If you're like most people, you don't pay attention to any particular mechanical component until or unless it starts to go wrong. This can be particularly the case when it comes to the braking system on your car or truck, which you rely on to keep your family safe during transportation. If all is not well, where should you start to look?
How Does This All Work?
Your car's braking system works through a relatively simple, hydraulic action. When you put your foot on the brake pedal, it forces fluid which is contained within a sequence of pipes to push brake pads out of their caliper housing and onto a disc or drum surface. These discs or drums are mounted onto the hubs at each corner of the vehicle and attached to each wheel and tyre. As the discs or drums are retarded, so the wheels and tyres also slow down and decelerate the vehicle.
Discs Versus Drums
In most cases, you will have discs (rather than drums) on the front wheels, although you may have them all round on more high-performance cars. These discs are more efficient at dissipating heat, as they are exposed to the air when you're driving along. Drums, conversely, are enclosed and this can lead to a symptom known as brake 'fade', as the heat may not be able to disperse too easily, especially if you are using the brakes frequently.
Signs of Trouble
If you find that the brake pedal goes down towards the floor without a corresponding reduction in speed, it could be that the brake pads have worn down too far, or it could indicate that there is some air in the system. You might have to bleed the fluid by using the special screws attached to each caliper. If you hear some squealing or grinding noise, this could indicate that the brake pads have worn down so much that the metal is coming into contact with the disc or drum. This will need to be rectified as soon as possible.
What You Should Be Looking for
You should get into the habit of checking the integrity of your braking system as often as possible. On most vehicles today, you should be able to look through the spokes of each road wheel at the surface of the discs and also scan the brake pads to see if they have enough friction material left.
However, if you're not sure how to do this or have other questions about your braking system's integrity, then have a word with a brake specialist for advice.