Brake pads and rotors make up the major components of any comprehensive brake service. We will discuss these components, why they are important and what to consider when thinking about brake service.
Brake pads sound cushy - however they’re anything but soft and snuggly. These components attach to the brake calipers in order to stop the discs (also known as rotors). The calipers squeeze the pads against the discs that are mounted next to the tires, which brings the whole operation to a halt when you press the brake pedal.
All this squeezing eventually causes the brake pads to wear down. Brake pads will typically need replacing every 30,000-40,000 miles, depending upon the usage, how you drive, and the type of pads. Your brake pads need to be replaced when you hear the telltale squeal or squeak indicating the friction of metal-on-metal. Many modern cars will have wear sensors, which will light a lamp on the dash to alert you when you have less than 10% brake pad thickness left. Note: If your car has electronic brake pad warning, the sensors must also be replaced when you get new pads. This will add to the cost of the overall brake repair. Your service advisor will let you know if they are needed or not.
There are three different kinds of brake pads and each have their own strengths and weaknesses.
- Organic: These brake pads were developed when health concerns arose surrounding asbestos - the original disc brake pad material. Organic pads are made of a composite of varying materials that may include rubber, glass, carbon, fiber and more. They’re affordable and quiet, but don’t last as long as other types.
- Semi-metallic: These are made up of iron, copper, steel, or other metal, combined with fillers and a graphite lubricant. Semi-metallic brake pads perform better than organic, and do a good job drawing heat away from the discs. They are, however, more expensive, and noisier than organic brake pads.
- Ceramic: The newest of the players in the brake pad field, coming onto the scene in the 1980s, ceramic brake pads are made of hardened ceramic material that’s combined with copper fibers. Ceramic lasts the longest and is quiet. However, ceramic pads don’t perform as well as semi-metallic in cold climates. Ceramic brake pads are also are the priciest.
Things to keep in mind to make sure you’re getting high quality brake pads:
- Consider aftermarket: This is one of the parts for which an actual OEM part may not trump the aftermarket in quality. Many cars come off the line with organic pads which are the lowest performers and least enduring. There are a wide variety of quality brands and types to choose from. As you can imagine, this leads to a variation in pricing – a slightly more expensive pad often provides significantly more life, hence a better value. Be sure to ask, and know what is included when you request a brake service.
- Go with a trusted component: Brakes are one of those systems in your car that you want to make absolutely sure of getting genuine, high quality replacements. We only use premium quality parts that offer good performance and warranty.
- Check the warranty: Convenience Auto has a great warranty on their brake service. We offer a 3 Year, 36,000 mile warranty on not just the pads, but on the entire repair. Some of the major chains advertise a ‘lifetime’ warranty on brake pads. Read the fine print – their ‘lifetime’ warranty doesn't include any of the other parts that constitute the repair – rotors, sensors and the labor generally are not covered. We use high quality parts – they may not be the absolute cheapest, but the components we use offer you a higher level of value and lower cost of ownership. It’s how we do business.
- Certification: Look for D3EA (Differential Effectiveness Analysis) and BEEP (Brake Effectiveness Evaluation Procedures) certifications. These assure you that the brake pads meet certain minimum standards.
Brake Rotors constitute the other major component in your brake system.
New rotors, or turn the old ones?
When it comes to rotors, you have two choices, Turn your old rotors on a lathe to get them smooth again, or purchase new rotors and simply replace the old ones. We recommend new rotors for about 90% of the brake services we perform. The cost is about the same in both cases. Turning the rotors involves more labor – Before we use old rotors, we remove them from the vehicle and turn them on a lathe that is specifically designed for this purpose. Purchasing a brand new rotor eliminates this extra labor, and the result is a brand new part. For most vehicles, this is the best value. If you have a large pickup or SUV, the economics tilt more toward using your old rotors. Rotors also wear, and sometimes get to thin to turn and use, and depends on your individual situation. Ask us if you would like to know more.
We use OE or premium quality aftermarket rotors
- Choosing the proper new brake rotor is determined by the vehicle you drive and how you drive it. The majority of vehicles produced will have solid vented rotors. However, some high-performance vehicles like BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi are built with slotted or cross-drilled rotors, which are also vented. OE-equivalent rotors are fine for 95% of consumers, and offer an excellent tradeoff between performance and price. If you were happy with your stock rotor's performance and stopping power, then direct OE replacements such as would be a good choice, and what we normally recommend.
