Car brake maintenance tips and advice

Most people think that when the brakes are worn out, we simply replace them. But not everyone knows the lifespan of new brakes, and more importantly, how to maintain the car brakes in good condition.

On average, disc brakes can travel from about 50,000 km to more than 110,000 km depending on driving habit, while drum brakes can last up to 250,000 km. Most sedans nowadays are equipped with disc brakes on all four wheels, while pickups or large SUVs are equipped with two disc brakes on the front and two drum brakes on the rear wheels.

Disc brakes work when the driver pushes the brake pedal, increasing the fluid pressure, which in turn pushes the gripper and forces the brake pads into contact with the brake disc, generating friction to slow down the speed of the wheel.

a car disc brake
A brake maintenance operation include cleaning parts of the brakes, adding lubricant, and removing rust from the pads and discs

So, what would cause damage to the brakes?

When driving in the rain or on flooded, muddy or dusty roads, water or dirt can enter between the brake pads and discs and create stronger friction, wearing out the pads and generating heat. If the heat gets too strong, it can do different types of damage to the braking system which lead to jamming, hissing or even worse, brake malfunction.

For the rear drum brakes, they are no less vulnerable to water and dirt than disc brakes. The easiest way to notice any damage to the brakes is when you hear a strange sound when you brake or when there is a brake jam. These signs often mean that the brakes are worn out or the lubricant is dried out.

The best advice from experienced drivers is to check the brakes regularly and before any long trip.

Maintenance services can easily detach the wheels and check the brakes at any time, such as in an annual vehicle maintenance. So when you bring your car to these professionals, don’t just change the lubricants and check the tires, ask them to also check the condition of the brakes. At the very least, have your car's brakes checked once a year. If you drive a lot on rainy or dusty, muddy roads, checking brakes frequently is a must to ensure your own safety.

The parts that are most commonly checked in a brake include brake pads, gripper and disc in disc brakes, and drum in drum brakes. The mechanics will measure the thickness of the brake pads, as well as investigate corrosion on the brake disc or drum. Then they can advise to simply remove the dirt, or perform a full maintenance operation, or replace some parts. Normally, a brake could go through 1 or 2 maintenance operations to stay in good shape before parts to be replaced.

Car braking
Have your car brake checked regularly

How does brake maintenance work?

A brake maintenance operation include cleaning parts of the brakes, adding lubricant, and removing rust from the pads and discs. Regular maintenance can minimize the braking noise and prolong the life of the brake pads.

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Typically, the brakes on two wheels on the same shaft will be handled in one maintenance operation. The cost of maintaining two brakes on a shaft is between N29,000 and N47,000, not including necessary replacement of any part.

If the brake disc or brake drum is found too rusty or worn out unevenly, it is possible to rub the disc surface to remove the rust and regain a smooth surface. This will cost much less than replacing the disc or drum, and will allow the brake to perform as well as normal for a while longer. However, if the discs are worn thin by more than 50%, there is no use in doing maintenance again because they cannot work for much longer. In this case, it is recommended to replace them immediately.

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