The Importance of a Complete Brake Job to Keep Your Brakes Working Like New

How necessary is regular brake maintenance? What’s involved? Why do brakes even need maintenance? You’ve likely seen a few near misses in your years of driving. Driver skill combined with excellent brakes is what helps to prevent those collisions. In this blog post, you’ll learn how brakes work and why a complete brake job is necessary. 

Brake parts: the basics

When you step on your brake pedal, several components kick into gear. 

  1. A cylinder in the braking system sends fluid to the calipers.
  1. The calipers squeeze the brake pads against the brake rotors.
  1. The brake rotors, which are in direct contact with the wheels, slow the wheels.

What makes these parts work? How often do they wear down? We’ll discuss each part in detail below so you’ll understand exactly what’s going on and why a complete brake job may be recommended.

What is brake fluid? 

Think of brake fluid like a telephone line: buttons on your phone send a signal to a switchboard, which then connects to another phone. Like that signal, brake fluid tells your brake calipers to activate. Without it, your car would simply keep going. 

What are brake calipers? 

Brake calipers begin the process of creating friction to slow down your vehicle. They look like clamps and contain the brake pads and pistons. When you press on the brake pedal and send brake fluid to the calipers, they squeeze the brake rotors. 

Brake calipers don’t need as much attention as brake fluid, but they should be replaced as needed. If you allow your brake calipers to wear to the point of hearing grinding noises coming from your wheels, you’ve waited too long. 

What are brake pads? 

Brake pads, despite their name, are not soft. They’re made of metal or ceramic. Housed in the brake calipers, they press against the brake rotor to stop the wheel. How long they last depends on several factors: 

  • how often you drive 
  • how you drive 
  • what kind of brake pads you use 
  • where you typically drive 

For example, if you often drive on busy highways or streets and need to brake frequently, your brake pads will wear more quickly. Braking suddenly in a vehicle with an automatic transmission instead of braking slowly will also speed up brake pad wear. 

What do brake pistons do? 

Thanks to brake pistons, your brake pads are able to make contact with the brake rotors. 

What do brake rotors do? 

Brake rotors are directly attached to your vehicle’s wheels. When your braking system slows your brake rotors, your wheels follow along. 

When brake rotors are new, they’re smooth. The constant friction and heat caused by braking wears them down. Our Canadian winters can also send slush and salt into the rotors, potentially causing rust. 

This type of damage will require you to start slowing down sooner, because your brakes won’t operate at their best. 

Signs your brakes need help 

Although each component in the braking system comes with a general estimate of when to replace it, paying attention to your vehicle will give you more details. If you notice any of these signs, take your car in right away: 

  • wobbly steering wheel when driving 
  • less responsive brake pedal 
  • reduced brake performance 
  • increased time needed to stop 
  • grinding sound when braking 

What a complete brake job entails 

When an auto technician performs a complete brake job on your vehicle, they place the car on a hoist, remove the wheels, and inspect and clean every component of your braking system. 

This may involve replacing components, and you should feel free to ask to see the worn components. If you do inspect them, look for rough surfaces, rust, dimpling, and wear (you’ll especially notice the wear on your brake pads). 

Once your complete brake job is done, you should notice a marked improvement in braking. 

For any questions about a complete brake job, or to schedule one, contact the NAPA AUTOPRO shop nearest you. 

Photo: shutterstock_608097647