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Comprehensive Brake Service Guide

Brake Service

When it comes to vehicle safety, few components are as crucial as the braking system. Proper brake service is essential to ensure your car can stop effectively, preventing accidents and ensuring the safety of you and your passengers. Neglecting your brakes can lead to reduced braking efficiency, longer stopping distances, and even complete brake failure, which can have dire consequences on the road.

Well-maintained brakes not only enhance your vehicle’s safety but also improve overall performance. Efficient brakes provide better control, allowing for smoother and more responsive driving. They also contribute to the longevity of other vehicle components by reducing the strain on the engine and transmission. Regular brake maintenance can save you money in the long run by preventing costly repairs and ensuring your vehicle remains in optimal condition.

In this comprehensive brake service guide, we will delve into various aspects of brake maintenance to help you understand the importance of keeping your braking system in top shape. We will cover:

  1. Understanding Your Braking System: Learn how your braking system works, including the different types of brakes and the key components involved.
  2. Signs Your Brakes Need Attention: Discover the common symptoms of brake problems and how to recognize early warning signs.
  3. Routine Brake Maintenance Tasks: Explore the essential tasks for maintaining your brakes, including regular inspections, checking brake fluid levels, and inspecting brake pads and rotors.
  4. Brake Fluid Maintenance: Understand the role of brake fluid in your braking system, how to replace it, and the importance of using the correct type.
  5. Understanding Advanced Brake Systems: Get an overview of advanced braking technologies like Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), and Brake Assist, and learn how to maintain these systems.
  6. Professional Brake Service vs. DIY Maintenance: Weigh the benefits of professional brake service against DIY maintenance and learn what to expect during a professional inspection.

By the end of this guide, you will have a thorough understanding of brake maintenance and the knowledge to keep your braking system performing at its best. So, let’s get started and ensure your vehicle remains safe and reliable on the road.

Understanding Your Braking System

Braking System

The braking system is a critical component of your vehicle, designed to slow down or stop your car when needed. At its core, the braking system operates on the principle of converting kinetic energy into heat energy through friction. When you press the brake pedal, a series of mechanical and hydraulic processes are set into motion to bring your vehicle to a halt.

When you apply pressure to the brake pedal, it pushes a piston inside the master cylinder, forcing brake fluid through a network of brake lines and hoses to the braking components at each wheel. This hydraulic pressure causes the brake pads or shoes to press against the rotors or drums, creating the friction necessary to slow down or stop the vehicle. This process happens almost instantaneously, ensuring your vehicle responds promptly to your braking commands.

Description of Different Types of Brakes

There are two primary types of brakes used in most vehicles: disc brakes and drum brakes. Understanding the differences between these types can help you better appreciate how your braking system functions.

  1. Disc Brakes
    How They Work: Disc brakes consist of a brake disc (or rotor) attached to the wheel hub and a caliper that houses brake pads. When you press the brake pedal, the caliper squeezes the brake pads against the rotating disc, creating friction that slows down the wheel.
    Advantages: Disc brakes are known for their superior stopping power and heat dissipation, making them more effective in high-performance and high-speed driving situations. They are also less prone to brake fade, which occurs when brakes overheat and lose efficiency.
  2. Drum Brakes
    How They Work: Drum brakes consist of a brake drum attached to the wheel hub and brake shoes located inside the drum. When the brake pedal is pressed, the shoes are pushed outward against the inner surface of the rotating drum, creating friction that slows the wheel.
    Advantages: Drum brakes are typically found on the rear wheels of some vehicles and are known for their simplicity and cost-effectiveness. They also provide better parking brake performance since the drum’s design allows for a more secure hold.

