Keeping your vehicle’s brakes in top shape is one of the most important things you can do for your safety and those on the road with you. Most drivers know a little about brake pads and rotors but maybe not so much about another brake component called the calipers.
Disc brakes work by a mechanical system that presses your brake pads against discs called rotors (you can usually see these discs through your wheels). The friction stops your vehicle smoothly when everything is working the way it should. The calipers use the hydraulic pressure of the brake fluid to apply the stopping power.
After they’ve been on your vehicle for a while, the calipers can get stuck or wear out. If calipers on one side of the vehicle work correctly and not on the other, you might feel a pull in one direction. You might feel the same kind of pull if the caliper is stuck and is applying constant pressure. You might hear scraping or squealing coming from a stuck caliper and you might smell burning on that side. The friction from a caliper that’s always applying pressure may cause that wheel to heat up, so after you’ve pulled your vehicle off the road safely, the wheel with the stuck caliper will might feel hotter than the others
Because there are many different components to the brakes, it’s best to leave the diagnosis and repair to a trained technician. They will run each wheel through a series of tests and inspections that can pinpoint the problem. Sometimes it involves more components than just the caliper that may need changing at the same time.
The best way to make sure your brakes will perform well is to is to have our service center perform regular inspections and follow the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended service. That way your brakes will be ready, willing and able when you call on them to put a stop to things.
Today’s vehicles have some pretty amazing technology in them, including a computerized braking system we all pretty much take for granted these days. Antilock brake systems (ABS) have been around for years but they help drivers stop in much shorter distances reliably than ever before. When you see your ABS warning light come on, it’s important to find out what’s causing the problem. It’s a safety issue.
Often the problem when the ABS light comes on is a faulty wheel speed sensor. (In some cases the traction control light will also come on, perhaps because of a non-working wheel speed sensor.) Your vehicle uses the speed sensors to measure the rotational speed at each wheel. That sensor sends the speed data to a computer that can then adjust braking power and prevent your wheels from locking up.
If any of the wheel speed sensors isn’t working right, the ABS warning light will go on and the vehicle’s computer will turn off the antilock brake system. You’ll still have working brakes, but you will lose the functionality of that computerized system.
When your vehicle warns you the ABS has a non-working sensor, you can have a technician check to see what’s going on. It could be one of the sensors is dirty and a cleaning will solve the problem. But it also could be that one or more sensors needs to be replaced.
A technician will use computerized diagnostic equipment to determine what and where the problem is, replace any bad parts and then check to make sure the system is fully operational.
Antilock brakes and traction control are significant technologies that help prevent your vehicle from slipping on less-than-perfect road surfaces, especially useful during wintery weather. Make sure they’re helping you drive the way they designed to.
Brakes really aren’t optional equipment for St. Peter drivers. And taking care of them isn’t optional either.
A regular brake inspection is on every MN car’s maintenance schedule. At Autotronics of ST Peter, our team will check your brake system and let you know if there are any essential problems. Of course, if you’re having trouble with your brakes, get your car into your St. Peter or Kasota service center right away. And watch out for these problems:
Low or spongy brake pedal
Hard brake pedal
A brake warning light that stays on
Constantly squealing or grinding brakes
Vibrations or clunking sounds when you apply your brakes
There are two types of brakes: disc and drum. Disc brakes have a rotor that’s attached to the axle. Calipers straddle the rotor, kind of like the brakes on a bicycle. Drum brakes are more common on back wheels. Pads, called shoes, push against the inside of the drum to slow the vehicle.
There are several things that need to be serviced on the brake system. First, the brake pads and shoes wear out with use, and become too thin to really help. If the brake pads wear away completely you can damage the rotors. The calipers can grind grooves in the rotor. Then the rotor must either be resurfaced or replaced and that can be expensive. But putting it off is dangerous because your minivan won’t stop as quickly. Sometimes rotors warp or crack and must be replaced.
Brake fluid is also important. When the brakes are applied, the pressure in the fluid activates the brake pads or shoes. Not enough fluid, not enough pressure to brake properly. Also, water builds up in the brake fluid over time, which leads to corrosion, leaks and harmful brake damage, and with hard use, the brakes could severely fade or even fail. St. Peter drivers should change the brake fluid when their automobile manufacturer recommends it.
There are different grades of brake pads sold in the St. Peter area. There are regular, metallic and ceramic – higher grades are more expensive, but give better braking performance and smoother operation. It’s OK to upgrade your brake pads. But, never use a grade that’s lower than what the vehicle manufacturer recommends.
Be sure to properly maintain your brakes because it’s a lot cheaper than paying your nearest Cleveland area body shop after an accident.