Your Brakes Are Crucial – Make Sure They Function Properly


Today’s cars are built with safety in mind. Front and side airbags protect the driver and passenger in a violent collision. Safety belts keep passengers from flying forward and possibly hitting their head on the windshield. There are even audible beeps to warn other cars and people that you are backing up. Of all the safety features in a car, none is of greater importance than your brakes.

Imagine trying to drive an automobile with no brakes. It would be bedlam. Cars would be careening into each other every few seconds. It just could not be done without resulting in mass chaos. Brakes are essential for keeping control of your car. Their primary function is, of course, to stop your vehicle. But, brakes are almost as important for keeping your car under control.

When you hit a sharp curve, you instinctively tap your brakes to slow the vehicle a bit and be prepared for what lies ahead. Going down a steep hill, cautious drivers will apply their brake to gain control of their car. Knowing how to properly apply your brakes in the middle of a skid (on ice or a slick patch of road) can save you from an accident.

Maintaining your brakes is part of being a responsible car owner. Just as you check the oil or the pressure in your tires, you should regular inspect your brakes. Under normal driving conditions, where you drive twelve to fifteen thousand miles a year in combined city and highway driving, checking your brakes once a year is sufficient. If you drive for a living, do a lot of city driving where you have to apply your brakes often or if you put an unusually large amount (25,000 or more) of miles on your vehicle, you should probably check your brakes several times each year.

There are signs that will let you know when your brakes need attention. If they are squeaking, that annoying noise is a fairly good indication that something is wrong with your brakes. If you press down on the brake pedal and it sinks quickly to the floor without much resistance, you could be low on brake fluid or have a leak somewhere in the system. If your car shimmies when you apply the brakes, chances are the rotors are out of round and either need to be replaced or turned.

Sometimes there are no clear signs that your brakes are not working properly. It may just take a little longer to stop than usual or you may be pushing harder on the brake pedal to stop. You can get used to operating a vehicle with less than perfect brakes, but that does not lessen the need to have them checked out by a mechanic.

When you do take your car to a mechanic to have the brakes checked, your car will be put up on a lift and the tires removed. If you need to, it is the perfect time to ask to have your tires rotated. Since the tires are already off, the repair shop may not even charge you for the service. Back to the brakes. A visual inspection of all the parts will give the mechanic a good idea of how safe your brakes are. The mechanic will look for signs of wear and report back to you before doing any recommended work.

Often, the problem is simply that the brake pads are worn out and need to be replaced. Brake pads come in different price ranges depending on the type of material they are made of. Metallic pads are usually more expensive than regular brake pads. Other parts like the calipers or rotors may also be in need of repair or replacement.

Before any work is done, talk to the mechanic and get an estimate of how much the job will cost. If repair is urgent, don’t put it off. Your life may be depending on it.

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