Car maintenance is expensive. How many of us have stood at that counter at the mechanic’s and had at least a little sticker shock when we saw the bill? Replacing or even repairing brakes is the same story. Fortunately, there are several driving practices that can extend the life of your brakes, and if you protect your brakes from premature wear, you can save your wallet from a thinning.
Take It Slow
The number one cause for premature brake pad wear and tear is coming to a complete stop from high speed. In fact, an increase of 20 mph results in 33% more energy that must be dissipated through the brakes. Fortunately, this means that slowing down even a little can save your brakes some stress. You don’t have to drive like a turtle, just be conservative if you want to protect your brakes.
Slamming down on the brakes is detrimental to them every time it happens. It can usually be avoided if you know what is up ahead and give your car plenty of time to stop. If you want to protect your brakes, being mindful of your surroundings and upcoming hazards or traffic will allow you to slow down without slamming on the brakes.
When a driver taps the brakes while still engaging the accelerator pedal, it is referred to as “two-footing.” This practice wears down brakes prematurely without actually slowing down the vehicle. Unfortunately, some people do it unconsciously. Pay attention the next time you tap your brakes. If you’re guilty of two-footing, take strides to break the habit.
Coasting refers to when a driver takes his or her foot off the gas pedal and allows the vehicle to naturally slow down before applying the brakes. While not always an option, coasting is a great way to protect your brakes by taking advantage of road conditions. If you exit the freeway or approach a stop sign or red light, simply cancel cruise control or take your foot off the accelerator before applying the brake.
If traffic is backed up ahead but you haven’t reached the slowdown, coast if you have the space. If you come over a hill, you may not need to apply the brake before letting your vehicle come back to reasonable speeds. Mind the gap, though, and do not leave it until the last minute to slam the brakes.
Give Yourself Some Space
Coasting only works if you have the room to do it safely. Leaving plenty of room between you and the drivers around you isn’t just a good way to protect your brakes, it’s road safety 101 and important if you don’t want to make other drivers feel unsafe or angry. Especially when the weather or ambient light is poor, make room. In heavy traffic, do not rush to fill gaps only to hit the brake repeatedly. Doing so is bad for your brakes and your gas mileage.
The heavier your vehicle, the harder your brakes have to work to stop it. Transporting weighty items in your car is hard on your brakes, and so is towing. Even substantial additions and modifications to a vehicle can strain the brakes, so give that some thought before you install a massive sound system.
Brake with Your Engine
Your braking system isn’t the only way to slow your vehicle down. The engine can also do it. Downshifting through the gears while a vehicle is in motion causes the engine to check the vehicle’s speed. It isn’t a fool-proof solution, however, and should be used with discretion. Downshifting is more effective in vehicles with manual transmissions, and shifting gears when the vehicle is going too fast or shifting too quickly can damage other parts of your vehicle, and you don’t want to protect your brakes at the expense of your engine or transmission.
Flush Your Brakes Regularly
Your braking system is hydraulic. Brake fluid is hardy stuff, designed to take the heat when the rest of the system lays on the pressure. Unfortunately, it is also hygroscopic, meaning it tends to absorb atmospheric water. This water doesn’t respond as well to the intense heat and pressure found in your vehicle’s brakes, and it can boil or corrode the internal mechanics of the car.
Brakes should be flushed regularly to remove the water and give your fluid a fresh start. The industry standard recommendation is to flush your brakes approximately every two years or 25,000 miles. For a recommendation specific to your make and model, contact your manufacturer.
Let Layton Car Care Help You Protect Your Brakes
There is nothing like professional inspection and maintenance to monitor how your brakes are holding up. At Layton Car Care, we can look over your vehicle and make sure everything is in tip-top shape, and if your brakes do need to be serviced or repaired, we have all the right tools to see it done.