that the noise comes from. It is important to check the hydraulic components, the friction material on the front and the rear axle, and all of the lines and mechanical parts that keep your vehicle stopping on a dime.
Sometimes both cars and trucks will make some noise on stopping and can still be very safe, but it is always best to check to be certain.
Ignoring the warning signs will cost you more money. When you keep driving long after the pads are completely worn out the metal brake components will grind on the rotor or drum, damaging it enough that it needs to be replaced.
Rotors can also warp or crack, in which case they’ll need to be replaced. Brake calipers also wear out over time. They can develop leaks or the caliper pistons can freeze open or closed – either way it’s not good. When this happens it’s time to replace the calipers. A thorough brake inspection will reveal worn bearings or seals as well.
Always use brake pads that meet your vehicle manufacturers’ original specifications. There really is a difference in brake part quality. There are even upgraded parts that will increase your stopping power and reduce brake noise and brake dust. Always ask about the options that will meet your braking requirements and your budget.
Taking care of your brakes keeps them working safely – and you could prevent premature brake repairs down the road.