Brake Maintenance Guide

Brake Maintenance Guide

It’s vital that you have regular brake maintenance performed to remain safe on the road. Once you understand the process and what needs to be accomplished, you’ll know when to take your car in for brake service.

Each component of your brake system needs attention. There are five to think about: the master cylinder, lines, calipers, rotors, and pads. To fully maintain your brake system, you’ll need to understand what each of these does.


A vehicle’s brakes run hydraulically. Fluid transfers the power from your foot pedal and sends it to the brakes themselves. Your master cylinder is the beginning place for your power flow. If this is faulty, you won’t exert enough power to get the fluid to your brakes. It’s important to have your mechanic inspect your brake lines and master cylinder for any sign of damage. They all need to check your brake fluid for cleanliness.


The calipers, rotors, and pads work in conjunction with each other to stop your vehicle. Once you step on the brake pedal, your master cylinder sends the fluid to your calipers. These squeeze together and exert pressure on your brake pads. That’s why you want to inspect the calipers for damage or wear.

When your calipers squeeze together, the brake pads clamp down onto the rotor of your car. This slows your car down. If the pads are worn out, then they can’t make the proper contact with your rotors. This might lead to further damage to the rotors. You’ll probably end up with uneven grooves or rough spots. Besides, the rotors experience lots of heat and friction, so they often warp over time.

You don’t want to wait until you need rotors to fix your trouble. It will cost you far more than brake maintenance does. Many brake pads come with a wear indicator, so you know when you need to replace them. A tell-tale sign is when it begins making a squealing sound.


It’s vital that you stick to a specified brake maintenance schedule for the best results. You’ll want to look in your owner’s manual to find out what’s recommended for your make and model. As a general rule of thumb, you could also follow these guidelines:

Every 12,000 miles – inspect the brake pads and brake fluid. If there’s less than a 1/8-inch on the pad lining, you’ll want to replace them. If the brake fluid is dirty, you need to replace it.

Every 25,000 miles – most manufacturers recommend changing the brake fluid.

Every 60,000 miles – replace or resurface the rotors, so they are smooth again. Keep in mind you can usually only resurface the rotors once per set.

Your mechanic knows when these concerns need to be dealt with, so be sure to discuss a regular brake maintenance schedule with them.


Maintaining your brake system is vital if you want to remain safe on the road. Taking proactive measures not only protects you, but it’s also cheaper than fixing issues resulting from negligence.

Installing new brake pads and also resurfacing your brake rotors typically runs anywhere from $60 up to about $200, depending on what vehicle you drive. On the other hand, brake repair requires you replace the pads and rotors. This could run you up to $1,000. See the difference?

Don’t ever take chances with your braking system; your safety relies on it. This isn’t the area of car maintenance you want to procrastinate with.


There are multiple reasons your brakes might wear out faster than others. That’s why you should perform regular inspections. Here are some of the factors to consider.

Your Driving Habits – if you regularly haul heavy loads or a trailer, you might wear down brakes faster. If you prefer to keep plenty of space between you and the drivers in front of you, your brakes probably last longer thanks to your prudent driving skills.

Where You’re Driving – for people commuting daily through the city, they have more stop and go traffic to contend with compared to a highway driver. The brakes are sure to wear more quickly. That’s also the case if you spend a lot of time on mountainous highways. If you go off-roading at all, the grime and dirt help to degrade brake components faster.

Slide Pin Corrosion – because your caliper must slide evenly and smoothly, a corroded slide pin causes you to end up with brake pad wear. That’s because the pad remains in contact with your rotor at all times.

Installing Cheap Pads – there’s a wide range of pads on the market to replace yours with. There’s a variety of prices, and many people opt for the cheapest to save some money. These don’t often last as long and might even contain some metal chunks that wear out your rotors faster. Spending a little more helps to prolong the life of your brakes. A premium set of brake pads might last you 50,000 miles.


ABS stands for the anti-lock braking system, and all modern cars come equipped with it. This system works to prevent your wheels from locking up which maintains a grip on the road. When your ABS warning light is illuminated, it means the system has seen a malfunction and is disabled.

Your brakes continue to work regularly, but the anti-lock feature won’t. If you have traction or stability control, those systems also become disabled.

Some of the leading causes of this include:

  •    A blown fuse
  •    A damaged wheel-speed sensor or one that’s covered in dirt
  •    An ABS controller which quit working
  •    A broken wire located between your ABS controller and the sensors

If you plan to head out on the road for an extended time, or you travel in remote areas, then you’ll want to inspect your brake system first. Take the car to your service center for peace of mind. They will look over the entire system to ensure your safety on the road. You want to replace any worn or faulty components now so you can enjoy the trip.


If you plan to have your brake system worked on by a professional, there are several things you’ll want to check into before turning over your vehicle.

  1.    Make sure they’re using premium brake pads. Generic pads often come in plain boxes. Ask to see the package so you can be sure they have a brand name on them.
  2.    Don’t fall into the ceramic brake pad scheme. Many shops want to recite how much better they are and why you should upgrade. They don’t last longer, and they aren’t better material. All they offer is less brake dust, and they run quieter.
  3.    Check the brake rotors. Many shops purchase inferior rotors for rock-bottom prices and then charge customers premium prices. Make sure you see the rotors they plan to install and only opt for high-quality brands.

The top brake shops use well-known brands such as Bendex, Raybestos, Wagner, NAPA/United, Carquest, Motorcraft, ACDelco, and Brembo. These are the products you want on your car for maximum protection.

Make sure you take the time to have a mechanic regularly inspect and service your brakes. It’s vital for your safety and everyone else on the road.

Courtesy of hollenshades

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