Why You Need to Pay Attention to Your Brake Pads and Brake Fluid


brake repairThe two basic aspects of maintenance that ward off brake repairs are pretty simple. First, you need to keep an eye on the state of your brake pads, which need to be replaced before they’re thinner than one-fourth of an inch. It’s generally a good idea to get them checked every 12,000 miles, or every six to 12 months. Second, you need to ensure that you have enough brake fluid and that it’s in good condition. One recent car maintenance survey found that a full 18% of vehicles had low or contaminated brake fluid. You can check on this yourself simply by popping the hood, but your local auto repair shop will probably happily do it for you when you get your oil changed or as part of an annual inspection.
Despite how easy brake maintenance should be, a lot of drivers don’t prioritize it; in fact, a quarter of drivers admit to neglecting auto work in the last year. Of course, drivers who don’t keep up on their maintenance are much more likely to need brake repairs, which can be much more costly. Still not convinced that you need to be paying more attention to routine brake maintenance? Consider what brake pads and brake fluid actually do:
What Brake Pads Do
Brake pads are an important part of disc braking systems because they are what converts the kinetic energy of your car into thermal energy (heat, essentially) via friction. When you apply the brakes, a mechanism called a caliper squeezes your brake pads together around rotors on your wheel, slowing and eventually stopping your vehicle. When you neglect to change your brake pads, all that energy can no longer be safely dissipated, which will typically lead to much more expensive brake repairs such as fixing worn discs or bent rotors.
What Brake Fluid Does
Brake fluid has two primary roles: transferring the force when you press the brake pedal on to the mechanism in your wheel hub, and amplifying your braking power. It works well for both of those things because liquids are non-compressible, meaning that there are not internal voids in their component molecules and they can therefore transfer forces efficiently. Additionally, brake fluid acts as a lubricant and prevents internal corrosion. But heat causes brake fluid to break down over time. If brake fluid breaks down too far, then it can lead to decreased responsiveness or complete brake failure.
Will you be paying a bit more attention to your brake maintenance now? Do you have anything to add about maintaining or repairing brakes? Join the discussion in the comments.