In addition to wearing green and feasting on traditional Irish food, we think you should create a new St. Patrick’s Day tradition this year — giving your brakes some TLC.
We don’t need to tell you that it can be disastrous if your brakes fail. The most common brake issues include worn pads, leaking fluid, and hot spots that can reduce friction.
It can cost a pot of gold to get your brakes replaced but fortunately, there are things you can do to extend the life of your brakes and help ensure your safety.
1. Go Easy
If you want your brakes to last longer, the best thing you can do is slow down. The faster you’re going when you apply your brakes, the more energy they’ll need to exert to stop your vehicle. Braking at high speeds leads to significant wear and tear.
Also, be sure to drive with plenty of room between your car and the one in front of it. This can help reduce the number of times you’ll need to slam on your brakes. If possible, coasting a bit to reduce your speed before applying your brakes can also help them last longer.
In driver’s education courses, instructors advise their pupils to look up and scan the horizon rather than concentrating on the vehicle in front of them. This bears repeating here because being aware of the road around you can make a big difference for your brakes. Look for changing stoplights, upcoming stop signs and approaching curves so that you have plenty of time to slow down before reaching them.
And as always, don’t drive distracted. If you’re focused on the road, you’re less likely to require an emergency stop. Not only is distracted driving dangerous, but it can also shorten the life of your brakes.
2. Check Your Brake Fluid
In addition to driving carefully, performing proper maintenance is crucial to extending the life of your brakes.
If you take your car to a mechanic to get its oil changed, they’ll typically check your brake fluid for you. If you’re noticing that you need to apply extra force to your brake pedal, that’s a sign that your brake fluid could be low.
Your owner’s manual can help you find your brake fluid reservoir. Make sure to clean the area around its cap before removing it to avoid dirt getting in the tank. Your fluid should be within a half inch of the top of the tank. If it’s not, replenish your reservoir.
If the fluid in your tank is dark, it’s time to take your car to a mechanic to have it replaced. It usually needs to be replaced every couple of years.
3. Listen Closely
Like your brake fluid, your brake pads will need to be replaced from time to time. The easiest way to tell that your brake pads are worn is by the noise they make. If you hear a shrill screech when you press your brake pedal, your car is probably ready for new brake pads.
Most auto repair shops can change your brake pads for you, so when it sounds like time for a refresh, visit a mechanic you trust.
4. Lighten Up
Carrying extra weight can shorten the life of your brakes because it increases your car’s momentum, requiring more effort for your brakes to stop it.
Simply cleaning out your car probably won’t remove enough weight to make a big difference. Weight should be considered, however, before you add any heavy, aftermarket vehicle upgrades or take on any towing projects.
Longer brake life can also be an advantage of purchasing a smaller, lighter vehicle.
5. Make an Investment
When it comes to caring for your brakes, this isn’t a place to skimp out. While driving more safely may help extend the life of your brakes, they’ll still need regular maintenance. Putting it off is not only dangerous, but it can also lead to much more extensive repairs in the future. The guys from Car Talk put it best: “A stitch in time ... saves you from helping your mechanic with a boat payment later on.”