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Discussion Starter #1
Why Do My Brakes Squeak? And 4 Other Critical Brake Questions Answered

Apr 10, 2019

The braking system is one of the most important but least glamorous parts of any vehicle — so what do you do if your brakes squeak?

Generally, you can’t see the braking system. Most don’t do anything particularly awe-inspiring. Simply, you press the brake pedal and the vehicle slows down or stops. For most drivers, the braking system exists in the background and is given little to no thought.

As one of the most important parts of a car or truck, it’s vital for drivers to understand what the braking system does, how it works, and how to understand when the braking system might be in need of attention.

Below, we’ll answer five critical braking system questions — and by the end of the page, you’ll understand exactly what’s happening in several scenarios where your brakes might be asking for some attention.

When Is It Time to Change My Brakes?

Your braking system has numerous components, but the brake pads and brake rotors are the stars of the show when it comes to getting your vehicle stationary. When you apply the brakes, hydraulic pressure squeezes the pads into the rotors, slowing the vehicle down with tremendous amounts of friction.

The pads and rotors wear down slightly every time you press the brakes, eventually wearing to a point where they can no longer do their job. It’s a little like the rubber eraser on the back of a pencil, which wears out a little at a time until there’s almost nothing left.

Many factors affect the rate at which things wear out. These include the vehicle, driver habits, types of use, for example, towing or other severe driving, terrain characteristics, and even owner maintenance habits. The quality of parts has a lot to do with their lifespan too, with cheaper components tending to wear out and require replacement more quickly.

When do your brakes need to be changed? In simple terms, they should be changed when the thickness of the brake pads and/or rotors falls below a certain safe limit. As this limit approaches, stopping power may feel reduced, a loud squealing sound from the brakes may become irritating and constant, and visible wear to the brake rotor surface may be noted.

A technician may also recommend replacing brakes after a system inspection, which drivers should have completed regularly for peace of mind. Finally, some vehicles are equipped with special sensors that detect brake wear and can alert the driver to have the system serviced.

What Does It Mean When My Brakes Squeak?

Brake pads are built with a special feature that’s automatically activated when they have worn out past their useful life.

Simply, a metal tab or blade is attached to the brake pad, where it hovers just above the brake rotor. As the brake pads wear out (just like your pencil eraser), they get thinner, which brings the metal tab closer and closer to the metal brake rotor.

At some point, the brake pad material will hit its minimum safe thickness. Here, the metal tab physically contacts the metal brake rotor, where it generates an irritating squealing sound. This is an audible signal from your brakes that it’s time to replace those worn out brake pads.

Just remember that brakes sometimes squeal or squeak, but not as a result of component wear. In any case, drivers should have their brakes inspected to determine the root cause of any unexpected noise.

Why Does My Brake Pedal Pulse?

Sometimes, you’ll experience a dull, throbbing pulsation from the brake pedal when stopping. This can be described as a sort of ‘wobble’, which may be felt at the brake pedal, through the steering wheel, or through the entire vehicle.

This form of pulsation is the telltale sign of disc distortion, which is sometimes referred to as brake rotor warpage.

Here’s the sticky: brake rotors are steel discs that need to be perfectly flat, like a vinyl record, to do their job smoothly. Sometimes, brake rotors become warped, losing their perfectly flat shape. Much more commonly, the brake rotors wear unevenly, meaning the thickness of the rotor is uneven around the disc. In any case, dimensional variation of the brake rotor discs, whether caused by wear or heat, causes uneven braking output at the surface of the rotating disc, which results in a feel of pulsation and roughness when the brakes are applied.

Rotor warpage is rarely an issue with high-quality brake rotors and is typically caused by a failure of low-quality rotors to hold their shape against the tremendous heat generated in the braking system during severe use. If you use low-quality brake rotors and use your braking system hard (perhaps on hilly terrain, or while towing, or while driving a vehicle fully loaded with passengers and gear), rotor warpage is nearly guaranteed.

Should You Replace Your Brake Pads and Rotors at the Same Time?

This is a common and highly-debated topic with drivers looking to save a buck or two. Your brake pads and rotors are partners. They work together every time you press the brake pedal. They’re best pals.

But one of these two components may wear out before the other, leading many to wonder if they should replace both at once, or just what’s worn out.

The generally-accepted principle of changing pads and rotors at the same time has several benefits. First, pads and rotors are designed to wear down together. Over time, small grooves will form in the brake rotor surface and corresponding brake pad. These grooves fit into each other, ensuring 100 percent of your brake pad is acting on 100 percent of the rotor, for 100 percent stopping power.

Change the brake pads and not the rotors, and the grooves no longer line up. When choosing this route, 100 percent of your new brake pad may be acting on only 80 percent of the grooved brake rotor surface. Accordingly, braking power will be reduced. Also, the old grooved rotor surface will rapidly chew up your smooth new brake pads, wearing them rapidly.

