Brakes
6
min read

Brake Maintenance 101: Keeping Your Brakes in Top Shape

Published on
June 14, 2024

Proper brake maintenance is absolutely crucial for the safety and performance of your vehicle. Neglecting brake service can compromise your ability to stop and control your vehicle when you need to most. Regular brake inspections and repairs ensure that all components are in optimal working condition, allowing you to stop smoothly and swiftly in any driving scenario.

Routine brake maintenance also helps extend the lifespan of pads, rotors, calipers and other hardware. As brakes wear down from normal use, addressing issues early on can prevent more extensive damage or failure down the road. Replacing just the pads when needed is much cheaper than waiting until rotors become severely worn and require replacement as well. Staying on top of maintenance saves you money over the long haul by avoiding major brake repairs.

In addition, well-maintained brakes improve your vehicle's overall drivability and handling. Contaminated brake fluid and sticking calipers reduce braking performance and can cause your vehicle to pull to one side when you might think it is an alignment issue.. A brake system inspection identifies these problems so you can restore responsiveness and control. Don't put off brake maintenance - regular servicing provides safety, reliability and cost savings.

Recommended Brake Service Intervals

Brake service intervals can vary greatly depending on the make, model, and year of your vehicle. As a general guideline, brakes should be inspected every 12,000 to 25,000 miles or at least once per year. However, your vehicle's manufacturer will provide the most accurate service interval recommendation specifically tailored to your brakes.

It's important to consult your owner's manual to find the recommended brake inspection and maintenance schedule. The schedule will outline at what mileage or time intervals certain brake components like pads, rotors, and fluid should be checked, replaced, or flushed. Adhering to the manufacturer-recommended schedule is the best way to keep your brakes in optimal condition over the long term.

Keep in mind that brake service intervals can be affected by your driving habits and conditions. More frequent stop-and-go driving, towing heavy loads, and driving in mountainous regions or extreme weather will cause accelerated brake wear. In these cases, brake inspections may be needed more often than the baseline recommendation. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and have your brake components checked out. Identifying issues early on can prevent more extensive repairs down the road.

Signs Your Brakes Need Service

Brakes are one of the most important safety components on your vehicle, so addressing any potential issues promptly is crucial. Here are some of the most common signs that your brakes may need maintenance or repair:

Noises When Braking

Squealing, grinding, or groaning noises when you press on the brake pedal are a telltale sign of problems. High-pitched squeaks indicate your brake pads are worn down. Grinding noises point to worn-down brake pads and rotors. Groaning noises when braking could signal failing brake calipers.

Spongy Brake Pedal 

If your brake pedal feels soft or sinks all the way to the floor when pressed, you likely have air in your brake fluid lines or a leak. This is a dangerous issue that requires immediate attention to avoid brake failure.

Pulling When Braking

If your vehicle consistently pulls to one side when you brake, this indicates uneven pad wear. The pads on the pulling side are more worn and need to be replaced. Uneven rotor wear can also cause pulling.

Vibrations When Braking

A pulsating brake pedal or vibrating steering wheel when braking signals warped rotors. This occurs when the rotor surface is no longer smooth due to overheating and uneven wear. Resurfacing or replacing rotors will resolve this.

What's Inspected During a D&R Automotive Brake Repair

During a brake repair service here at D&R Automotive, our technician will thoroughly inspect all the key components of your braking system. This includes:

Brake Pads and Shoes

The technician will check the thickness of your brake pads (disc brakes) or shoes (drum brakes). If they are worn down too far, they will need to be replaced. Most pads and shoes have built-in wear indicators that produce a squealing noise when replacement is needed.

Rotors and Drums  

The surface condition of brake rotors (disc brakes) and drums (drum brakes) will be inspected. Excessive scoring, grooving, or warping can negatively impact braking performance. Resurfacing or replacing rotors/drums may be recommended if they are too worn.

Brake Fluid Level and Condition

Brake fluid level will be checked in the master cylinder reservoir. Low fluid levels can indicate a leak in the system. A brake fluid flush may be advised to replace old, moisture-contaminated fluid.

Calipers and Wheel Cylinders

Calipers (disc brakes) and wheel cylinders (drum brakes) will be examined for leaks and proper operation. Rebuilding or replacing these components may be needed if they are sticking or leaking.

Thoroughly inspecting all brake components is crucial for identifying issues before they lead to safety hazards or expensive repairs down the road.

