9 Things every driver should know about their car's brakes

Don't take these for granted
by Drei Laurel | Oct 9, 2018
PHOTO: Michal Zacharzewski/Freeimages

When it comes to driving, coming to a stop is just as important—if not more so—than getting up to speed. It doesn't matter how fast your ride can go if you're going to end up splattered all over a concrete wall after doing 0-100kph.

If you notice something's off with your brakes, it's time to quit worrying about that dent, stop fussing over your malfunctioning infotainment system, and put off buying yet another unnecessary accessory. Have your brakes checked right away—in certain situations, it's a matter of life and death. So whether it's an odd noise or sub-par stopping power, address the issue.

Not sure if something's wrong with your brakes? Could it be how you brake instead of a mechanical issue that's causing the problem? If you're asking yourself these questions, you might want to read on. Below is a roundup of every story and Tip Sheet article we've published regarding brakes—maintenance tips, common problems, and the dos and don'ts. Do yourself, your car, and your fellow motorists a favor and take notes:

1) Diagnosing and repairing your brake lights

"Having a non-functioning brake light is not only unsafe, it is also a violation for which you can be issued a citation. Brake lights give notice to the vehicle behind you that you're slowing down, and hence they should also slow down lest they rear-end your car. Because of the danger involved, the authorities have seen it fit to make functional brake lights mandatory.

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"But over and above that, to a car freak like myself, a non-functioning brake light is a mortal sin. This is because it just makes a car look broken and rundown. And we all want to be in nice, presentable cars even if they are old, don't we?"

2) There's a scraping noise when I step on the brakes

"The metallic sound you're hearing is probably a small pebble or stone that's lodged into one of your brake calipers, and it presses and scrapes onto your brake rotors whenever you use them. I suggest that you take your car to a shop with a lift and have your brakes inspected. This should be able to determine what's wrong with your brakes."

3) 7 Habits that are ruining your car's brakes

"Brakes are made to last an awfully long time, but you can also wear them out in short order. Here are some things that you should avoid doing to maximize the longevity of your brakes."

4) Are aftermarket disc brakes a worthwhile investment?

"Many cars have disc brakes on all four wheels these days. But let's say your car came with drum brakes in the rear, or you have an older car with drum brakes in every corner. Is it a worthwhile investment to replace them with modern disc brakes?"

5) How to fix squeaky brakes

"Sooner or later, it's going to happen, and it's not a matter of if so much as when. Fortunate are the very few who never, ever hear them. However, for the vast majority of motorists, it's going to be as sure as death, taxes, and traffic around a mall sale on a payday weekend. I'm talking about squeaky brakes, and as I've said, everyone will encounter them sooner or later."

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6) A small tip to ensure smoother braking

"If you don't fancy the idea of your passengers losing their meals in your backseat, here's a small trick you can apply to ensure smoother braking. It's a technique known as threshold braking, which entails controlling your car's brake pedal to maximize the tires' braking pressure."

7) How to tell counterfeit brakes from genuine ones

"You need to do your homework, especially when you're straying from OEMs. Yes, there's a wide variety of aftermarket brakes available out there with different levels of performance. Many of these are priced fairly competitively, too. Just be sure to watch for the following."

8) Continuously tapping the brake pedal makes traffic worse

"Many people, though, deem it necessary to tap on the brake pedal whenever the car goes just a little bit too fast. It might feel like the right thing to do, but this is actually a bad practice known as riding the brakes, or brake-tapping. This seemingly harmless habit actually causes a chain reaction with the cars behind you.

9) Should I step on the clutch or the brake pedal first when coming to a stop?

"The clutch-first-shift-into-neutral-then-coast-and-brake-to-a-stop concept is well and good if you're hypermiling and trying to save as much fuel (and lessen wear and tear on the car's drivetrain) as possible. However, this method has some danger involved in it, and it also puts added wear and tear on the car's brakes."

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PHOTO: Michal Zacharzewski/Freeimages
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