Common Braking System Components and Their Functions

Brake Functions
To ensure the braking system functions effectively, several key components work together. Understanding these components and their roles can help you identify potential issues and maintain your braking system properly.
  1. Brake Pads (or Shoes) Function: Brake pads (used in disc brakes) and brake shoes (used in drum brakes) are the friction materials that press against the rotors or drums to create the necessary friction for stopping the vehicle. Maintenance: These components wear down over time and need to be inspected regularly and replaced when they become too thin.
  2. Rotors (or Drums) Function: Rotors (used in disc brakes) and drums (used in drum brakes) are the surfaces against which the brake pads or shoes press to create friction. Maintenance: These components can become warped or scored over time and may need resurfacing or replacement to ensure optimal braking performance.
  3. Calipers Function: Calipers are used in disc brake systems to house the brake pads and pistons. When hydraulic pressure is applied, the calipers squeeze the brake pads against the rotors. Maintenance: Calipers should be inspected for leaks and proper operation, as sticking calipers can cause uneven brake wear and reduced braking efficiency.
  4. Brake Fluid Function: Brake fluid is a hydraulic fluid that transfers the force from the brake pedal to the braking components at each wheel. Maintenance: Brake fluid should be checked regularly and replaced as recommended by the manufacturer, as old or contaminated brake fluid can lead to a spongy brake pedal and reduced braking performance.
  5. Master Cylinder Function: The master cylinder is responsible for generating the hydraulic pressure needed to activate the brakes. It contains the brake fluid reservoir and one or more pistons. Maintenance: Regular inspection for leaks and proper fluid levels is crucial, as a failing master cylinder can result in a loss of braking power.
  6. Brake Lines and Hoses Function: These components carry brake fluid from the master cylinder to the braking components at each wheel. Maintenance: Brake lines and hoses should be inspected for signs of wear, corrosion, or leaks, as damaged lines can lead to brake fluid loss and compromised braking performance.
By understanding the various types of brakes and the components that make up your braking system, you can better appreciate the importance of regular maintenance and prompt attention to any issues. This knowledge will help ensure your vehicle remains safe and reliable on the road.

Signs Your Brakes Need Attention

Brakes Service and repairs

Your vehicle’s brakes are its most crucial safety feature, and recognizing the early signs of brake issues can prevent accidents and costly repairs. Being aware of these warning signs ensures you can address potential problems before they escalate. Here are some common indicators that your brakes need attention:

  1. Unusual Noises
    One of the most noticeable signs of brake problems is unusual noises when you apply the brakes. These noises can include:
    Squeaking or Squealing: Often caused by worn brake pads, squeaking or squealing noises are typically a result of the wear indicator contacting the rotor. This is a built-in feature designed to alert you that it’s time to replace the brake pads.
    Grinding: A grinding noise usually indicates that the brake pads are completely worn down, and the metal backing plate is making contact with the rotor. This not only reduces braking efficiency but can also cause significant damage to the rotors.
  2. Vibration or Pulsation
    If you feel a vibration or pulsation in the brake pedal or steering wheel when you apply the brakes, it could be a sign of warped rotors. Warped rotors create an uneven surface for the brake pads to press against, resulting in a pulsating sensation. This issue can affect your vehicle’s stopping ability and should be addressed promptly.
  3. Reduced Responsiveness or Fading
    A soft or spongy brake pedal that requires more effort to stop the vehicle can indicate a problem with the brake fluid or the hydraulic system. This could be due to air in the brake lines, a brake fluid leak, or worn master cylinder seals. Brake fading, where the brakes lose effectiveness during prolonged use, can also occur if the brake fluid is old or contaminated.
  4. Pulling to One Side
    If your vehicle pulls to one side when you apply the brakes, it may indicate an issue with the brake calipers, brake pads, or rotors on one side of the vehicle. This could be caused by a stuck caliper, uneven brake pad wear, or a difference in rotor thickness. Addressing this issue is crucial to maintaining control and stability while driving.
  5. Burning Smell
    A sharp, chemical smell after repeated hard braking can indicate overheated brakes or clutch. Overheating brakes can lead to brake fade and reduce braking performance. If you notice this smell, it’s important to allow your brakes to cool down and check for any signs of damage.
  6. Warning Lights
    Modern vehicles are equipped with various warning lights that indicate potential brake system issues. These lights include:
    Brake Warning Light: This light can indicate a variety of issues, such as low brake fluid, a problem with the ABS system, or an engaged parking brake. It’s important to consult your vehicle’s manual and address the specific issue indicated by the warning light.
    ABS Warning Light: If the ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) warning light comes on, it indicates a problem with the ABS system, which could affect your vehicle’s ability to stop effectively in emergency situations.
  7. Leaking Fluid
    Brake fluid leaks are a serious concern as they can lead to a loss of hydraulic pressure and braking power. Common signs of a brake fluid leak include a soft brake pedal, visible fluid around the wheels or under the vehicle, and a drop in brake fluid levels in the master cylinder reservoir.
  8. Worn Brake Pads or Rotors
    Regular visual inspections of your brake pads and rotors can help you identify wear and tear. Brake pads should have at least 3-4 millimetres of friction material left, and rotors should be free of deep grooves, cracks, or significant wear. If either component is worn beyond acceptable limits, it’s time for a replacement.

