The vast majority of us are accustomed to resting in the knowledge that simply pressing on the brake pedal will reduce our speed, without giving much thought to how the mechanism works. Having an idea of how the car's braking system operates is definitely a key part of being a motorist, as it will allow you to spot the first signs of wear on the system to determine just when your brake discs and pads are in need of replacing. Read on to find out more.
How does the brake mechanism work?
The disc brake system utilised in most modern cars involves a brake disc attached to the car's axle, which is then squeezed by a pair of brake pads to slow the axle's rotation. When the brake pedal is applied, hydraulic pistons close a component known as the brake callipers, which hold the brake pads, compressing the pads against the brake disc to slow the car.
What should I look out for to keep my brake pads in good condition?
Critically, dashboard warning lights regarding your brakes should never be ignored. There are some other signs, however, which may give you advanced warning regarding the stare of your brakes. Tactile feedback through the brake pedal itself, such as a vibration or pulsation, can be a sign of worn out brake pads or pads which have been warped due to excessive heat. This often warrants a replacement of the offending component. Additionally, if the car pulls during braking, this could indicate uneven brake pad wear. Auditory signals may also be a sign of excessive pad wear. Clicking or grinding of the pads almost always signal that it's time to replace your pads, though a high-pitched screeching sound is often slightly more complex. If you notice a screeching following rainy conditions which disappears after you've been out driving for a short period, this is often the result of nothing more than a thin layer of rust building up on the pads. The screech disappears when the rust is worn away during normal use of the brakes. A more constant screeching whenever the brakes are applied, however, may be the first sign that your pads are almost completely worn, so it's best to get this sign checked out quickly to avoid problems further down the line.
The guide above should provide all the information you need to understand the basics of how your car's brakes work, and how to spot common signs of brake pad wear. If you're unsure about whether to replace your pads, speak to a qualified professional. If you're still uneasy about how your brakes feel or sound, though, a replacement will give you that extra peace of mind which comes with knowing your car is as safe as it can be.