After a (too long) hiatus it’s time to post a new article to the High Performance All Tune and Lube Tempe Blog! Yeah! This time we’re gonna deal with brakes, specifically how often they should be changed.
First off, while your brake pads and rotors will have to be changed eventually, there really is no time or mileage interval for changing brakes. The wear on the brake pads and rotors is more a function of how your car is driven rather than age, that and the materials the pads and rotors are made of.
It’s like this, if you drive mostly in the city you’re going to wear your brakes out more quickly than you would driving long distances on the highway. I mean, around town you’re always on and off your brakes, right? On the freeway (like the open road freeway, not Phoenix rush hour freeway) you might not touch your brake pedal until you’re getting off to fuel up. So a thousand miles around town will put more wear on your brakes than ten thousand miles on the interstate. Also, if you tend to brake hard coming to stops (I’m looking at you Dj!) you’ll wear your brakes out faster than if you kinda coast to a stop (That would be you Leanne). Additionally, pads and rotors can be made from a number of different materials. Pads made with a softer compound usually perform better in congested stop and go traffic but loose some performance when they get hot. Harder materials tend to work better once they warm up but work less well when cold. The softer materials are used mostly on commuter cars and sedans. The hard stuff typically goes on performance cars or trucks that haul heavy loads. Brake rotors are similar, softer steel for light cars, high carbon for trucks and performance cars.
OK, you say, but when should I replace the darn things! How do I know when they’re used up? I’ll tell ya. The easiest way is to have your mechanic check your brakes each time you have your oil changed or have your tires rotated. (You are taking your car to a real mechanic for service aren’t you? Not to a quick lube, right?). Any reputable shop, like All Tune and Lube Tempe for instance! will check the condition of your brakes as part of a regular service. They’ll inspect your car and give you the run-down on its’ condition. Failing that, be aware of unusual noises, squeaks, squeals or, heaven forfend, grinding. Most, but not all, brakes have a small tab attached to them that will start to make a noise when the pads get down to their limit and many others are made in such a way that they’ll start to make noise when they get thin. Something else: you probably have a light on your instrument cluster that says “BRAKES”. That light is a warning that your brake fluid is low. Could be because the pads are getting thin and the brake fluid is down in the calipers or it could be that there’s a brake fluid leak. Either way it’s time to take your stead in and have it checked. No guarantee that you’ll get a warning though. The best thing to do is visually check them regularly.
Another clue that some sort of repair is needed is vibration when you use your brakes. This isn’t usually caused by the brake pads but by warped rotors. Often the rotors can be machined (turned) flat again, sometimes not. Even when they can be turned the rotors are thinner than they were before and are more susceptible to warping again. Best to just replace them.
I’m sure I left out a ton but I hit all the high spots. Hope you find this usefull! From your Local Mechanic, All Tune and Lube Tempe. Complete Auto Repair and Maintenance.