Finally, if your brake rotors wear out 4 months after the pads do, you’ll be making another visit to the shop to have them replaced, and you’ll be paying the labor rate a second time to change them. For instance, changing pads and rotors might take a technician one hour in total, but changing them separately means you’re paying the majority of that labor rate, twice.

Why Does My Brake Pedal Go All the Way to the Floor?

There are several reasons a vehicle’s brake pedal may go all the way to the floor, and all of them are serious and require immediate attention. Causes may include a leak in the hydraulic portion of the braking system, contamination of the brake fluid by air or water, or severely worn pads and rotors. If you experience a brake pedal that goes all the way to the floor, you’re best to stop driving as soon as possible and have a professional assess the vehicle.

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24,101 Posts
Discussion Starter #2
How to Change Your Brakes on Your Own

How to Change Your Brakes on Your Own

Apr 23, 2019

Brakes are a vital part of every vehicle, and important for safety, but they’re also relatively easy to replace. This article will help walk you through a DIY brake job.

As part of their normal operation, the brakes on your car, truck, or crossover wear out with use — and on occasion, you’ll need to replace worn-out brake pads and brake rotors to ensure maximum stopping power.

Once you’ve determined that your brake pads and rotors are in need of replacement, it’s time to make plans to change them. Many drivers have a service center or brake shop handle the work, though some prefer to tackle this job themselves. Brakes are one of a vehicle’s most important components but a relatively simple design of the serviceable part of the braking system makes it a prime candidate for do-it-yourself replacement.

If you attempt to change your brakes on your own, you’ll first need the required parts. These include a new set of brake pads, brake rotors, and potentially an appropriate brake pad lubricant which may or may not be included in the packaging with your new brake pads.

You’ll also need the specific instructions for changing the brakes in your particular vehicle. The process of changing brake pads and rotors is highly similar between vehicles, but differences in the required steps, tools and techniques mean that backyard mechanics are best to fully understand every step of the job — and the tools needed for those steps — before beginning.

Look for step-by-step details on how to perform the brake job on your specific ride in an online owner’s forum, YouTube videos, or by obtaining a copy of your vehicle’s service manual.

Next, prep your workspace. You’ll need to lift the vehicle from the ground with a strong jack and a set of jack stands, while making sure to block the other wheels to prevent the vehicle from moving. Safety glasses, gloves and supplemental lighting should be on hand. Finally, get a rag or two and something comfortable to sit on.

Arrange the specific tools you’ll need within reach. These will vary by application, but most how-to guides list the specific wrenches, sockets, ratchets and other provisions you’ll require. If you’ve got one, an impact gun will make it easier to remove the vehicle’s wheels, exposing the brake system parts behind them, which is where you’ll be working.

From this point, precisely follow the instructions for your specific vehicle from start to finish. We’ll provide a few further tips and tricks to keep in mind as you work.

You’ll remove the clamp-like brake caliper by sliding it up and off of the brake rotor. The caliper has a rubber length of brake-line attached to it, which should not be strained — so plan to use a metal hook or rope to hold it up and out of the way, perhaps hanging on the coil spring above. If the caliper seems hard to remove by hand, a little help from a pry-bar may be required.

Next, you’ll need to remove the brake rotor. Sometimes, heat, friction, dirt and rust can make this process tricky as the rotor disc will be ‘stuck’ to the wheel-hub behind it. A few good strikes with a hammer will typically dislodge a sticky brake rotor, making it easier to slide it off. Some brake rotors have special provisions to make their removal easier, so check the how-to guide.

You’ll also need to compress the caliper pistons back into the caliper, to ensure it’ll fit over the new brake rotor during reinstallation. Usually, you’ll use a C-clamp to squeeze the pistons back into place, with an old brake pad between the clamp and piston for some protection of the piston surface. Be sure to remove the cap on the brake fluid reservoir for this step to prevent pressure damage to brake lines or seals within the system. Note that compressing some brake caliper pistons requires a special tool. Your how-to guide has the details.

Next up, you’ll need to follow the specific instructions for installing and lubricating the brake pads. From this point, the rest of the brake job mostly involves re-assembly of all removed components, though check your specific how-to guide for the details.

Two final notes.

First, with the brake job complete and the vehicle resting on its wheels, start the engine and pump the brakes several times to rebuild pressure. Within a few stomps on the brakes, feel should improve. Do NOT begin driving until you’ve confirmed that proper brake pedal feel and pressure have been restored.

Finally, remember that your new pads and rotors likely have a break-in procedure, which may require you to follow special steps on your first post-brake-job drive to set your new brakes up for a long life of use. Specific break-in instructions can be found in the documentation that came with your new parts.

All said, with a little time, information, some new parts and the right set of tools, changing your own brakes can be a relaxing weekend afternoon activity that’s educational and saves you money.

Super Moderator
24,101 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
What is the Best Brake Pad Material?

What is the Best Brake Pad Material?

Jun 21, 2019

From polishes and waxes, to filters and engine oil, choices are numerous and daunting when it comes to selecting the correct products for your car, truck, coupe or crossover. Options abound—and each alternative has its own set of unique attributes, promises, and technologies. But what is the best brake pad material?

