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Tech Talk

9 Common Problems Brake Service Shops See

Your brakes are the most important components on your vehicle.  Your engine creates the power to go places, your steering system directs your car, and accessories like air conditioning and stereos make the trip more pleasant—but none of this matters if you can’t stop the car.

Unfortunately, by the time most brake service shops get a car or truck into their service bay, the braking system has already suffered significant damage, making expensive repairs unavoidable.  So in this article we’ll take a brief look at how brakes work, what can go wrong with them, and how to know it’s time to come in for service.

It’s All About Hydraulics

Liquids are nearly impossible to compress into a smaller volume.  This fact multiplies the amount of power applied by a human being to a system that uses fluids.  This is the principle behind automotive brakes.  Stepping on the pedal causes a special liquid (brake fluid) to push friction pads against components on your wheels known as rotors.  This in turn makes the vehicle slow to a stop.

It may sound simple, but it involves a number of different parts all working together.  If something goes wrong with any of them, then the result can be poor braking or even a complete inability to stop.  Some of the more common problems seen by brake service shops include:

1.    Leaking brake fluid due to cracks in brake lines or hoses

2.    Unreliable braking due to air in the system

3.    Poor braking caused by worn pads or warped rotors

4.    Brake failure due to braking heavily on hilly or curvy roads; this causes the brake       materials to overheat and lose their ability to stop the vehicle

5.    Loss of the anti-lock brake system (ABS), reducing braking effectiveness and increasing  the possibility of injury and loss of vehicle control

6.   Temporary loss of stopping ability due to oil or grease on the pads or rotors

7.    Poor braking due to uneven application of hydraulic pressure on all four wheels

8.    A chattering or shaking sensation when the brakes are applied due to bent pads or rotors

9.    A screeching or grinding noise caused by worn brake pads gouging the rotors

If you suspect or experience any of these problems, get your car or truck to a brake service shop right away!

What to Do if Your Brakes Fail

Sudden brake failure while driving can be terrifying.  Hopefully this will never happen to you, but if it does, follow these steps:

1. Immediately take your foot off the gas and look around for a place to pull over.

2. Downshift to a lower gear. If you have an automatic transmission, move it from drive into one of the lower gears.

3. Use the parking brake, once your vehicle is going 30 MPH or less.  It works separately from your regular brakes, so it should still be operable.

As last options, there are two other things you can do:

1. If you are driving alongside a divider or bridge railing, steer the side of your vehicle against it, NOT DIRECTLY INTO IT.  The friction will slow you down. 

2. Put the transmission in reverse.  This will bring the vehicle to a sudden halt, but in all likelihood it will also destroy the transmission, resulting in costly repairs.  So try this only if all other measures fail.

The Best Cure is Prevention

Of course, the best way to deal with brake problems is to not have them in the first place.  That’s why we’re happy to give our customer s a free brake inspection, just to look things over and make sure everything is working the way it should.  So give us a call to set up an appointment, or drop by one of our San Antonio brake service shops today.  Keeping you safe is our number one priority.