How to Avoid Brake Failure with Brake Repair & Maintenance
Proper brake repair and maintenance will help save you plenty of headaches down the road. It’ll also save you money; as we’ll see, the “cost” of not maintaining your brake system is much more expensive than keeping on top of your car’s brake system.
But here’s the most important thing about brake repair and maintenance: this will also help save lives.
Brake Failure – A Leading Cause of Traffic Accidents
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), a U.S. agency responsible for accident investigations, has published numerous reports citing brake failure as one of the most common causes of road accidents. In their groundbreaking “Lessons Learned” report a few years ago, the NTSB concluded that more than 55% of road accidents involving cars & trucks were due to two primary factors: improperly adjusted brakes and “other brake problems.” It’s those “other brake problems” that can jeopardize the safety of drivers, passengers and innocent bystanders.
In another NTSB report that was submitted to Congress, pre-cause accident catalysts were analyzed, and “Brakes Failed / Degraded” was responsible for 25% of automobile accidents from the study. The only reason that ranked higher than brake failure was tire failure. Still, brake problems were far and away one of the most cited reasons by accident investigators. Other reasons given included “other malfunctions” and “Suspension / Steering.”
There’s little doubt that brake failure is a major problem when it comes to car accidents. Thus, it’s beneficial to understand why brake failure happens, and what measures can be taken to avoid it.
When do you know it’s time to replace your car’s brakes? Many built-in systems exist to help you recognize potential problems. One such warning is your brake pad wear indicators. Your brake pads have a small metal piece embedded into the brake pad material. As the brake pads wear down, the rotor comes in contact with the metal, producing an audible scraping noise. Other warnings also help keep you aware of what’s going on with your brakes; dashboard lights (depending on your car’s specific gauges) such as BRAKE or BRAKE CYLINDER can indicate issues with the brake fluid level, master cylinder performance and more.
In order to get a better overall picture of your brake system, and what actions can be taken to repair faulty components, let’s go in-depth on each part.
Brake Pads – the brake pads take the brunt of your car’s stopping power, and are thus one the “quickest wearing” parts. If you hear the wear indicators, replace your pads immediately. How long do brake pads last? It’s an open-ended question, but most pads last around 20,000 miles. Given this figure, it’s a good idea to regularly inspect your pads every 7,500 to 10,000 miles.
Rotors – as they come in contact with the brake pads, rotors are also a component to keep an eye on. The rotors are subject to tremendous friction and heat, so a routine check of the rotors will help avoid some of the common problems associated with worn rotors, including seizing, uneven braking and other issues. Two options are available for rotor repair. You can get your rotors “cut” or “resurfaced” to eliminate any defects. Option 2 is a rotor replacement. If you’re doing the rotors, you should also replace the brake pads as well.
Brake Lines – the brake lines supply fluid to each wheel. Whenever there’s a fluid-delivery problem, there’s a brake problem – and that means a safety problem! While your brake lines don’t require frequent inspections, you should give them some attention if you live in areas with harsh winters – ice, salt & sludge have a way of limiting brake line life.
Brake Fluid – this “repair” is the easiest brake repair. Simply keep tabs on the fluid level in your brake master cylinder. Low levels contribute to sluggish, sloshy brake performance. When making repairs / replacements to your other brake parts, bleed the brake system. This purges all air out of the fluid, and that’s preferable.
With a repair review taken care of, it’s time to put a regular brake maintenance schedule in action. Just like other car parts, brake components benefit from a rigorous, regular checkup regimen.
Brake pads – as mentioned, 20,000 miles is about average for brake pad life. If you have high-performance ceramic pads, you might get up to 40,000 or 50,000 miles, but you still want to do a thorough inspection every 20,000 miles at most.
Rotors – keep your rotor maintenance on the same clock as the pads. The 20,000 mile rule applies here, too.
Brake Lines – give these a check every other pad and rotor inspection, so that’s 40,000 miles. The one exception is for drivers in northern and winter climates. With rust and road wear a big concern, 20,000 miles is sufficient for cars in cold, wintry areas.
Brake Fluid – have your fluid flushed and replaced every 30,000 miles. And remember, it always helps to bleed your brakes during repairs.
Better Driving, Better Brake Maintenance – Putting a Better Brake Plan in Motion
“Maintenance,” to most people, means regular inspections, necessary repairs, log books and meticulous record-keeping. And that’s all true. But here’s a hidden secret to getting the most out of your brake maintenance plan. It’s not rocket science, and everyone can do it. So what’s the secret here?
Simple – drive better. Drive as if your brakes are your friend. There is no bigger detriment to brake performance than bad driving. And by “bad,” we mean sudden stops, excessive speeding, sudden turns and the like. Basically, if you drive your car as if a police car is behind you the whole time, you’ll be fine. Sounds boring, but it works. And best of all, your brake repairs and maintenance will be even easier to keep track of – a good driver generally gets superior performance and optimum lifespan out of their brake system.
Brake repair, brake maintenance, better driving – this 3-step process will pay dividends for your driving enjoyment and safety. Other brake components like the master cylinder and calipers should be examined by a professional mechanic, but check your owner’s manual for suggested maintenance protocols.
Now that you understand how crucial brake maintenance and repair is, you’ll need a reliable supplier of all the major brake components – master brake cylinders, calipers, rotors, brake pads and more. BuyAutoParts.com offers OEM-grade brake parts at prices well below OEM prices.
To supplement our vast selection of brake parts & components, we also provide valuable information for the DIY mechanic, including how-to videos and articles, car part Buyer’s Guides and much more. From parts to personalized service, we’re here to help with your brake repair and maintenance schedule. To speak with a BuyAutoParts.com brake part expert, please call us at (888) 907-7225.