Read these 17 Brakes & Traction Control Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Auto Parts tips and hundreds of other topics.
If you have the money to spend, you should not rule out the best, especially when we are talking about brake systems. Where better to spend your money (other than a sweet sound system) then on your ability to stop short and protect your baby (yes, I mean the car). One of the best brands available is Brembo brakes - used as factory stock in many of the top of the line exotics, they make amazing aftermarket brake systems for other models as well. These are great for high performance racers, drag strip afficianados and for those who like the very best.
One of the best safety features available on cars today is anti lock brake systems. In the old days when you hit brake pedal gently, it would disperse the brake fluid which would send your brake system into motion, using the brake pads to grab the rotors and gradually slow you down. When you stomped on the brakes in a panic, they would frequently lock up, especially on inexperienced drivers faced with catastrophe.
Antilock brake systems modulate the pressure from the fluid in your hydraulic brake system, whether you stomp or step gently. These brakes can sense when it senses a tire slipping or locking up, and will compensate accordingly.
If you are buying a used or older car, you need to know more than the maintenance schedule of the vehicle's brake systems. You should know if the car has drum brakes or disc brakes.
Drum brakes are a more primitive design that and they are common in older cars. Drum brakes consist of two “shoes” that ride in the drum and when you push down on the brake pedal, the shoes push out on the sides of the drum and effectively slow the motion of the wheel. They have very little friction drag so they are good in racing. The downside of drum brakes are that they are less efficient and they have bad “brake fade” – so if you repeatedly stop hard from high speeds, stopping distances will steadily increase.
Disc brakes are more common in today's cars. They do have more frictional loss but they are far more efficient – better at dissipating heat – and easier to maintain, so ultimately they benefit you with lower costs.
Brake pads of today are made of many varied materials including Kevlar, Titanium, Ceramic, Ferro Carbon etc. Brake pads are created for very specific driving conditions and applications. Daily drivers need different automotive brake pads than race cars and off road vehicles.
Ceramic brake pads, like Akebono brake pads, for example, are quieter and they generate less dust than most “organic” brake pads. These benefits are based on comfort and cosmetics rather than functionality, but ceramic brake pads are durable and dependable. In fact, ceramic brake pads can extend brake life when compared to semi-metallic and organic brake pads.
In most cases, your brake dust shield will have no trouble working in concert with your factory installed or upgraded aftermarket brake system and wheels. This is because you order your brake dust shields for your specific wheel type. You aren't ordering them for the make and model of your car - they are specifically sized to your wheels, so if you have upgraded your wheels to a larger size, or even a different brand, make sure you are specific when you buy them. Currently Kleen Wheels Brake Dust Shields are the only ones really available, but don't worry that you aren't getting a good product, even with a lack of competition. Kleen Wheels shields are made of alloy and are custom fit so you will protect your alloy wheels effectively.
1. Use the car or truck for about a week and drive gently (Use your brakes for a couple of extra days if you have zinc plated rotors). Basically, use the brakes to the same extent that you used the stock brakes. Don't put a lot of stress on the brakes before you season them of you risk permanent damage and warping of your rotors.
2. Find a place where the brakes can be brought to the right temperature.
o You are going to want to increase the brake temp. Complete four 60 to 70 mph stops. Do this as if you were on a medium level highway – in other words you don't need to accelerate super fast and slam on the brakes.
o Next, complete four medium effort partial stops from around 60 mph down to about 30 mph. Then hop on the highway for 15 minutes to cool the rotors.
o Then complete four medium hard effort partial stops from around 60 mph down to 15 mph. Hop on the highway again for ten minutes to let the rotors cool again.
o Park the car and allow the brakes to cool overnight to ambient temperature.
3. Return to your “safe” brake seasoning location.
o Make sure the brakes are warmed up again using the procedure you used the day before. Then complete four medium effort stops from 60 mph down to 30 mph. Hop on the highway and let the rotors cool off.
o Complete four medium-hard effort partial stops from 60 mph down to 15 mph. Hop on the highway again to let them cool.
o Finally make six hard partial stops from 60+ mph down to 15 mph or until rotors have reached an operation temperature of between 900 and 1,100°
1. You can tell the temperature by checking out the color of the rotors if you paint them with temperature paint.
2. Try not to lock up the brakes when you complete the hard stops.
4. Let the rotors cool completely over night.
Got a race car? Getting into racing? You need a good brake pad. Hawk brake pads and systems are specifically designed for racers, on dirt, asphalt and everything in between.
When you are designing your brake system, you need to consider the surface on which you are racing, the duration of the race, the weight and size of your car and the speed you hope to attain. You also need to consider the existing brake system - it may be easier to just install a new system altogether - especially on with a brand name like Hawk.
Obviously your brakes are an incredibly important part of your safety equipment, but that doesn't mean you need to shell out tons of cash. Shop around online to make sure you are getting the best price on your new hawk brake pads and then race to your hearts content!
Brake rotors can be badly damaged by warping or wear from bad brake pads. How do you know if your brake rotor is warped? When you hit the brake, you may feel a vibration or an oscilating/pulsing feeling. Basically, when you think about it, if you hit your hydraulic brake and it in turn sqeezes the rotor with the pads, and the rotor is malformed, you will feel that malformation through the pads and up through the pedal. If you don't get this fixed, not only are your brakes unsafe, but you can damage the front suspension of your vehicle.