Recognising these signs early can help you maintain your vehicle’s braking performance and ensure your safety on the road. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s crucial to have your brakes inspected by a professional mechanic as soon as possible. Regular maintenance and prompt attention to brake issues will keep your vehicle safe and reliable, providing peace of mind every time you drive.

Routine Brake Service Tasks

Brake Maintenance

Regular brake service is crucial to ensure your vehicle’s braking system functions effectively and safely. By incorporating routine checks and maintenance tasks, you can prevent major issues and extend the lifespan of your braking components. Here’s a detailed guide on what to check and how often to perform these essential tasks.

Regular Brake Inspections: What to Check and How Often

To keep your braking system in top condition, regular inspections are vital. Here’s a checklist of what to inspect and recommended intervals:

  • Brake Pads and Shoes: Inspect every 10,000 to 15,000 miles or at every oil change. Look for wear, thinning, or any damage.
  • Brake Rotors and Drums: Inspect every 20,000 to 30,000 miles or if you experience vibrations or pulsations when braking.
  • Brake Lines and Hoses: Inspect for cracks, leaks, or signs of wear every 30,000 miles.
  • Brake Fluid: Check the level and quality every month and replace it according to your vehicle’s manual, typically every two years.
  • Calipers: Inspect for proper operation and signs of leakage every brake pad replacement or 20,000 to 30,000 miles.

Importance of Checking Brake Fluid Levels

Brake fluid is the lifeblood of your vehicle’s braking system. It transfers the force from the brake pedal to the braking components at each wheel. Maintaining the correct brake fluid level is essential for ensuring your brakes function properly.

How to Check and Top Up Brake Fluid

  1. Locate the Brake Fluid Reservoir: The brake fluid reservoir is usually found on the driver’s side of the engine bay, near the firewall. It’s typically a small, translucent container with a screw-on cap.
  2. Check the Fluid Level: The reservoir has “MIN” and “MAX” markings. The brake fluid level should be between these marks. If it’s below the “MIN” mark, it’s time to top up.
  3. Top Up Brake Fluid: Use the brake fluid specified in your vehicle’s manual (usually DOT3, DOT4, or DOT5). Clean the reservoir cap before opening it to prevent contaminants from entering. Slowly pour the fluid into the reservoir until it reaches the “MAX” mark.
  4. Re-secure the Cap: Ensure the reservoir cap is tightly sealed to prevent leaks and contamination.

Identifying Brake Fluid Leaks

Brake Fluid Leak

Brake fluid leaks can compromise the braking system’s efficiency and safety. Common signs of a brake fluid leak include:

  • Soft or Spongy Brake Pedal: A pedal that feels soft or requires more effort to press can indicate a fluid leak.
  • Visible Fluid: Puddles or wet spots under the vehicle, particularly near the wheels or master cylinder, are tell-tale signs of a brake fluid leak.
  • Low Brake Fluid Level: If you frequently need to top up the brake fluid, a leak may be the cause.

If you suspect a brake fluid leak, contact Mitsiland immediately.

