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Master Mechanic: Maintaining Disc Brakes

At Master Mechanic, brake service is one of the most common repairs our Technicians perform daily. While brake service or replacement is inevitable, there are many ways to maintain your brakes and prolong a trip to the mechanic. Proper brake maintenance is easy–if you know what to look and listen for.

Let’s take a look at how to make your brakes last longer, how to recognize when you need maintenance and the different types of brake services your Master Mechanic may perform.

How Do Disc Brakes Work?

Before we get into proper brake maintenance, it’s important to understand the different parts we’ll be talking about. Most drivers are only familiar with the part they interact with when braking: the pedal. In reality, your vehicle’s brakes are comprised of many components that work together to stop your car at a moment’s notice. Within a braking system, we have the pedal, master cylinder, wheel cylinders, pistons, pads, rotors, metal tubes, and flexible hoses that move essential liquids. Many modern cars also have sensors that alert drivers of worn brakes or work with ABS systems.  

When you press the pedal, you should immediately feel the brakes engage. As you press down, hydraulic fluid in the brake lines pressurizes, which engages the pistons and pushes the pads onto the rotor. Pressing the brake pedal harder creates more pressure within the brake lines and causes the pistons to push the pads against the rotor more firmly. As you remove your foot from the pedal, the hydraulic fluid depressurizes, and the pads retract a few millimetres into the callipers.

Disc Brake Care

Understandably, most drivers don’t feel comfortable performing brake repairs or replacements themselves. At Master Mechanic, we don’t advise you try to do this work yourself unless you have the experience. Many modern cars have sensors that need to be recalibrated by a mechanic to ensure they continue to work properly after service. That said, there are many things you can do to prolong the life of your brakes and save money on maintenance.

Don’t Slam on the Brakes!

Brakes are there to help you drive safely. This includes avoiding a sudden collision, and sometimes, sudden braking is unavoidable. Whenever possible, you should brake lightly and come to a rolling stop. If you continuously brake suddenly, you may risk warping your brake discs. Not only does this increase the wear on other parts, it also lowers the driving performance and comfort of your car.

The Importance of Brake Fluid

As we explained above, your brake fluid plays a BIG part in bringing your car to a halt. Brake fluid doesn’t last forever and does need to be replaced. As you drive, fluid can absorb water from the air, and gunk can build up. Some car manufacturers include this service in your scheduled maintenance, while others specify the specific mileage. It’s important to check your owner’s manual, but every other year is a good rule of thumb.

When dealing with an essential safety system like your brakes, you may be tempted to reach for premium brake fluid to make them perform better. For most drivers, keeping clean fluid is far more important than opting for a more premium variety. Specialty brake fluids are designed for more severe conditions or track driving and generally won’t benefit an ordinary driver much.

Listen to Your Brakes

When your brakes aren’t happy (and need service), they’ll typically tell you. Depending on the issue, you may notice a hissing or squealing when you press the brake pedal. A sharp hiss when braking usually means you’re running low on brake fluid. Be sure to monitor the response time of your brakes and drive very carefully until you have your brake fluid replaced. We advise doing this ASAP!

The infamous brake squealing is something almost every driver is familiar with. We know your brake pads are responsible for stopping your vehicle by making contact with the rotor. Overtime, this contact wears down your brake pads and they’ll need to be replaced. It is recommended to change your brake pads when the friction material reaches its minimum thickness of around 3 mm. This is also when you’ll begin to hear the familiar squealing, which is simply a ‘warning sound’ designed to tell you it’s time for a replacement. As your pads wear, a metal tab is exposed and begins to rub slightly against the rotor to alert drivers.  

You’ll want to visit your local Master Mechanic to have your pads replaced before your calipers start to make contact with the rotors. After that, further driving could quickly damage the brake discs or drums and lead to costly repairs.

Common Questions About Disc Brake Maintenance

Service or replace? If your car’s brake pads are close to their minimum thickness or are damaged, it is likely cheaper to replace them. When you visit your local Master Mechanic, we’ll explain how long your brakes will last if you service them, the price difference, and any safety risks to help you make the best decision.

How long do brakes last? On average, disc brakes last for 50,000-80,000 kilometers before they need to be replaced.

How much is brake service? Contact your local Master Mechanic to discuss costs for your make and model. If your brake discs or drums are rusted, warped, or worn unevenly, your Master Mechanic may suggest having them machined. We’ll always discuss any associated costs with you before performing any services.

Do I have to service all my brakes at once? It’s best practice to inspect all your brakes at the same time to ensure no issues go unnoticed. To ensure even wear as you drive, brakes on the same axle should always be serviced at the same time. Uneven wear could cause steering vibration and pulsating when you brake. 

Proper brake maintenance helps keep you (and everyone else) safe on the road. IT also saves you money on repairs in the long run. If you suspect there’s an issue with your brakes, or just need scheduled maintenance performed, don’t wait! Contact your local Master Mechanic today–we’re always happy to see you stop by!

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