According to the World Health Organization, about 12,000 Filipinos die on the road every year. And while human error remains the leading cause of road accidents, mechanical defects rank second. Whether it's true or not, "Nawalan ng preno" has become a template excuse—and it isn't acceptable in an age when thousands of private and public vehicles jockey for limited space on Metro Manila's roads every day.
Your brakes are the single most important safety feature of your car. This is by no means an exaggeration: they can spell the difference between life and death. But what many forget is that brakes do wear over time as we drive—how fast depends on our driving habits.
You can avoid wearing your brakes out too quickly by driving mindfully. It’s something that saves you from having to replace your brake pads too soon, which in turn saves you a lot of money. With that, here are five driving habits you should try to avoid to allow your brake pads to do a better job:
Driving fast and furious is dangerous in itself, and it’s something you shouldn’t really be doing to begin with, especially when you look at our roads and the sheer number of vehicles on them. Accelerating when you don’t need to, and stomping on the brakes when you realize you’re a second away from sitting in a pile of scrap metal, causes a lot more wear on your brake pads. Just drive safely and anticipate the movement of what's in front of you, starting and ending with just enough pedal pressure. It can be done.
Always stepping on the gas or the brakes
Some of us have developed the habit of always jumping between the gas and the brake pedals, with no in-between. This burns two things: Your fuel and your brake pads. The simple way to quit doing this is to benefit from the basic physics of coasting. Practice gauging distance, and just allow your car to coast and naturally slow down—it's getting from point A to point B with the least energy expended. Just be sure to do it during situations where you don’t need to accelerate or slow down right away.
Overloading your car
Weight is motion's enemy and gravity's friend. Overloading your vehicle with unnecessary cargo and exceeding its limits means your brakes are going to need to work that much harder to stop you and the additional weight you're carrying from figuring into an accident. If you don’t need the junk in your trunk, it’s best to clear it out. But if it really can't be avoided, make sure to keep your distance from the car ahead of you.
Stepping on the brakes while on drive at a stoplight
This is a contentious issue that has been the subject of debate between car experts, manufacturers, and reputable mechanics alike: At a stoplight, should someone driving a car on automatic transmission keep their foot on the brakes while on drive, or just shift to neutral instead? While you may go with whatever is more convenient for you, shifting to neutral while you're at a halt for an extended period of time can save some wear and tear on your transmission and brakes. It may also be safer to do so just to avoid accidentally releasing the brake or simply tiring your leg out in the ridiculous traffic plaguing Manila.
Riding the brakes down a slope
Engaging your brakes for prolonged periods of time can cause increased wear and fade on your brake pads, especially when you’re going down a slope. Take it easy on the pedal and keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you. Try shifting to a lower gear to engine-brake before stepping on the pedal to control your speed and the heat building up in your brakes.
If you’re guilty of at least one of the habits mentioned above, it’s best to correct them and have your brake pads inspected. They may need to be replaced if your brake pedal squeals or vibrates when you press on it. It’d also be good to see if the brake indicator light on your dashboard is turned on, or to simply look at the brake pads themselves to check how much life is left in them. Always refer to your owners manual for the maintenance or replacement suggestions for your brake pads and fluids.
Not all brake pads are made the same, so it’s always best to have an expert take a look at them and replace them for you—and maybe get your discs resurfaced, while they're at it. There are some good home service providers out there for proper brake jobs.
If the price tag of that new brake pad from your car manufacturer is looking a little hefty, you can find quality alternatives in affordable options like Bendix, which has brake pads for every driving style and almost every vehicle—from the Mitsubishi Mirage and Suzuki Ertiga, to the Nissan Navara and Ford Everest. Each brake pad comes with a wear indicator to help you monitor when your brake pads are due for replacement, and the brand also has products to help you maintain your brake system, too.