Brake Pad and Rotor Inspection and Replacement

How to Assess the Condition of Brake Pads and Rotors

  1. Brake Pads:
    Visual Inspection: Look through the wheel spokes to see the brake pads. If they appear thin (less than 3-4 millimetres), they need replacement.
    Listen for Noise: Squeaking or grinding noises when braking can indicate worn brake pads.
    Feel the Braking Response: If the brakes feel less responsive or the pedal feels spongy, inspect the pads.
  2. Brake Rotors:
    Visual Inspection: Look for grooves, cracks, or a bluish tint on the rotor surface, which indicates excessive heat.
    Feel for Vibration: If you feel vibrations or pulsations through the brake pedal, the rotors may be warped and need resurfacing or replacement.

Signs It’s Time to Replace Them

  • Brake Pads: Replace if they are worn down to 3 millimetres or less, if they make persistent squeaking or grinding noises, or if you notice reduced braking performance.
  • Brake Rotors: Replace if they are warped, cracked, have deep grooves, or if the rotor thickness is below the manufacturer’s minimum specification.

By regularly inspecting and maintaining your brake pads and rotors, you can ensure your vehicle’s braking system remains in optimal condition. Keeping an eye on brake fluid levels and identifying potential leaks early will also help maintain your vehicle’s safety and performance. Routine brake maintenance tasks are essential for preventing brake failure and ensuring a safe driving experience.

Understanding Advanced Brake Systems

Advanced Brake Systems

Modern vehicles are equipped with advanced brake systems that enhance safety and performance. Among these, the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), and Brake Assist are pivotal.

Overview of Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)

How ABS Works and Its Benefits

ABS is designed to prevent wheel lock-up during hard braking, especially on slippery surfaces. It works by using sensors at each wheel to monitor speed. If a sensor detects a wheel is about to lock up, the ABS control module rapidly pulses the brake pressure to that wheel. This pulsing allows the driver to maintain steering control during emergency stops.

The benefits of ABS include:

  • Enhanced Control: Prevents skidding and helps maintain steering control.
  • Reduced Stopping Distance: Particularly on wet or icy roads.
  • Improved Safety: Helps avoid accidents by allowing the driver to steer while braking.

Maintenance Tips for ABS-Equipped Vehicles

Maintaining an ABS system involves regular inspections of sensors and wiring for damage or wear. Ensuring the brake fluid is clean and at the correct level is also crucial, as contaminated fluid can affect ABS functionality. Additionally, paying attention to the ABS warning light on your dashboard can help identify issues early.

Introduction to Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist

How These Systems Enhance Braking Performance

EBD works in conjunction with ABS to optimize the distribution of braking force between the front and rear wheels based on load conditions. This ensures balanced braking and enhances vehicle stability.

Brake Assist, on the other hand, detects emergency braking based on the speed and force with which the brake pedal is applied. It automatically increases brake force to help reduce stopping distance in panic situations.

Maintenance Considerations for Modern Braking Systems

Regular maintenance of EBD and Brake Assist involves checking the vehicle’s electronic control unit (ECU) for error codes and ensuring all sensors are functioning correctly. Regular brake fluid changes and keeping the braking system free of air and contaminants are essential for optimal performance. By understanding and maintaining these advanced systems, you can ensure your vehicle remains safe and responsive in all driving conditions.

Professional Brake Service vs. DIY Maintenance

Brake Service

Maintaining your vehicle’s braking system is critical for safety, and deciding between professional brake service and DIY maintenance depends on various factors.

Benefits of Professional Brake Service

Professional brake service ensures your braking system is thoroughly inspected and maintained by trained technicians using specialized tools and equipment. Professionals can identify and address issues that might be missed during DIY maintenance. They also ensure the correct replacement parts are used and can perform complex tasks such as brake fluid flushing, rotor resurfacing, and ABS diagnostics. Additionally, professional services often come with warranties, providing peace of mind and assurance of quality.