Choosing the correct set of brake pads for your vehicle can be especially confusing. After all, brake pads are an important component used to help your vehicle do one of its most important jobs: stopping.

Not all brake pads are built the same. Each is created using an assortment of materials and processes that dictate their performance, noise levels, price, warranty, and ability to perform consistently and safely through their life. Longer brake pad life is a common purchase factor for many shoppers, since it saves you money.

The differences in brake pad material and construction can vary widely from one alternative to the next, but there are two common threads worth understanding.

First, brake pads are consumable. Like a pencil eraser, they wear out a little every time they’re used, until they need to be replaced.

Second, all brake pads consist of a layer of wearable ‘friction material’ that’s attached (often with glue) to a metal ‘backing plate’.

Imagine an Oreo cookie with the top piece removed: the solid cookie on the bottom is the backing plate, and the slightly smaller white layer of icing is the friction material.

In the same way that the filling of an Oreo may be plain, chocolate, or peanut butter, various recipes for brake pad friction material are possible, too. Some brake pads use ceramic friction material, and others use metallic or organic material instead.

What’s the best brake pad material? That depends on the application.

Ceramic brake pads may work better under daily driving, operate more quietly, and better withstand heat—though they tend to be pricier.

Metallic brake pads may perform better and cost less, though they bite harder and may be louder during use.

Organic brake pads tend to be effective, quiet, and less expensive– but they may result in a ‘spongy’ brake pedal feel, and they tend to need more frequent replacement.

Friction material aside, the thing that is most important is to ask for Galvanized Brake Pads. Here’s why:

Most brake pads do have one serious flaw that limits their lifespan—and it has to do with the backing plate.

Usually, brake pads use a steel backing plate that looks like it’s protected from corrosion by a thin layer of paint or powder coating. Further, most brake pads also rely on some form of glue to attach the friction material to said backing plate.

The simple fact of the matter is that paint chips away and is not a rust protector. In harsh or salty driving conditions, corrosion quickly attacks the painted metal backing plate, and rust begins to form rapidly due to environmental contaminants and cycle after cycle of heat and moisture. Shortly after, rust begins to compromise and dissolve the backing plate. This also exposes and weakens the adhesive used to hold the friction material in place.

As corrosion literally chews through the backing plate and adhesive, the friction material begins to separate or peel away from the backing plate. This results in accelerated brake wear, noisy operation, and an often- dramatic loss of stopping power.

Heavier corrosion can even cause pieces of the friction material to become dislodged from the backing plate entirely, which can damage other braking system components and further reduce stopping power and safety. From this point, total brake pad failure is also likely. This is an accident waiting to happen.

Galvanized brake pads are the only brake pads that won’t suffer the effects of corrosion like the painted ones.

Remember, too, that corrosion begets corrosion—meaning that rusty brake pads can quickly spread corrosion to other parts of your braking system.

Galvanized brake pads use two innovative and exclusive features to set their pads apart from the rest. By deploying clever engineering and smart materials, a highly effective solution to the corrosion problems brake engineers have come up with a more modern brake pad design that uses galvanized steel and mechanical attachment of the friction material to the galvanized steel.

The galvanized steel backing plate is the star of the show. You can recognize its shiny silver coating right out of the box. What’s the best brake pad material for the customer after longest brake pad life, with consistent performance throughout? Simple: it’s the one using galvanized steel.

Since it’s galvanized, the steel backing plate is corrosion-proof to its core, with no powder coatings to peel off. In fact, the zinc used in the galvanization process forms its own oxide coating over time, further protecting the steel from corrosion. This approach totally eliminates corrosion-related issues with brake pad performance and lifespan.

Drivers can expect stronger braking performance for a longer period of time, which saves them time and money– and helps keep their brake pads out of landfills.

BOTTOM LINE: Galvanized brake pads do not use toxic paint and are 100% copper and asbestos free.

Further, galvanized brake pads are equipped with a specially engineered Safety Zone, which exists at the surface where the friction material and backing plate are mechanically bonded together.

Instead of the usual layer of failure-prone glue, the galvanized steel backing plates are manufactured with hundreds of tiny hooks at this surface. These hooks firmly ‘bite’ into the friction material when it’s bonded to the galvanized backing plates at the factory. The result? The friction material is locked permanently into place by hundreds of corrosion-proof teeth, instead of a thin layer of adhesive.

This approach means corrosion and friction material separation are totally eliminated, and the result is a brake pad that lasts longer, and performs more consistently throughout its life. Drivers, therefore, enjoy a long life of premium braking performance that will meet or exceed OEM specifications for years to come.

If you’re due for a brake-job, these benefits make galvanized brake pads worthy of your consideration. With some clever design touches and engineering, galvanized brake pads are the only brake pads with a backing plate that will out-last the friction material, giving you the longest life on your brake pads.

Galvanized brake pads are the longest lasting and safest brake pads that are available today.
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