When it comes to your car’s safety, brakes top the list of systems that need monitoring. However, many people are unaware of the signs that indicate a car’s brakes may need maintenance or repair.

For routine maintenance, it’s important to check the vehicle’s braking system at least once a year. A thorough inspection should include brake lining wear, brake fluid level, rotor thickness, condition of hoses and brake lines, brake and dash warning lights, as well as taking the car for a test drive to detect other potential brake system problems.

When it comes to your car’s safety, brakes top the list of systems that need monitoring. However, many people are unaware of the signs that indicate a car’s brakes may need maintenance or repair.

For routine maintenance, it’s important to check the vehicle’s braking system at least once a year. A thorough inspection should include brake lining wear, brake fluid level, rotor thickness, condition of hoses and brake lines, brake and dash warning lights, as well as taking the car for a test drive to detect other potential brake system problems.

It is important to be alert and recognize the danger signs of brake problems. Other warning signs include an illuminated brake warning light, brake grabbing, low pedal feel, vibration, hard pedal feel and squealing.

“Consumers can easily protect themselves from brake failure by watching and listening for a few simple clues,” according to Stephen Powell, NAPA/ASE Technician of the Year and owner of Thoroughbred Transmissions & AutoCare, Inc. in Laurel, Md.

Powell says noise is one of the leading indicators that something is awry with brakes. “Any out of the ordinary sound is often a sign that brakes have worn to the point they should be checked,” he said.

“Watch especially for a grinding noise, and if your brakes typically throw off brake dust on your wheels, look for a sudden increase or decrease in dust.” He added that finding small metal flakes on the wheels is also a sign that brakes should be checked.
Another leading indicator is the feel of the brake pedal, Powell said. If the car pulls left or right when braking, or if the front end shakes, those are both signs of excessive brake wear. If the brake pedal begins to feel spongy, it could be a sign that air has entered the brake system or fluid is low.

Other tips:

  • Wheels should be pulled and brakes checked once a year by an ASE- Certified technician. “It’s not uncommon to replace brakes after 12,000-15,000 miles,” Powell explained. An inspection typically includes the rotors, calipers, drums, pads, pistons and brake lines.
  • Brake systems should be flushed and brake fluid replaced every two years. “Brake fluid absorbs moisture in the system and becomes acidic after two years or 30,000 miles,” Powell said.
  • Check your owner’s manual or ask your ASE-Certified technician to see what kind of brakes your car has and how they are adjusted. For example, most drum brakes are self-adjusting by backing up or engaging the emergency brake.
  • Regardless of care, brakes should most likely be replaced every 20,000- 30,000 miles. “Of course, how and where someone drives will greatly influence when brakes should be replaced,” Powell emphasized.

Article courtesy of the Car Care Council.

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