Article by Justin Pritchard

You don’t need an automotive expert to tell you why your vehicle’s brakes are probably its most important safety system – or why it’s one that should be maintained regularly and not taken for granted.

Auto Tech: Brake System Maintenance is Important Ahead of the Holiday Travel Season
Auto Tech: Brake System Maintenance is Important Ahead of the Holiday Travel Season. Click image to enlarge

Ahead of the winter travel season, an inspection of your vehicle’s brakes is a fantastic idea – especially if you’ll be travelling in a vehicle full of passengers and gear. After all, loading a vehicle up adds even more weight, stress and wear for your braking system to deal with. Operating a vehicle with poorly maintained brakes is a danger to you, your family and your fellow motorists. Plus, in many newer vehicles, healthy brakes are vital to proper operation of other safety systems like stability control, traction control, and trailer sway control.

Remember: brakes often give off numerous warning signs that they’d like some attention when there’s a problem. Sometimes, they don’t – or the signs can be missed. In any case, a mechanic can inspect and assess your vehicle’s braking system quickly, adding confidence ahead of a road trip. If you’re heading in for a pre-holiday oil change or tune-up, be sure to have the mechanic give your ride’s brakes a look over.

Your braking system operates via hydraulic pressure transferred through a special brake fluid running through the metal lines running to all of your brake system components. Like most other systems in your vehicle, brakes use fluid and components and consumable parts that should be inspected and serviced and replaced from time to time.

Pads and rotors, which are pressed together when you apply the brake pedal, provide the all-important friction required to slow or stop your ride. The brake fluid, which transfers pedal pressure to those pads and rotors via brake lines attached to calipers at each wheel, should be inspected for level and quality on a regular basis – just like the fluid in your transmission or differential. As brake fluid ages, it collects contaminants and may absorb moisture, reducing the life and effectiveness of other brake system components and even accelerating the rusting of your brake lines.

Auto Tech: Brake System Maintenance is Important Ahead of the Holiday Travel Season
Auto Tech: Brake System Maintenance is Important Ahead of the Holiday Travel Season. Click image to enlarge

Ask your mechanic to ascertain the condition of your brake fluid and brake lines, and ask whether or not they’d recommend a brake fluid flush. This procedure is fairly simple and ensures that new, top-quality fluid is being utilized by your system. As it is with engine oil, power steering fluid or coolant, fresh fluid is key to long-term system durability.

Ask your mechanic if they’d recommend the removal and cleaning up of your brakes, too. As time passes, rust and dirt accumulate within various brake system parts, including on the specially-lubricated pins which allow the calipers to slide into and away from the rotors. By cleaning and re-lubricating these pins, drivers can rest assured their brakes are in tip-top shape. Properly-lubricated caliper pins can even reduce brake stick or drag, which can save fuel. Periodic cleaning and lubrication can increase the life of braking system parts and prevent problems, making the job a worthwhile investment.

Your vehicle’s emergency/hand brake is an important safety feature. On many models with an automatic transmission, drivers don’t pay this secondary braking system much attention – though in case of hydraulic brake system failure, the emergency brake is intended to ensure stopping power is still available. As such, it’s an important brake system component to maintain. Have your mechanic take a look at your emergency brake and ensure it works properly, cleaning and lubricating its components as required.

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