Since the year 2010, approximately 600,000 new cars are registered with the Malaysian Automotive Association every single year. Considering the high population of car owners in Malaysia, we need to know more about brakes! Brake failure is attributed to 70% of motorvehicle accidents in Malaysia. By learning more about the most common cause of accidents, you can reduce the chances of being in one yourself!
Brake pads in our cars are made to withstand wear and tear, which would happen quicker the more often you brake. Reliable braking is necessary when driving to avoid accidents, hazards, and it is definitely a big deal if and when they should fail. Therefore, it is necessary to know when your pads are due for a change so as to keep the vehicle in a reliable and safe condition.
DRUM & DISC BRAKES
Before you get out of your car to look at the actual brake pad, know that most cars in Malaysia use disc brakes for their front wheels, and drum brakes for the rear wheels. For our purposes today, we're only be looking at the former. Disc brakes work by having one or two calipers with brake pads clamp on the rotor, causing friction and slowing the rotor, which in turn slows the car down. Drum brakes generate friction using "shoes" or "pads", was invented in the 1900s, offers relatively poorer braking capabilities, but the manufacturers kept them on our rear wheels because they're cheap to make, lighter in weight, and requires less maintenance.
Look at the actual brake pad
Looking at the picture above, one can see the smooth disc (known as the rotor), and the calipers holding the brake pads in place on the right. Without removing the wheel, it is possible to peer into the wheel between the spokes and check the brake pad’s condition; but you’ll need to have the tyre removed if you cannot see the brake pads. It’s a good idea to switch out brake pads when they’re less than a quarter of an inch thick.
Listen for braking noises
Noise when braking is a legitimate warning sign, and it usually comes in the form of a high-pitched screech. This screech is often times the result of a “warning mechanism” built into the product by manufacturers to give its users notice as to when the brake pads are running thin. If your pads have been worn all the way through, then you would be greeted by a harder grinding noise. If you ignore the signs at this stage and continue driving your vehicle, the calipers can be damaged due to over exertion which might lead to mechanical malfunctions.
If your vehicle lets lose a squeaking sound when you stop, it is more often than not, an indication of poor brake installation or lack of lubrication. There are various points within the hardware that require skilled and experienced hands to install property. Some parts might be loose and others too tight, causing the weird squeaky noises.
Brake Fade / Reduced Brake Responsiveness
Grease monkeys use the term “Brake Fade” to describe the partial or total loss of braking power within a vehicle. Cars with newly installed brake pads might experience something called “Green Fade” which commonly occurs when “breaking in” your new brake pads. Green Fade will go away after braking a few times, which allows the pads to work more efficiently. “Dynamic Fade” is used to describe loss of braking power due to worn out brake pads, caliper problems, or poor quality of brake fluid.
Vibrations while braking
The watermark-like stains you see on the rotor above are caused by prolonged grinding of the bare brake pad onto the rotor. Rotors that are damaged or out of shape, are known as warped rotors. If you experience vibrations whilst braking only, there is a good chance that the rotors have warped. This can be a common problem when the rotor was overexposed to heat and tension. This uneven surface on the rotor cause vibrations felt by the driver on the steering wheel. To fix this, you can have the rotors machined, or replaced. Machining your rotor would only work if the warping was not extensive, and if the rotors are thick enough to be grinded down and smoothed.
Taking care of a car’s brakes requires some understanding of braking mechanics, so that one knows the signs to watch out for, and to know when the brake pads are due for a change. Always keep your vehicles in tip-top condition before embarking on any lengthy journey to avoid complications!