Brake pads are the most important part of your vehicle for obvious reasons, and surprisingly most car owners do not know how to check when they need changing. Brake pads are a wearable part. Overtime they wear down and reduce the probability of the vehicle stopping safely and avoiding possible collisions. This is why is it very important to understand how to check that your breaks are safe to drive on the road. This article will tell you everything you need to know about the brakes on your car to make sure you always stay safe.
Components of the braking system
The three components of the braking system that every car owner should be familiar with are the brake pads, brake discs and the calliper.
Brake discs are normally made of iron or carbon composite and are attached to the suspension of the vehicle, and are held between the bake pads (image1). The friction that is caused between the brake pads and the disc is what allows the car to be brought to a stop. The discs can be seen by simply looking between the spokes of the wheel. The brake discs, just like the brake pads, can wear down over time. When they wear, a lip forms around the edge of the disc and they can rust (image 2).
Brake Pads and calliper:
Break pads are the most important safety feature on your vehicle . They are the main component that is responsible for stopping the vehicle. The brake pads can be found either side of the brake disc (image 1) and they are encased within the calliper. The calliper works using hydraulic fluid that when the brake pedal is pressed, pushes a piston against the brake pads which subsequently pushes the pads against the disc causing friction, allowing the vehicle to come to a halt. When you think about how many times this action occurs whilst driving, it is no shock to anyone that break pads constantly wear and need replacing.
How to check if your bake pads or discs need changing
Brake pads are fairly easy to check. Its not always necessary to jack up the car like your local workshop may do. There are tell-tale signs that you can look out for whilst driving which will give you a good indication your brake pads need replacing.
The first thing you can do is listen out for your breaks. Some cars will have a wear indicator installed which will let out a very pleasant, high pitched squealing sound. This is caused by a piece of metal attached to the bake pad rubbing against the disc whilst breaking. This can be very annoying and it does sound a bit like a screeching pig. You may also hear a grinding noise which usually occurs when your brake pads are getting very low. This can be very dangerous and is an indicator that you should get a break inspection and change immediately.
Another indication of worn brake pads are the way they feel. If every time you press the brake pedal you need to apply excess force to get the car to stop then you should get a break inspection. The break pedal should be easy to press and shouldn't require you to leg press the car in order to get it to stop. Also, if you feel a vibration through the brake pedal then you should also consider getting an inspection.
You can also tell if you need a brake inspection by the way the steering feels. If when you drive the car the steering feels as though it is pulling to one side, then the case may be that one side is more worn than the other. This can subsequently affect the health of your tire on that side.
The final way you can check your pads is by doing a visual check. This may seem daunting to those who don't even know what brake pads looks like, but if you have read this article you should know by now. If you still haven't got a scooby then I have failed miserably. The first thing you want to do is have a look through the spokes of the wheel and locate the calliper (Image4). You should be able to see the pads from there. If the pads are less that 1/4 inch thick then they will need replacing. If you cannot see the brake pads then you should get a mobile mechanic to come down and have a look for you.
How long should brake pads last?
How long brake pads last depends on multiple factors. There is no set number of miles or time. This because everyone drives differently. Individuals that drive everyday will wear down their brake pads much faster than a weekend driver. Similarly, an individual who carry heavy loads will wear down their pads faster than an individual who doesn't. Location can also play a big role in brake wear. This is because a car driving around a busy city e.g. London, will be subject to a lot more stopping and starting. Where as a car driving a round the country side will not.
Also, if you had your brake pads changed a year ago you should consider getting a brake inspection even if you do not experience any indications of brake wear. This is just to insure complete safety.