For many people a good brake dust shield is just not enough. If you want to maintain the glossy finish of new wheels, you may want to consider investing in a product like a wheel mist, or other wheel finishing product that will keep brake dust from bonding to your wheel. You should be careful because some of these products can corrode your wheel's finish which is why most people will only invest in a brake dust shield and engage in frequent car washing. Still, do some research online about the wheels on your make and model and see what people recommend. It could be that the right product is out there waiting for you and why should you suffer dusty wheels needlessly?
When you spend as much money for your wheels as some people spend on a whole car, you want them to look their best. Invest a little money in a good set of brake dust shields. These work wonders for any open spoke rim, and especially well on wire rims.
As you drive your car around hitting the brakes, some of that brake pad material is deposited on the wheels. This residue does a great job of attracting water, and other debris which can cause those fatty rims to rust or corrode.
Try an experiment: Put one brake dust shield on one front wheel, and not on the other front wheel. Drive your car for a week or two and see how much dust and crud the unprotected wheel accumulates. You'll see the benefit right away.
Brake companies try to service the whole automotive market, but just because a company sells a car part that is expensive and used on your favorite rally car, it doesn't make it the right part for you. Take EBC brakes for instance - they have the individual driver in mind.
If you need crazy braking power, without needing a warm up, versatile brake systems that serve the highway or the race track, or just premium "typical" use brake systems, they have the one tailor made to meet your needs.
They even have a convenient color coding system to hook you up with the right performance for your vehicle. Make sure you know what you need before you buy it and then buy the right system online at a discount and bring the parts to your local mechanic for installation.
If you are considering upgrading to alloy wheels, you need to consider several factors. The expense is there, sure, but the benefits in performance and looks that you will derrive from slick alloy wheels will probably make the money worthwhile. Because alloys are extremely strong while maintaining a lighter weight, you will probably see a lot of overall performance improvement in your vehicle including reduced weight, better acceleration and deceleration, improved rigidity and improved cooling of your brake system. If you do decide to upgrade to alloy wheels, you definitely need to consider an investment in brake dust shields. Alloys are suceptible to heat and corrosion and brake dust is typically the primary culprit.
So you think you are ready to upgrade to some fatty dubs? Not so fast. When you replace your wheels with something much larger you are increasing your rotational mass which makes it harder to stop, therefore putting more stress on your factory brake system.
You are probably going to need to upgrade your system so it can take on that extra stress and maintain your ability to stop on a dime, no matter how cool you look. So remember, when you are rolling with dubs, beef up your stopping power.
So we all hate going to the mechanic - we don't want to hear the bad news, but with brakes and automotive brake pads, you really can't skimp on the service. Here is how you tell if your brake pads are starting to fail. Wear indicators begin with a high pitched sqealing sound. This is really when you should go in for a check of the brake pads, or consider changing them out yourself.
After the squealing comes the grinding, and we all know that grinding sounds are not a harbinger of good times. The grinding may be damaging your rotors because your brake pads are on their last thin threads. If you ignore this for much longer, your wheels may lock up and ultimately fall off because of the damage you are causing. Take our advice, when the sqealing begins, hop online for your brake pads, or call your mechanic and don't wait or the costs will mount!
When you are assessing your brake rotor choices, don't overlook the slotted rotor, like powerslot brake rotors, or the cross drilled brake rotor.
These rotors are specifically designed to aid in cooling and maintain air flow in your brake system. This helps to reduce brake fade which is a factor for the daily commuter who may speed to 60 mph and be stopping at a moments notice several times.
Cross drilled rotors have small symmetrical drill holes throughout the rotor, slotted rotors have small slot shaped divots carved out - there are variations on these themes including "dimples" (which you will find in Brembo brake rotors) or combinations of drill holes and slots (which you will find on Baer brakes). The cons of these rotors are some poorly designed cross drilled or slotted brake rotors can be prone to warpage.
Brakes of today are hydraulic, a far more efficient system than the mechanical brakes of yesteryear. This brings us to an important aspect of your brake system, namely, brake fluid.
The brake fluid is held in the master cylinder and you need to maintain a certain level of fluid to ensure that your brakes are working properly. Most cars have effective and sensitive brake fluid light indicators, so if your car is suffering a loss, it will let you know. If you have an older car, or a classic, you may notice that your brakes are becoming less sensitive or that you have to press down very hard to stop the car. Check your fluid and top it off.
An important car brake tip: the type of brake fluid you use *does* matter so before changing your fluid, or adding any to your reservior, check to make sure you have correct fluid. If you put the wrong kind in you may have to have the whole system bled which is a big time and money waster.
Brake rotors are an integral part of your brake system and your wheel. The brake pads grab the brake rotors, creating a slowing friction which brings you to a stop. For the most part, your factory rotors are ok. In the case of a used car, you may want to have the rotors (or the entire brake system, for that matter) replaced, and the rotors should certainly be on your mechanics check list when you have them check the car prior to purchase.
If you are doing high performance driving, racing or other more intense use of your vehicle, a brake system upgrade with new rotors and pads will most likely be in order.