Many times a vehicle that has not seen regular maintenance inspections will suddenly have strange noises coming from the wheels when you step on the brakes, or at times just coasting down the road. Notice I said “maintenance inspections” not just “maintenance”. Maintenance inspections do not happen when a “Quick lube” service is used which can be at the dealership or an oil change franchise. It’s the regular maintenance inspections that will keep the surprise noises from happening unexpectedly, because you know the condition of your vehicle.
When the noise starts, many drivers make the assumption, and they may be right, that the car needs brake pads. The owner then calls us up and asks “how much for brake pads?” Our response to the question is “how do you know you need brake pads”? We aren’t trying to be difficult by asking questions; our goal is to make a repair that will address the concern instead of a quick fix, which gets rid of the symptom, but doesn’t completely address what is needed for a proper repair. Failure to perform an inspection before a repair usually leads to a partial fix, getting rid of the symptom but not the cause, which increases stress and frustration levels for all concerned. Often times the brake pads are worn abnormally due to other components not functioning as intended. If we just replaced the brake pads, the new pads would wear out very quickly, increasing your expenses beyond what they should have been.
Each year vehicle quality has improved with cars and trucks lasting much longer. The time between service intervals has doubled and tripled on many vehicles. Although brake systems on cars and trucks have improved and correspondingly last longer, the basic system is essentially the same as it was 30 years ago. We have a hydraulic system to activate the brake system and at each wheel are friction surfaces that rub against each other to stop the vehicle when pressure is applied. It is these surfaces that wear out over time, but the components that apply the pressure are also under a lot of heat and stress each time we step on the brake pedal. The heat created takes a toll on all of the friction and hydraulic components; through the inspection process it is determined whether the brake linings, calipers, wheel cylinders, hydraulic hoses and master cylinder, hydraulic fluid and more are performing properly. Those components that are underperforming or worn need to be serviced to get the expected life out of the new brake pads. At a minimum, with any brake repair, the moving parts such as calipers, mounts and backing plates need to be cleaned and lubricated and the drums or rotors need to have a clean-machined surface to operate effectively.
Brake systems are sealed so the hydraulic fluid won’t be contaminated from moisture and particles in the air but over time this can still happen. Also each time we step on and release the brake pedal the fluid moves back and forth, which over time will contaminate the system with material from inside the hydraulic components and lines. These contaminants, which are abrasive, build up enough to cause increased wear and can lead to much bigger repair bills if neglected. For this reason flushing the system is recommended based on time and mileage intervals.
By design and for safety reasons, brakes need to function at full capacity until they are at the minimum wear specification. This is before they are completely worn away. As the linings get thinner they will overheat causing the brakes to be much less effective; you would notice this more during a fast stop as you try to avoid hitting something. When the brakes overheat your stopping distance is longer even though you need it shorter.
Not all brake lining materials are created equal; rather the life of an entry-level lining may be half the life of a premium lining. Also brakes can make some noise and still be “ok”, but we have found that when entry level or medium grade brake linings are used, the life expectancy and “squeaky brake” syndrome are more prevalent. Premium brake linings are well worth the additional up front costs due to the extended life and quieter operation.
The introduction of Anti-Lock brakes has been the biggest change over the years. This is an add-on to the basic system, which effectively uses a powerful computer system to pulsate the brakes for the driver when the tires start to skid. This limits the skidding and allows the driver the control to steer around objects instead of hitting them.
www.crestviewautoservice.ca – “We’ll Keep Your Car Young A Long Time”