As I explain in , all vehicles today are equipped with dual hydraulic brake systems. Many newer vehicles are also equipped with antilock braking systems (ABS). This chapter provides instructions for performing preventive maintenance on your brakes and doing checkups that help you to spot trouble before it occurs.
If you need professional work done, also provides tips that enable you to deal with an auto mechanic or brake specialist knowledgeably. If you haven’t read or if you’ve forgotten what you read, please go back and review it before continuing with this chapter.
Before you can troubleshoot or work on your brakes, you must be familiar with how the system on your vehicle works, what its principal parts do, and what should be happening when you step on the brake pedal. Although you can probably do most of the work in this chapter yourself, if you want to do major break work, you should do it under supervision.
If you don’t get things back together properly, you risk losing much more than you gain! However, if after reading this chapter you simply can’t stand the idea of exposing your brakes to a total stranger, get yourself to a good community auto class at a local high school or dealership and do the work under an instructor’s watchful eye.
In such a setting, you have access to the hydraulic hoists, brake lathes, and other expensive equipment needed to do a really good job. So even if you’re sure that you need no further instruction after reading my enlightened and crystal-clear prose, having the equipment and the instructor’s expertise available is still worth the price of enrollment. Whenever you encounter a term set in this font, you’ll find it defined in the glossary in Appendix A.
Extending the life of your brakes
The best way you can “be a buddy to your brakes” is to extend their lifespan. You’re also doing yourself a favor, and not just because repairing and replacing brakes is expensive: These techniques will help your brakes help you live longer, too! Riding your brakes (keeping your foot on the brake pedal when you drive) causes them to wear out prematurely.
The excess heat also can warp brake rotors and brake drums. Although being cautious is always a good policy, try to anticipate stopping situations well enough in advance to be able to slow down by releasing the pressure on your gas pedal and then using your brake pedal for that final stop.
In slippery conditions or situations that call for slowing down rather than stopping, if you have traditional brakes, instead of jamming on your brakes and screeching to a halt, pump your brake pedal to reduce speed and avoid sliding.
If the road is slippery and your vehicle is equipped with ABS, don’t pump the brake pedal; simply apply firm, steady pressure and keep steering. Maintaining the speed limit so that you don’t have to stop at every.