Modern brake systems give us thousands of kilometers of worry-free driving. But that peace of mind sometimes breeds complacency that lasts until the brakes have almost eroded. That’s why it’s vital to schedule an inspection ahead of that summer road trip.
“Drivers should always get their brakes inspected before going on vacation,” said Tony Molla, vice president of the Automotive Service Association, a nonprofit trade group focused on vehicle care. “You don’t want to get stranded in a remote area or triple-digit heat.”
What are the major components that drivers should get inspected before heading out on their next major road adventure?
Rotors: As the name implies, these metallic discs rotate as the wheels are in motion. Rotors sit behind the wheel assembly and can sometimes be seen through the vehicle’s rims. Pressing the brake pedal activates a clamp on either side of the spinning disc.
Rotors should be checked during a tire rotation or multipoint inspection.
Brake pads: Made from an assortment of metals, brake pads pinch the rotor whenever the brake pedal is pushed. Brake pads are designed to alert drivers when they’re wearing thin. A small metal piece pings or “chirps” when it makes contact against the brake disc. Dismiss that squealing and you could do serious damage to your rotors.
Brake fluid: Stopping a car depends on hydraulics, and brake fluid is literally the system’s lifeblood. Pushing the pedal forces fluid through the lines, causing components to expand against the wheels and stop the vehicle.
Calipers: Part of a disc brake system, calipers push the brake pads against the rotors when the brake pedal is pushed. This resulting friction between the pads and rotors slows–and ultimately stops–the vehicle.
Drums: These bowl-shaped components use springs to expand the brake pads against the inside of the drum. This style of brakes is typically found on the rear of trucks or sedans. While it produces brake dust, the majority of it hides behind the covering, which means less gunk on your rims.