Your car's braking system allows you to slow down and stop and is integral to safe driving. Taking care of the brakes is important, given that you use the brakes when it's necessary to slow or stop, and failure to do so can have disastrous consequences. Knowing the signs of failing brakes, when to service them and when to replace them are all important parts of brake maintenance. Read on to learn more about these.
1. Does brake fluid spoil? When should it be changed?
How often brake fluid should be replaced depends on the manufacturer's recommendations; it can be anything from every two years to ten years, or even not at all. Additionally, driving conditions can affect the condition of brake fluid, which means you may need to deviate from manufacturer's instructions accordingly.
For instance, in high-humidity regions, brake fluid is likely to absorb moisture from the environment, which reduces your brake fluid's boiling point. This is a problem in situations where brakes work harder, such as on steep slopes, during tows and during emergency stopping—the brake fluid can overheat and perform worse or lose braking ability altogether.
If you're not clear about when to change your brake fluid, and it's been in place for two years or longer, you should have it tested at your regular car service visit. You can also tell it's contaminated if you have to step further on the pedal to elicit the same stopping reaction. However, there are other causes for this, and so visiting a mechanic for proper diagnosis is recommended.
2. What are the signs that you need to replace your brakes?
Brake pads can last anywhere from 25,000–70,000 miles (40,000–112,000 km). Apart from manufacturer's instructions, how long brakes last depends on your driving habits, where you drive (in cities where there's frequent braking, brakes deteriorate faster) and the brake pad/rotor materials.
Watch out for any strange sounds from your brakes like grinding, squealing or squeaking. If you have to travel further to get a reaction or stop over a longer distance, your brakes are also failing. Most cars have a red warning light on the dashboard when there's a problem with the brakes.
Brakes usually wear down over time, so you may not notice the deterioration until it's too late. If you haven't replaced the pads or rotors in the last two years, schedule an inspection every time you change the oil, or every six months, whichever comes more often. This way, any problems can be caught and rectified before they pose a danger to you and your passengers.