- The most common upgrade is replacing your solid rotors with either slotted or drilled rotors.
- Under high heat and heavy stopping conditions, the rotor actually gets so hot that when the brake pads and rotors make initial contact, the pads release exhaust gases from road grime, water and overheating. The small air bubbles that form between the pad and rotor sometimes contribute to a spongy pedal feel. The slotting or drilling of brake rotors gives those gases a quiet way to escape; thus allowing the pad to make quicker contact with the rotor and provide a stiffer and more precise pedal feel. Ask us if you would like to try upgraded rotors.
Why We use premium quality OE components
Our warranty is an exceptional 3 years or 36,000 miles. Our experience, based on thousands of brake jobs, has taught us that unless you are planning to sell your car right away, taking the quality approach with brakes provides the lowest cost of ownership. Using high carbon, new steel makes the rotor last longer and stay flat longer. There are lower quality grades of rotor available, but we’ve found that they either wear (get too thin to work properly) or they warp and cause pulsations in the brake pedal or brake squeal. As car OEM’s have found, NO brake rotor technology can completely eliminate all of these issues, but using high quality components will minimize the impact for many years. When contemplating a brake service, take the time to understand what components are included – selection of brake rotors can easily add (or save between $50 to $100 to a brake service)
- For vehicles with aggressive cast wheels, if available, we would normally use a painted, or ‘Black Hat’ rotor. The reason for the paint is strictly cosmetic. The portion of the rotor that comes in contact with your brake pad is high carbon steel, and will rust over time. This is normal and unavoidable. However, having the inner portion of the rotor painted (normally black) enhances the curb appeal. If’ you have paid a premium to have a stylish cast wheel, on your car, you don’t want to look at a rusty brake rotor underneath. This is detail that is often overlooked when pricing a brake service, or when a shop is trying to offer the absolute cheapest price. We have had many customers (who got their brakes done elsewhere) lament how the look of their rusty rotor hubs deteriorates the overall great look of their wheels and tires.
- Other simple things like cleaning the rust off your wheel hubs after the wheel and tire are removed is something that adds a little bit of labor and time to a brake service, but we think it's important. Making sure that the wheel hub is free of rust and debris will make it easier to remove the wheel the next time you have to take it off. We also normally clean both faces of the hub and spray it with a corrosion inhibitor. It’s a small thing, but if you have to change that tire, (or the brake rotor) at midnight at the side a major freeway you will appreciate this extra effort.
- If your vehicle is over 10 years old, it is likely due for a brake fluid change. Brake fluid deteriorates over time just like engine oil. It might make sense to perform this service at the same time you service your brakes. Your service advisor can help you decide when / if this is appropriate. There are objective tests (such as moisture content measurement) that can make the decision much more objective than just looking at the color of the fluid. As us, and we will be glad to go over it with you. We will discuss this as part of another service – brake fluid service.
Brake Fluid Replacement Service
Brakes are an important component to your car. According to a recent study, the average driver uses their brakes over 200 times per day. One part of the brake system that is consistently overlooked is brake fluid.
Brake fluid is a liquid substance in the brake system that pushes the calipers to move the brake pads to contact the brake rotor – causing the car to slow down. Parts inside the master cylinder, calipers, and wheel cylinders all come in contact with brake fluid, and can deteriorate over time and cause contamination. Moisture is also absorbed by the brake fluid, which eventually causes either freezing or rusted components. The combination of particles and moisture in the brake fluid leads to reduced stopping power, making your car not as safe to drive.
A BRAKE FLUSH IS NOT THE SAME AS A BRAKE BLEED. A brake flush takes all the brake fluid out of the system and replaces it. A brake bleed is a process that removes just enough brake fluid to get air bubbles out of the system.
Most vehicle manufacturers recommend that you perform a brake fluid replacement every 40,000 miles. If you are experiencing reduced stopping power, make an appointment at Convenience Auto Service today. We have electronic equipment that can measure the moisture content of your fluid. We can advise if you would benefit from a fluid replacement service.