The holiday season is almost upon us here in hot South Africa.
With the last stretch of the year upon us, LMB Euroseals would like to remind you to check your brakes and ensure your car is operating at the best possible level.
When you’re driving along the highway on a sunny day with your windows down and your radio volume up, it’s easy to forget that you’re in a massive chunk of steel and glass hurtling through space at 120-plus kilometers per hour. At that speed, if you suddenly needed to stop, your vehicle could take approximately the 91 meters to come to a standstill — and that’s only if you’ve kept one of the most critical safety systems in your car well maintained: your brakes.
First, a few words on how your brakes work.
Most cars use what are known as disc brakes. These function in much the same way as brakes on a ten-speed bicycle. A hydraulic system filled with brake fluid triggers a set of padded clamps known as calipers, causing them to squeeze together on a disc known as the rotor. The friction that occurs between the pads and rotor eventually stops the car.
Over time, as you can imagine, the pads will begin to wear thin, which means they’ll become less effective at slowing and stopping your car.
Fortunately, checking the thickness of your brake pads — those that squeeze down on the calipers — is a straightforward procedure. All you need to do is look between the spokes of your wheel to spot the shiny metal rotor inside. When you find it, look around the outer edge where you’ll see the metal caliper. Between the caliper and rotor, you’ll see the pad. You’ll have to estimate, but generally, your pads should be at least one-quarter of an inch thick. If they’re any thinner than that, it’s a good idea to get them changed.
If your car wheel isn’t designed in such a way that you can see through the spokes, you’ll have to remove the tire to see the rotor and pads. In either case, while you’re looking, it’s also a good idea to inspect the rotor itself. It should be relatively smooth. If you see any deep grooves or pits, it might also be time to replace that, as well.
Your mom always told you that blasting music in the car wasn’t good for your ears. Well, it’s not good for your brakes either.
If your car wheel isn’t designed in such a way that you can see through the spokes, you’ll have to remove the wheel to see the rotor and pads. In either case, while you’re looking, it’s also a good idea to inspect the rotor itself. It should be relatively smooth. If you see any deep grooves or pits, it might also be time to replace that, as well.
If you’ve ever had to execute an emergency stop in a car with antilock brakes, then you’re familiar with the type of rapid brake-pedal pulsing that comes from the quick grabs the system applies to the rotor to slow the car. However, if your brake pedal pulses in this way under normal braking circumstances, you could have a problem.
In addition to thrumming, your brake pedal can give you other indications that your car’s braking system might need examining.
A mushy pedal, one that goes practically to the floor before engaging the brakes, could indicate worn pads or a problem with the hydraulic system, such as air in the line, an air leak or a brake fluid leak. To check for a fluid leak, put an old white sheet or piece of light cardboard under the car overnight. In the morning, examine any fluid that collects. Brake fluid will be practically clear and the consistency of cooking oil.
The opposite of a mushy pedal is one that causes the brakes to grab immediately at the slightest touch. This could indicate an unevenly worn rotor, dirty brake fluid or contamination of the fluid by moisture. You can solve such a problem with a relatively inexpensive change of fluid that you could do yourself or have done at your mechanic’s shop.
Finally, if stopping the car seems akin to Fred Flintstone putting his feet through the bottom of the car to bring it to a halt, you might have a brake line obstruction or a problem with the vacuum system. Both situations would make the brake pedal extremely hard to operate and require immediate servicing.
If you have to replace any components, we recommend original LMB Brake And Clutch Components which meet full OE specifications.
Having said all that, the LMB Euroseals team would like to wish you a very happy holiday season.