When it comes to car maintenance, it's easy to let a lot of things slide. But if you neglect your brakes, you're putting yourself and others at risk.
"So much of car maintenance is about keeping your car going," explains auto expert Steve Strope. "But even more critical is being able to stop. Unfortunately, a lot of drivers neglect their brakes until it's too late."
How long it takes for your brakes to wear out depends on several factors, including your own driving habits. So it's important to recognize some of the warning signs. Here are six things to listen and look for:
Number one, there's a very high-pitched squeal every time you come to a stop. That squeal is by design. Brake pad manufacturers put a little piece of metal called an "indicator" on the pad itself. When the pad wears down to about a quarter-inch thick or less, that indicator makes contact with the rotor and squeals.
A second warning sign to listen for is a grinding noise when you apply the brake. This could mean the metal on the pad base is exposed and is grinding against the rotor.
The third warning sign is a shaking or vibration in the steering wheel when you apply the brakes. This could be caused by a misalignment between the pad and rotor or, even worse, the rotor's worse.
Number four is long pedal travel. If your foot goes all the way to the floor when you're applying the brakes, you need your brakes inspected now!
Number five … you might notice a bad metallic-like smell when you apply the brakes. This also merits a brake inspection.
The sixth warning sign …you feel the brakes actually pull the car to the left or the right. Now there are a few things that actually cause this "brake pull," like a misaligned caliper or a collapsed brake hose.
So get yourself to a qualified mechanic and have your brakes inspected. He'll be able spot any trouble before there's serious damage.
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