You depend on your vehicle to get you safely to all your different destinations each day. Even if you are diligent and take great care of your car with regular maintenance, there are important parts on your car that can go bad, or simply wear out with age or as you accumulate more miles put on your car. The brakes on cars are especially prone to wear, so it is important that you know what signals might indicate it is time to have them fixed or replaced.
What are Brakes?
Brakes are the mechanical system used by your car to slow and stop the vehicle by applying pressure to the brake pedal and exerting force or friction upon the wheels. There are different types of brake systems commonly used in cars, and if you are not sure what type of system your car uses, you can check the owner’s manual, or consult a reputable mechanic.
The most common types of brakes used on vehicles are disc, drum, emergency, and anti-lock.
Disc brakes are made up of a disc brake rotor and a caliper that houses the brake pads. When you press on the brake petal, hydraulic pressure is sent from the master cylinder to the caliper. This pressure makes the brake pads squeeze the disc rotor. The friction created by this tight clamp that slows and stops the wheels.
Drum brakes are comprised of several parts, including:
- Brake drum attached to the wheel
- Wheel cylinder
- Brake shoes
- Brake return springs
When you apply the brakes, this system works by sending hydraulic pressure from the master cylinder to the wheel cylinder. This causes the brake shoes to rub against the drum attached to the wheel, and the friction created slows down or stops your car depending on the intensity or duration of pressure you apply on the brake pedal.
Almost all cars are equipped with a back-up braking system known as the emergency or parking brakes. This system does not rely on hydraulics, but instead manually apply friction to the wheels when you pull a lever in the car. These breaks are typically used for parking securely on hills, or in case the primary braking system of your car fails.
Most newer vehicles have an anti-lock brake system (ABS) that is controlled by the car computer. This system helps keep you safe by preventing the brakes on the wheels from locking up if you skid due to poor road conditions or need to stop very suddenly. ABS gives you more control of the car in these instances by monitoring each wheel and automatically applying and releasing brake pressure on the wheels if it detects that the wheels are slipping or skidding.
How Long Do Brakes Last?
The life span of your car’s brakes is largely dependent on the type of car you own, and can also be impacted by how you drive and the degree to which you use your brakes. However, most cars usually need some maintenance on the brakes after around 70,000 miles. Some vehicles though, might require more frequent replacement or care as frequently as every 25,000 miles.
Symptoms of Bad or Worn Out Brakes
The mileage on your car is a good way to monitor and plan for when you’ll need to consider new brakes for the vehicle. However, the braking systems don’t always abide by the mileage recommendations. For this reason, it is very important for you to know the symptoms of bar or worn out brakes so you can diagnose the problem easily and early to prevent accidents or damage to your car.
- Squealing, grating sounds when you press on the brake pedal
- Soft, loose feeling when you press on the brake pedal
- Shaking or rattling when applying the brake pedal
- Note: If you have anti-lock brake system and you slam on your brakes you will notice a strong vibration. This is normal for anti-lock braking systems.
What Happens if You Don’t Fix Your Brakes?
If you do not pay attention to brakes that need fixed or replaced, you can put yourself and others on the road at great risk for accident and injury. If your brakes fail or falter when you need to stop, you are more likely to get into an accident.
You can also do costly damage to your braking system and your car if you don’t replace or fix components of your brakes when necessary.
Accident Involving Faulty Brakes and Current Recalls
Faulty brakes can lead to dangerous, and even fatal car accidents. In fact, in June, a woman in Peoria, Illinois crashed her car into a food market warehouse when the brakes of her car failed. She said she pressed them all the way to the floor, but her car would not stop.
Bad brakes were also the cause of a fatal crash in Rush Springs, Oklahoma in June as well. A man was unable to stop at a blinking red light, and crashed into an 18-wheeler. He was killed, and 3 others were injured.
At times, major car companies will find there are issues with certain parts of braking systems in the vehicles they’ve produced and sold, and will issue a recall to keep drivers safe by replacing those parts.
There is currently a recall involving brakes on the Ford F-150, and you can use the Consumer Reports site at any time, to check if there are any recalls for the make and model of your vehicle as well.
If your car is exhibiting any of these issues or symptoms, then you should have your brakes checked as soon as possible, in order to keep you safe on the roads and prolong the life of your vehicle.