Car Care: Are your brakes trying to tell you something
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AA Motoring discusses the warning signs of vehicle trouble
Nothing ruins a driving experience more than a screeching sound from your brakes or a shuddering from the pedal and steering system.
These are tell-tale signs your brakes need some attention and we’d suggest getting them checked out to make sure all is still safe.
Brakes rely on friction generated between two components to be able to slow a vehicle down.
These systems will have various combinations of steel discs and brake pads or steel drums and brake shoes, meaning there’s a high possibility brakes will make a noise when something is not right. With so many parts to a braking system, there are a few common issues that may occur during the life of any vehicle.
Steel discs and brake pads
These are commonly found on cars in today’s market as they’re more effective, efficient and easier to maintain than steel drums and brake shoes.
The material used on brake pads can vary based on the quality and brand of the product.
Pads can have high heat and noise-resisting capabilities, as well as low wear or dust generating capabilities. However, sometimes it’s the better brake pads that create more wear to the brake discs as they run against one another with more force.
As brake discs wear, the original, smooth surface can develop scores and marks.
They also become thinner, which means they are prone to warping. Usual signs of warping are a pulsing brake pedal or steering shudder.
If an old disc just gets new pads, they will need bedding in and there’s a high chance the brakes may take longer to be effective and noises may also develop.
This is because the new brake pads will have a smooth, flat surface, while the old disc will still have all the scores and scratches from the old brake pads.
However, you can prevent this from happening with a portable lathe, which can take a small cut from each side of the disc, giving it a new, smooth surface.
The only drawback is that the disc gets thinner every time a cut is made, increasing the risk of warping over time.
So, if discs are getting close to their limits, it’s a good idea to replace them along with the pads. Rear brakes can suffer the same problem but since most of the braking is carried out by the front brakes, it’s likely the rear discs will need attention less frequently.
Brake pads do have warning indicators to help inform drivers.
Metal strips are set to a specific distance where they’ll start to rub against the disc when the pads become just a few millimetres thick, alerting the driver that the brake material may be low.
The indicator rubbing noise is usually most noticeable when the brakes aren’t applied and it’ll become less obvious when the brakes are used.
If you notice this happening, it’s best to go to a garage to get the pads replaced.
Steel drums and brake shoes
These braking systems are usually found only on older vehicles, but you may come across the odd vehicle in today’s market that incorporates brake shoes and drums in the rear braking system.
A rear drum and shoe brake system incorporates the same principles as the discs and pads, but the construction and operation differ.
Brake fluid is the lifeblood of a braking system. It provides the link from the brake pedal to the actual components doing the work at the wheels.
Every vehicle has an advised brake fluid replacement schedule from the manufacturer to ensure the fluid remains clean, fresh and free of moisture.
If you are driving around in a vehicle with noisy brakes, it’s always a good idea to get them checked as soon as possible. It could be something simple or there may be signs more work is required.
Either way, it’s important to take a closer look to ensure your vehicle stays safe on the road.