When to Upgrade Your Brakes

Upgrading your brakes can provide better performance, increased durability, and more stopping power in certain situations:

Performance Driving - Upgraded high-performance brake pads, rotors, calipers and brake lines can greatly improve braking performance on the track or aggressive street driving. Performance-oriented brake components are designed to withstand extreme heat and repeated hard stops without fading. Big brake kits with larger rotors and multi-piston calipers also boost braking power. These upgrades are recommended for sports cars or vehicles used in autocross and track days.

Heavy Duty Use - If you routinely haul heavy loads, tow trailers, or drive off-road, upgrading to heavy-duty and severe duty brake components can provide more stopping power and increased durability under load. Larger rotors, multi-piston calipers, and reinforced pads are built to handle repeated heavy braking without overheating or wearing out prematurely.

Larger Vehicles - Trucks, full-size SUVs, and other large vehicles put more stress on brake components. Replacing brake hardware with larger, high-performance rotors, calipers, master cylinders and pads can greatly improve braking capacity for these heavy vehicles. This added braking power boosts control and safety when hauling or towing.

Properly upgrading your brakes requires using parts engineered specifically for your vehicle's make and model. Consult a professional brake technician to select suitable upgrades for your needs.

Cost-Effective Brake Maintenance Strategies

Keeping your brakes in top shape doesn't have to be expensive if you follow some smart maintenance strategies. Here are tips to keep brake repairs affordable without compromising safety:

  • Follow recommended service intervals: Servicing brakes at the intervals suggested by your vehicle manufacturer is the best way to avoid costly repairs down the road. Don't put off brake maintenance.
  • Address issues promptly: Catching problems early is key. Small issues like worn brake pads can lead to bigger problems like damaged rotors if left unchecked. Addressing brake problems promptly reduces the likelihood of cascading repairs.
  • Consider reputable repair shops: While you can save money doing your own brakes, brake jobs require specialized tools and knowledge. Using a trusted local repair shop or dealership service center means the work will be done properly the first time. The cost of professional brake service is money well spent.
  • Ask about brake part warranties: Many name-brand brake parts come with generous warranties. This provides cost savings on future brake work. Ask your repair shop about part warranties.
  • Learn basic brake checks: Doing simple monthly brake inspections yourself helps spot problems early. Learn how to check brake fluid, pads, rotors, and calipers so you know when professional service is needed.

Following these basic cost-saving strategies will keep you on the road safely while avoiding brake repair bills that strain your budget. Protect yourself and your investment by making brake maintenance a priority.

Maintaining Brakes for Different Driving Conditions

Brake maintenance needs can vary considerably depending on your driving habits and conditions. Here are some tips for maintaining brakes under different scenarios:

City Driving

  • Stop-and-go driving in city conditions causes more wear and tear on brakes than highway driving. The constant braking generates more heat and friction.
  • For city drivers, brake inspections every 6 months or 10,000 miles are recommended. Brake pads will likely need replacement more frequently - sometimes as often as every 20,000-30,000 miles.
  • Rotors may also require more frequent resurfacing or replacement due to the conditions. Check rotors for thickness and excessive wear whenever servicing pads.

Off-Road and Towing 

  • Driving on dirt roads or muddy conditions can contaminate brake pads and rotors, reducing effectiveness. Inspect and clean brakes after extensive off-road use.
  • Towing heavy loads puts additional strain on brakes. Inspect brake fluid, pads, rotors, and calipers more often when routinely towing. 
  • Upgrading to heavy-duty brake pads and rotors may be wise for frequent towing needs. This provides extra durability and heat resistance.

Weather Conditions

  • In cold climates, inspect brake lines for cracks caused by road salt and corrosion. Ensure proper antifreeze levels in brake fluid.
  • Warm, dry climates can accelerate brake wear through increased heat and dust buildup. Stay on top of inspections and service in desert regions.
  • Heavy rains can cause brake issues. Inspect brake components for any water intrusion or damage from hydroplaning.

Conclusion

Now that you know the proper intervals of when to have your brakes checked, signs that you need your brakes serviced, plus how us here at D&R Automotive properly service brakes, it is now time for you to  get a quote to ensure your vehicle's safety and performance with our top-quality brake repair service. You can trust D&R Automotive located in Jonesboro, AR to deliver reliable, efficient, and professional brake repair that guarantees a smooth and secure driving experience.

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