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Your Brakes: How They Work and How To Keep Them Working


Your brakes are the most important part of a car, slowing and stopping the car and allowing for safe control of your vehicle. But, how they work is a mystery to some.

How They Work 

When you push your foot down on the brakes, you cause a connected lever to push a piston into the master cylinder. The master cylinder is filled with hydraulic fluid, and this fluid is pushed around until it reaches cylinders near the brakes of each wheel, creating enough friction relative to slow down or stop the car, depending on how hard you pressed the brakes. Amazing right?

Disc brake system

 Like any part of your car, your brakes will need repair and replacement after a lot of use. Avoid letting your brakes get to the "metal-to-metal" point, where the friction material of the brake pads have worn out and its metal backing is grinding on the metal rotor or drum. This can be very expensive to repair.

Signs that your brakes need repair.

  • Noise: screeching, grinding or clicking noises when applying the brakes.
  • Pulling: vehicle pulls to one side while braking.
  • Low Pedal: brake pedal nearly touches the floor before engaging.
  • Hard Pedal: must apply extreme pressure to the pedal before brakes engage.
  • Grabbing: brakes grab at the slightest touch to the pedal.
  • Vibration: brake pedal vibrates or pulses, even under normal braking conditions.
  • Light: brake light is illuminated on your vehicle's dashboard.

When these things happen, your brake repairs and replacements don't have to be expensive. 

Tips to keep your brakes working. 

1. Do your brake maintenance on time. 

Replacing the hydraulic fluid in your brakes costs about $50, but avoiding this important job can cause parts of your brakes to, well break, which could cost more than $1000 to fix. 

2. Try using quality OEM or mechanic-recommended parts. 

You may save money using cheaper parts in the short term, but cheaper, off-brand parts tend to fail quicker, making you buy more.

3. Drive safely. 

Don't slam on your brakes right before the light. Slow down earlier, and don't "ride the brakes," or put your foot on the brakes (even a little!) without actually wanting to stop or slow down. 

4.  Compare replacing vs repairing.

If your mechanic tells you to replace your calipers, see if they can be repaired instead. Repair kits cost around $30 compared to the price of a replacement caliper, which can be more than $100. 

Follow these tips, and your brakes will be in great shape all the time, without you having to "brake" the bank. Happy driving!  

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