Let’s talk about your brakes. Your brakes happen to be one of, if not THE most vital system in your car, because they are your first defense against possible collision. Consequently, your brakes should be inspected routinely, replaced as needed and the brake fluid should be bled every two to three years by a reputable mechanic that knows brakes.
Brakes are applied repeatedly over thousands of miles. As a result, the brake pads gradually wear down, reducing their ability to stop your vehicle. But how do you know when it’s time for some brake work?
The vast majority of vehicles on the road today have a light indicator on the dashboard that looks like a can of gas or oil. While some mistake it for a gas or oil can, it is, in fact, representative of a can of brake fluid. Should this light go on, either you are low on brake fluid or your brakes are not functioning properly and require immediate inspection, and most likely, some brake work. Additionally, should you hear odd sounds when you are braking (squeals or screeching brought on by the wear indicator, a small piece of metal attached to the brake pad that contacts the brake rotor when the pad material has been worn down to a certain level), or if your brakes feel spongy and less responsive than usual, heed these brake system warning signs and get to your mechanic right away, even if the indicator light does not come on.
Now let’s deal first with spongy feeling brakes. This can be the result of low brake fluid or due to brake fluid contamination (air or moisture getting into your brake lines). Brake fluid is designed to take 350 degrees
of heat at the point of braking. If moisture has contaminated your brake lines, problems can result as water boils at only 213 degrees. Your mechanic will check for possible leaks or contamination which changes the color of the brake fluid from clear to cloudy (due to moisture) or dark (due to other possible contaminates such as the breakdown of seals). In the instance of cloudy or dark brake fluid, your mechanic will bleed the brakes and put in new brake fluid.
While most people are familiar with brake pads – the degradable material used by your brakes to slow down or stop your vehicle – not everyone knows what a rotor looks like or why it is an important part of the braking system.
Brake rotors (they’re also called brake discs) are what your vehicle’s brake pads clamp down on to stop the wheels from spinning. Some of you reading this may be surprised to learn that the brake rotors are just as important to stopping your vehicle as are your brake pads.
When brake pads are severely worn down, you may be able to see deep, circular-shaped marks and grooves in the brake rotor. Those marks, called scores, look a lot like the grooves on a record and are a sign that the brake pads need to be replaced. If the scoring on the rotor is particularly deep – from lack of timely maintenance – the rotor itself may need to be swapped out with a new one. Should the grooves not run too deep into the surface of the rotor, you may be able to save some money on your brake job if you ask your mechanic to have the rotor turned (or machined) to give the rotor a new, smooth surface. Turning a set of rotors typically costs less than replacing a set of rotors. Rotors can last through 2 or 3 sets of brake pads before needing to be replaced. If your steering wheel wiggles in your hands when you come to a stop, your rotors are probably “warped,” and it’s a good idea to swap them out.
When your mechanic takes a look at the pads, he will also take the time to inspect the brake lines for cracks and holes. If there is a fault (or leak) in any of the brake lines, you could experience a loss in pressure and your brakes won’t work properly. In fact, they may even completely fail on you at a critical moment!
Your knowledgeable mechanic will be checking the fittings, as well. The brakes are supposed to be sealed at this end of the system, so brake fluid should not be anywhere near the wheel. If there is a leak, your experienced mechanic will look for its source and make the necessary repairs. Even a small leak in a hydraulic brake system can be very dangerous!
The next time you hear a squeal while braking or if you see the brake fluid indicator light come on, be sure to call (408) 998-8863, Giovanni’s Auto and Tire located at 1353 West San Carlos Street, in San Jose, CA. Look for the Precision Tune Auto Care sign on the corner of West San Carlos Street and Grand Avenue, across from the Midtown Safeway. For more details, such as hours of operations, services provided and more, please visit www.giovannisautoandtire.com. Be sure to visit the Coupons page on Giovanni’s website for extra special offers and discounts.
Next week, I will be discussing the “6 Key Vehicle Maintenance Items to Do.” Don’t miss out on any of my helpful blogs – please be sure to register today to receive an email notification with a link to my latest blog. You may register to receive my blogs by sending me a comment today with the words “register me” in the comment section after supplying your name and email address.
Happy New Year!