Most people give very little thought to their brakes unless, of course, they are making a loud screeching sound. Which hopefully means their next stop is the local garage. We trust that when we step on that pedal, the car will come to a halt.
And while we may not give them much thought, we all know intuitively that our safety on the road will be compromised if there is a problem with the brake system. This is why at Sipan Tire and Rims, we do a thorough inspection of our client’s brakes, from rotters to pads, every six months, even if they’re not making a sound. Usually, when we’re rotating the tires or swapping out the winter wheels.
As a general rule of thumb, brakes become much less effective after about 40,000 kilometres. However, with proper maintenance and good conditions, you may get many more miles out of your pads than that. Of course, with Ottawa winters and road conditions, our brakes do tend to take a bit of a beating.
We’ve put together a list of things you can do to make sure you get the most out of your brakes. However, it’s important to note that none of these will replace regular maintenance and inspection. If you’re unsure how long it’s been since a qualified professional had a look at your brakes, we recommend you make an appointment soon.
We’re not suggesting you putter along disrupting traffic. Still, when it comes to wearing out your brakes, the most significant factor is speed. Brakes work by converting energy into heat, and the more they have to convert, the more they wear out. The single greatest way to deplete your brakes quickly is to get the vehicle going really fast and then promptly bring it to a complete stop. Keeping at a reasonable speed will ensure you’re not caught having to jam on your brakes frequently.
Knock off the two-foot driving
Unless you’re driving a manual transmission, your left foot should just sit back and enjoy the ride. And while anyone who has gone through an introductory driving lesson knows they should be using their right foot for both gas and brake pedals. There are a surprising amount of drivers out there who double foot those pedals anyway. Which, of course, usually leads to riding the brake continually. And when you have the brake slightly depressed throughout the entirety of your acceleration, you can bet those pads are going to need replacing much sooner than expected.
Going with the Flow
There is a reason people often refer to the “flow of traffic.” If you watch how cars drive on a street or highway, you’ll notice that there is a predictable pattern to their movement. They all start to accelerate together and slow down in unison, almost like a school of fish. Of course, while some drivers align themselves with this movement, others are going heavy on the gas, only to have slam on the brakes when the flow slows down. As I’m sure you can guess, those drivers who are having to rapidly adjust their speed are going to wear out their brakes much faster than the ones who find the natural groove. A great way to get with the flow of traffic is to use the three-second rule. To do this, first select a stationary object that is even with the car in front of you. This could be a sign, a building, anything that won’t move. Next, count to three. If you pass that object before you get to three, you need to ease up on the gas and leave more space.
Stop Rushing to the Stop Sign
We’ve all done it. We see the point ahead of us where we will have to stop, whether that’s a yellow light, a construction sign, or a traffic jam, and we race towards it like we want to be the first one to get there. Of course, this means that when we do have to stop, we need to apply more pressure to the brakes to dissipate all that extra speed. By reading the road and easing off the accelerator ahead of time, you can drastically reduce how much you need to rely on your brakes. If you do this enough, you will actually extend your brakes’ life by thousands of kilometres.
If you drive a car with a manual transmission, you’re probably aware that you can slow the vehicle down merely by not shifting up into the next gear. Today, with most cars on the road having automatic transmissions, many drivers have forgotten, or never learned, to use the gears as a means to slow their momentum. Of course, most automatic cars today come equipped with a digital paddle-style shifter that allows the driver to quickly switch gears on the fly. When you’re going down a hill, you can prevent the motor from picking up too much additional speed without ever touching the break by shifting down a gear. This will increase your RPMs considerably and make the car a little noisier, but it will help extend your brakes’ life, and the motor will be just fine.
Take a Load off
Some people treat their trunks like an extra storage closet. However, the more weight you have in your vehicle, the more work your brakes have to do to bring it all to a stop. The technical term is the dynamic load weight of the car. But the critical thing to remember is that the heavier the vehicle, the more brake you’ll wear through to decelerate.
Of course, it’s worth noting that it’s not just about the cargo in your vehicle. Heavy aftermarket stereo systems and luggage racks also add to the dynamic load of your car. And while we’re not suggesting that aftermarket upgrades aren’t worth the cost. We think it’s worth considering the trade-offs as you decide which add-ons you want to put on your vehicle.
Flush the Fluid
We usually recommend to our clients that they have their brake fluid flushed about once every two years. This is especially important if you are driving an older car.
The chemical make-up of brake fluid naturally attracts moisture that builds up over time. In a hard-braking situation, the heat transfer can cause this water in your brake lines to boil, making the brakes less effective when you need them most. The moisture build-up can also cause internal corrosion, which will accelerate the breakdown of the rubber seals and the brake components overall. By flushing the lines, you ensure that the fluid is pure and can do its job effectively.
Invest in Quality
As with most automotive components, there is a wide range of price points when it comes to replacing your brakes. And like most things, you get what you pay for. Higher-end brakes are better made and tend to work more efficiently to distribute heat when you use them. This also means they often last much longer. By spending a little more upfront, you can actually make your vehicle safer in an emergency-stopping situation. Not to mention, you’ll also reduce the frequency of needing to replace your brake components overall.
At Sipan Tire and Rims, we take automotive safety seriously and regularly inspect our client’s brakes for any signs of wear. If you have concerns about your brakes or are unsure of the last time they were examined, give us a call. Our technicians will ensure your vehicle is safe and secure. So you can be sure when you need to stop, you will.