Nobody wants to subject themselves to surgery if they suspect that the surgeon is not competent and confident in the procedure they are performing. No, when you have to undergo the knife, you want to know that your doctor is going to do it right. The same holds true (albeit at a lower degree of importance) when you go to a fancy restaurant for dinner, or set an appointment to have your hair styled. You expect good service and a good product. The same is true when it comes to taking your car in for brake repair.
Why do you need your brakes repaired?
Like any other system or component on your vehicle, your brakes can sometimes fail. They are not supposed to fail, but neither is your alternator or air conditioning. It just happens sometimes. Of course, you can help to prevent brake system failure by having your vehicle inspected on a regular basis. Some repair shops offer a complimentary inspection when you get an oil change. In any case, having a professional evaluate the condition of your brakes can keep them working as they should.
But beyond the possibility of a problem with your brake system is the inevitability of a brake job.
See, brake repair is usually less like replacing a failed alternator or AC compressor and more like changing your oil. The oil in your engine wears out over time and needs to be replaced. Therefore, you schedule an oil change every three thousand, five thousand, seven thousand miles or so, according to your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation. Same with your brakes.
The reason has to do with how your brakes work and the components of your brake system. When you step on the brake pedal, a pair of brake pads squeeze against a metal disc (a brake rotor) attached to each of your wheels. Some of the sacrificial friction material that comprises your brake pads wears off with every use. And even your metal discs wear down over time. Those worn components need to be replaced routinely – just like your oil.
When do you need your brakes repaired?
Unlike your oil, which has a set interval based on the manufacturer’s recommendation, your brakes do not always wear out at a certain time or date. When you get your oil changed, a technician might place a sticker inside your windshield to let you know when to schedule your next appointment. Not so with brakes.
How fast your brakes wear out depends on a number of factors. How aggressively you use them is one; either slamming on or “riding” your brakes will each cause premature wear. The condition of your roads is another. Driving in dusty conditions, for example, will cause your brakes to wear out more quickly. So will driving in hill country, hauling heavy loads, or pulling a large trailer. Even the composition of your brake pads makes a difference, whether they are ceramic or semi-metallic.
A brake system inspection is your best bet for identifying how much life you have left in your brake pads or your rotors. Barring that strategy, your next clue that it is time for a brake job is when your brake pad wear indicator light on the dashboard turns on to tell you it is time for service. The light responds to sensors that detect the thickness of your brake pads. Brake pads also come equipped with wear indicators that sing out with a loud squeal when you step on the brakes and your pads are too low.
If you ignore the visible sign from the dashboard icon, or the audible sign from the wear indicator, the next sign that it is time to have your brakes repaired might be a brake pedal that is lower than normal. You might also notice that it takes longer to bring your car to a stop.
Keep driving with worn brakes and you will eventually hear a nasty grinding or scraping sound whenever you roll up to a stoplight. Should you ever get to that point – or if your brake system warning light comes on (different than the brake pad light) – have your brakes repaired immediately. Really, at that point, your brake pads are totally depleted and their backing plates are making metal-to-metal contact with your rotors, causing a lot of damage and significantly impairing your vehicle’s ability to stop. You should probably have your vehicle towed to a repair shop.
What do you need to know when getting your brakes repaired?
Hopefully, you have not waited until significant damage has happened before scheduling brake service. Nonetheless, when it is time for a brake job, how do you know if the shop is going to do it right?
Unfortunately, there are a few shops out there that will sell you on cheap brake service. The price looks great, but the results may be less than great.
Your brakes are made up of many parts. In a disc brake system (the most common on passenger vehicles today), not only do the brake pads need to be replaced, but the brake rotors need to be evaluated and measured and the calipers (hydraulic clamping mechanisms that hold the brake pads) need to be serviced. A cheap brake job might consist of only a set of new pads and send you out the door.
On the other hand, a complete brake job would entail (among other things) pads, rotors (replaced or resurfaced), caliper cleaning, and new hardware. Then the brake fluid would be checked, topped off as needed, and bled if the job calls for it.
You want a repair shop that will be honest and fair with you about the extent of brake service your car requires. Next time you suspect that your vehicle needs brake repair, consider asking the following questions:
- What is included in the brake job?
- How long do you anticipate it will take?
- What is the quality of the parts being installed?
- Will you include full disassembly of the parts to make sure they are in good shape?
- What is your warranty or the warranty on the components?
Straight answers to these questions should help you to have a sense of trust in the shop you choose to perform repairs on the most important safety system on your car. If you are not satisfied with the responses you get – just like if you are uncomfortable with your doctor you might get a second opinion – find another shop that will shoot straight and treat you with respect.
Columbia Auto Care & Car Wash | Author: Mike Ales | Copyright
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