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Braking News: When is the Best Time to Replace Your Car’s Brakes?


Timely replacement of your car’s brakes is essential for your safety. It can also save time and money avoiding the repair of damaged parts.

It is obvious that when you brake, you want your car to slow down in good time so you can avoid danger, or simply stop where you need to. When you press the brake pedal, pistons in the brake callipers force a pair of brake pads to squeeze on the brake disk (or rotor), to which the wheels are attached. This squeeze slows the rotation of each wheel, and this slows the car down. The nature of braking means that eventually the components will have to be replaced. Braking uses friction to slow the car down; this and the heat that is generated when the brakes are applied wears down the components.

The speed at which these materials break down is directly proportional to driving and braking style; unfortunately this makes guessing the lifespan of the materials quite difficult. Some people may go 50,000 miles before needing new sets, some may only get 25,000 miles.

One of the first signs to listen out for is a squealing sound every time you brake. Some pads have a feature built in that warns when they are in need of replacement. If they are running low, every time you brake, they will emit a squeal. You should also listen out for a metallic sound every time you brake. This could be quite loud, and might sound rather nasty.

If you regularly and consistently hear this sound, it is time for  replacement. You can also do a visual check if you have alloy wheels. By looking at the brake calliper, you may be able to see how much braking material is left, looking at where the pad meets the disk. The callipers are the big lumps of metal attached around the disk. Not all cars use this braking configuration for the rear wheels; many cars still use brake shoes and drums.

Seeing as you’re checking, you can also check each disk for scoring, where grooves are cut into the surface. If you can see such scoring, then this is a definite sign you should replace the pads.

If you replace these parts in time, you can prevent damage to the disks. However, if you leave it too long, then you may need to repair or even fit new components. Lightly scored rotors can be repaired by machining, which may be cost effective.

An advantage of having new rotors fitted is that over time excessive braking puts heat into the disks, which can warp them. If you feel juddering through the pedal when you brake, this shows the rotors are warped. Replacing these means you get nice thick, warp-free rotors which gives you a more efficient braking system.

The longer you leave it, the more damage is done. Eventually the rivets from each pad will grind into the disk, causing deep grooves to be cut. Obviously, this means the disk will have to be replaced, but it also means your brakes aren’t working well. When you go to brake in these circumstances, all that happens is metal rubs on metal. While this will slow your car down, it won’t bring you to a progressive and steady halt.

So keep an ear out, and if possible carry out a visual inspection. If you’re in any doubt, ask at a garage, and make sure your braking system is working properly.


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