What to Expect During a Professional Brake Inspection and Service

During a professional brake inspection, technicians will check the thickness and condition of brake pads and rotors, inspect brake lines and hoses for leaks or damage, and ensure the calipers and wheel cylinders are functioning properly. They will also measure brake fluid levels and check for contamination. If needed, they will replace worn components and top up or replace the brake fluid. The ABS and other advanced braking systems will be scanned for error codes and tested for proper operation.

Tips for Safe and Effective DIY Brake Maintenance

For those confident in their mechanical skills, DIY brake maintenance can be cost-effective and convenient. Always consult your vehicle’s manual for specific guidelines and intervals. Ensure your vehicle is securely lifted and supported before starting any work. Wear protective gear, work in a well-ventilated area, and keep your workspace clean and organized.

Tools and Equipment Needed for Brake Maintenance

To perform DIY brake maintenance, you will need basic tools such as a jack and jack stands, lug wrench, socket set, and brake pad spreader. Additionally, specialised tools like a brake bleeder kit, C-clamp, and torque wrench are essential. High-quality brake fluid, replacement brake pads, and rotors should be on hand. For ABS-equipped vehicles, an OBD-II scanner can be helpful to diagnose and reset error codes.

By weighing the benefits of professional service against the convenience of DIY maintenance, you can choose the best approach to keep your vehicle’s braking system in top condition.



How often should I get my brakes inspected?

It’s recommended to have your brakes inspected every 10,000 to 15,000 miles or at every oil change. However, if you notice any signs of brake issues such as squeaking, grinding, or reduced responsiveness, you should have them checked immediately. Regular inspections help catch wear and tear early, preventing more significant problems and ensuring your safety on the road.

What are the risks of ignoring brake maintenance?

Ignoring brake maintenance can lead to several serious risks, including:

  • Reduced Braking Efficiency: Worn brake pads and low brake fluid levels can result in longer stopping distances and decreased control.
  • Brake Failure: Severe neglect can cause total brake failure, increasing the risk of accidents.
  • Damage to Other Components: Worn-out brake pads can damage rotors and callipers, leading to more costly repairs.
  • Increased Repair Costs: Minor issues can escalate into major repairs if not addressed promptly, resulting in higher maintenance costs.

Can I drive with squeaky brakes?

While it might be possible to drive with squeaky brakes, it is not advisable. Squeaking can be an early indicator of worn brake pads or the presence of dirt and debris in the brake system. Continuing to drive without addressing the issue can lead to further wear and potentially more serious damage. It’s best to have squeaky brakes inspected and repaired to ensure safe and effective braking.

How much does a typical brake service cost?

The cost of a typical brake service can vary depending on the vehicle type and the extent of the service required. On average, a basic brake pad replacement can range from £100 to £200 per axle. If rotors need to be resurfaced or replaced, the cost can increase to between £200 and £400 per axle. Comprehensive brake services that include fluid changes, calliper inspections, and ABS diagnostics may cost more. It’s important to get a detailed quote from your service provider to understand the specific costs for your vehicle.

Maintaining your vehicle’s braking system is paramount for ensuring your safety and optimal vehicle performance. Regular brake maintenance helps in preventing potential issues that can lead to costly repairs and dangerous driving conditions. By staying vigilant and recognising early warning signs such as unusual noises, vibrations, or reduced responsiveness, you can address problems before they escalate.

We strongly encourage you to schedule regular brake inspections and never ignore the signs indicating that your brakes need attention. Keeping up with routine brake maintenance tasks like checking brake fluid levels and inspecting brake pads and rotors will ensure your vehicle remains safe and reliable on the road.

For professional and thorough brake care, book a brake service with Mitsiland. Our expert technicians use the latest tools and techniques to ensure your braking system is in top condition, providing you with peace of mind and a safer driving experience.

Stay tuned for our next blog post in the ‘Ultimate Guide to Vehicle Maintenance’ series, where we will dive into “Car Battery Maintenance and Replacement.” Learn how to keep your tyres in excellent condition to enhance your vehicle’s performance and safety.

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