- Car Care & Maintenance
Important Information About The Brakes On Your Vehicle
Ever wondered why your brake light is on? Is the brake pedal mushy? Do you have a squealing sound when you apply your brakes? These are just some of the signs of a potential issue with your vehicles brakes. The following article helps give you the knowledge you need in order to make an informed decision about what steps are needed to keep your brakes working properly and being safe on the road.
As a father of a teenage driver, I share with many of you the daily worries of having my new driver out on the road and carry the natural worry that both the vehicle and her are safe. One of the most important aspects of the car is its brake system. If you are familiar with vehicle braking systems, then you may read on since this is geared more towards a few light tips on brakes as well as answering some of the misconceptions both shops and owners make with regards to the vehicles brakes.
The brake system
The brake system contains brake pads, lines, discs, shoes, calipers, rotors, sensors, master cylinder, and fluid. Not all cars have each component. I want to talk to you about the brake fluid and its reservoir. Most vehicles today are equiped with a sensored brake fluid reservoir (see photo). Unlike older vehicles (pre-1980's), this type of unit is standard in today's cars with safety being the regulatory reason as well as a monitored form of the brake fluid level.
Any brake fluid reservoir that has a wire attached to it, usually indicates that it is a sensored unit. This means that you should never have to add brake fluid to the reservoir. Never! This is a sealed system in which the level of brake fluid is monitored by the sensor. If the level gets too low or below the minimum line it will trigger your brake light to come on and you'll see it on the dashboard. This is where shops and drivers sometimes make errors. Rather then realizing the light is on for a reason, folks just tend to add brake fluid. The light goes off and everybody thinks the problem is solved. This isn't accurate.
What to watch for
Brake fluid usually becomes low for one of two reasons. First, you have a brake fluid leak somewhere. If you just add to the reservoir, not only does this not fix the leak, but instead the potential for identifying the problem is now reduced because the brake warning light is no longer on. Second, brake fluid levels will decrease as brake pads become older. I like to say that brake pads are like sponges, the older they are, the more fluid they require. In addition, once you have your brake pads replaced, you'll see that the brake fluid level goes back up in the reservoir. This is due to hydraulic pressure usage but when I explain things to people, I like to be able to speak in simple clear terms that all can understand so as not to confuse the customer or overwhelm them.
It's like going to the doctor's office, and as the doctor is explaining the procedure to you and throwing out all these massive medical terms that you don't understand, you become subdued and take on the attitude of "okay whatever, just fix me please". When it comes to my feelings, I think it's better to at least educate the customer and allow them to make the choice.
I will state that in an emergency situation, you can add brake fluid so you can make it from point A to point B, hopefully with point B being the mechanics shop, because clearly some brake fluid is better than none. However, adding brake fluid just to get rid of the brake light on your dashboard is not recommended and most shops today, do not include adding brake fluid in their maintenance services.They may inspect the current level and document it, but most will not add anymore. The above reasons are why.
There are few exceptions, and clearly don't rely just on this hub to make your decisions. Most technicians and mechanics are ASE certified and as in my state, provide FREE brake inspections as required by law.
If you find that the pads are good, the fluid is full, and your brake light is still on, check to see that your emergency brake is not applied, even slightly. I've seen that many times as well. It's not good to drive around with your emergency brake engaged. It happens, trust me!
For some, this may have been common knowledge, but as promised, I wanted to give you a few helpful pointers on car jargon knowing that my fellow friends and readers share the same concerns I do when their children are driving. Knowledge is power! Thanks for reading. Please share your comments!