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Brake Service, What You Need To Know


As a car owner, getting your brakes serviced is a part of ownership, but do you know if you are getting the best service? Let’s start with common reasons you may find yourself at a mechanic for brake service…

Brake Noises:

Most issues with brakes start with a noise. Most brake pads are designed to make noise when they come close to the end of their useful life. They have a thin metal warning tab which vibrates when it touches the brake rotor. This is entirely normal and serves as a signal to you the driver to get them serviced soon.

Brake dust build-up can also cause squeaking but it’s usually intermittent. If your brake pads have been changed lately and the squeaking has started, I would suspect brake dust.

Grinding Noises:

Grinding noises are usually the brake pad backing material grinding in to the rotor. Brake pads are made of a steel backing plate with friction material being bonded or riveted to it. As the friction material wears away the rivets or the actual backing plate can contact the rotor. Any grinding noise should be cause for an immediate trip to the mechanic.

The Shakes:

You step on the brakes and you are met with a shimmy and a shake from the steering wheel, what to do? The brake rotor can warp over time, and can cause the front wheels to shake slightly. While a minor shake is ok, and can come and go, if it’s too much poor steering and stopping distances can result. Most brake rotors today are made thin enough, that the rotor cannot be turned, or resurfaced, so replacement is usually the way to go.

Now that you have the basics down, how about getting the best deal on a brake job?

Where to go for brake service?

If your car is under warranty and you have a good relationship with them, by all means go there. Independent garages are a good option if you can find a good one you trust, as the costs will be slightly lower. Franchise brake and oil change shops should be your last resort. I always recommend asking friends for recommendations, and of course check online for reviews.

Pad Choices?

Brake pads are all about the friction material, the harder they are, the longer they last. But with anything in life, there is a tradeoff. Harder brake pads will wear down the rotor faster and may produce more heat making warping a possibility. Most places will advertise lifetime brake jobs, and install hard metallic pads to prolong the life at the expense of your rotors. I recommend going with a name brand organic brake pad or a semi-metallic. You may end up changing brake pads more, but will have to replace rotors less frequently as well.

What to look for in a brake job?

Always insist on an estimate before work is done, ask to see the worn parts before any work is done and if you are not able to see the parts, ask that they save them for you to view when picking up your car. Never be afraid to ask questions, a good shop appreciates an educated customer. Also ask that your wheels be torqued with a torque wrench and not an impact wrench and “torque sticks” which may or may not provide uniform torque if not used correctly. Uneven torque can lead to warped rotors which will just have you back at the shop spending more money.

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Posted: 9th April 2014  |  Author: Kevin Schappell  |  Category: Brakes

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