August is Brake Safety Awareness Month, which is a great time to make sure your car’s brakes are in proper working order. Although the issue of if your brakes are functioning correctly sounds like an easy question, there are several things to monitor when looking and listening for signs that perhaps you need new brakes.
Are you seeing or hearing the following?
Thin brake pads. You can actually tell by looking at your brakes if you likely are going to have problems. All you need is a ruler. If your brake pads are less than a quarter of an inch thick, you should replace them.
Low brake fluids. If the brake fluid level in the master cylinder is low, you may have a problem. Another red flag that you probably need new breaks is if there’s a copper content of 2000 ppm or greater in your brake fluid.
Scraping or grinding noises when you press down on the brakes. If you hear this, it’s time to get brake pads as soon as possible. If you don’t, you could do enough damage that you’re soon replacing the entire brakes.
Your brake system warning light stays on. That, too, can be a sign that you need new brakes.
The brake pedal feels soft or spongy. When you press it down, if it feels weird to you – again, soft or spongy – that’s a clue that you probably have brake problems.
If you push down on the brake, is the car not slowing down? That is an obvious sign you need to have your brakes checked, and probably replaced. Again, do this as soon as possible.
While we can do some of these things on our own, others will require a professional with Milex Complete Auto Care to inspect on your next visit for service.
If you have trouble braking and you’re worried about your safety, you’ll want to do the following right away:
Take your foot off the gas. You’ll want to slow down as soon as you can. Try to not instinctively put your foot on the gas.
Downshift to a lower gear. That’ll help slow you down, but don’t go from a high gear to D1. You could slow down too fast, where it becomes dangerous. Downshift gradually.
Activate your emergency flashers. You may want to honk the horn, too, if any drivers appear to not realize you’re in trouble. Obviously, try to pull over to the side of the road, as soon as possible.
Press down on the brake. Even if it doesn’t seem like it, there may be some life left to the brakes. Try pumping the pedal, too.
If you’re moving slowly… you can slowly engage the parking brake. But if you do it too fast and with too much pressure, your wheels could lock up.
Remember the reason we’re talking about brakes.
It’s a safety issue. Yes, it can save you money to stay on top of the health of your brakes since ignoring them and having to replace brakes is far more expensive than having to replace brake pads. But above all, good working brakes means that your car is a far more safe vehicle to drive. You don’t want to injure your passengers, strangers or yourself, and so do yourself a favor as we celebrate Brake Safety Awareness Month. The next time you get in your car, take a few seconds to take a look at your brake pads – and listen as you brake for any troubling signs. Or if it’s been awhile since you’ve had your car serviced, it wouldn’t be bad to take your car in to have your brake fluids (and all of your car’s fluids) checked.
Sure, it’s hard to find the time to pause what you’re doing and think about car maintenance. But better to stop what you’re doing now and take a look at your brakes, than get behind the wheel later and realize that you can’t stop.