Put Your Brakes On!

No, seriously.  Put those brakes on, see how they feel under your foot. Better yet, find an empty parking lot or something and do a few braking tests. Measure if you can the distance it takes your car to stop from 40 mph, and compare them to the figures stated by the manufacturer. Often you will be shocked at the discrepancy.

Brakes, like any other part of a car, suffer from wear and tear and require adjustments and tune-up every once in a while. What makes them tricky, and the reason we told you to do those tests mentioned above, is because brakes often go weak so gradually and over so long a time, you won’t notice they are not working at optimum level… until you need them to, and that’s when they fail you. So let’s go through a check and tune-up routine together and make sure your brakes are in the best shape they can be. First off, if you haven’t done this in two or three years, head over to brakesshop.ie and get yourself a new set of discs and pads. Chances are they are both shot.


To check if your brake pads still have some life in them you can either wait until they get critically thin and the light on the dashboard goes on. But a lot of cars, especially older ones, don’t even have that feature. So the best thing to do is to every two or three months – depending on mileage and how heavy your use of the vehicle is – after a pad change to get a flashlight and look at the pads. You don’t need to take wheels off for this. Just turn the wheel until the pads are as exposed as they can be between the spokes. It is easy to notice if the pads have enough meat on them, or if it’s time to swap them for some nice fat ones. Checking the discs is a bit trickier and requires the wheels to come off.

But the good news, brake discs are usually pretty long-lasting parts. Unless you have allowed your pads to go so thin, they have scratched the discs, or if they have gotten warped due to suede temperature changes or heavy use, you won’t have to change the discs. And even if they do go bad, you often notice it while driving as the wheels make an awful scratching noise under braking or the car pulls to one side when you apply the pedal. Of course, if you are upgrading your standard brakes to something more powerful, then both pads and discs will have to be changed.

Those were the basics parts you need to keep an eye on. Modern cars all have many electronic parts integrated into their braking system that need regular checks. The most common of these features is ABS and you all know how to check for its health. You hit the brakes hard and if the pedal pulsates under your feet it means the anti-lock system is doing its job. A lesser known fault with the whole ABS system has to do with its pump. Often this fault doesn’t directly affect the stopping power of the brakes, but it could be dangerous as it could cause a delay in triggering the ABS. The most common sign of this is if the brake pedal feels a little spongy and engages way too low. In other words, if there is a lot of empty space in between you pushing the pedal down and it actually engaging the brakes, then you may want to have your ABS pump checked.

Even more modern cars come with electronic brake force distribution system and other electronic systems that complement your reaction time and adjust the force. These are extremely tricky to remedy if they go wrong, but the cool thing is they can all be checked electronically via a diagnostic tool. Granted, this isn’t really a DIY job, but you can ask the shop to run a diagnostic every time you pop in for a service. Remember, brakes must be at their best all the time. This is not something you want to gamble with.