Monday, October 19, 2009

Top 7 Tips To Make Your Brakes Last Longer

Congratulations! You have decided to treat your brakes properly, and consequently, you will be keeping more money in your wallet while keeping your vehicle out of the Clunker squish-up a lot longer. If you follow these tips and make them part of your driving habits, you will not only save yourself a considerable amount of cash, but will also impress others with your driving skills.

Tip 1: Slow down to drive smoothly and alertly. Stopping from 70 mph instead of 55 mph wears out brake material significantly faster. Sudden and dramatic speed changes can do real damage to your brakes. Your driving skills will impress others as well as yourself as you anticipate slow traffic or stoplights ahead and coast smoothly to a stop. If you know you'll have to stop at the end of a freeway off-ramp, coasting from 70 down to 50 before you brake will significantly reduce brake wear. If the cars ahead are already stopped, you won’t lose a second of time. This tip alone will save you money on gas, tires, transmissions, brakes, and potential traffic tickets.

Tip 2: Brake only with your right foot. By braking with only your right foot, you'll avoid simultaneously pushing both pedals; also, it'll be easier to resist unnecessary brake taps. Two footed driving can damage your brakes, reducing their effectiveness, and creating friction can even cause your brake pads to generate destructive levels of heat. Only brake when your foot is not on the accelerator to increase the longevity of your brakes.

Tip 3: Visualize your normal driving routes. Your memory is your brakes best friend. Remember where that pot hill is located in your lane? Where the speed bumps are? Slow down and avoid them if possible. Remember where the sharp turn is? Decelerate early and smoothly. Visualize places on your normal routes where other drivers inappropriately slow down, i.e., hills that are surprising to drivers who don’t know the road, and gentle curves that some drivers may mistake for sharper turns. Often, you'll have to coast down to compensate for their false impressions. However, if you recognize early one of these rookies to your road, you may be able to pass and avoid their erratic driving. If possible avoid driving when you can anticipate heavy traffic. Continual stop and go common in traffic tie-ups wastes gas and wears down tires, brakes, and your nerves.

Tip 4: Scan the driving horizon. Look far enough ahead and you'll be able to correctly time stoplights, notice traffic back-ups, and see cars slowing on that incline just ahead. Look beyond the next traffic signal; check out the one after that. A lot of drivers brake for no reason, but it doesn't mean you have to. If you look ahead past the car right in front of you, you'll be able to see when you actually need to slow down and use your brakes. Otherwise, just coast and keep your distance. Don’t downshifting to save brakes. Transmissions (and clutches) cost a lot more than brakes. The most impressive driving is consistent driving, the kind that doesn’t involve a lot of accelerating, downshifting, or breaking; and consistent driving will always put money back into your wallet.

Tip 5: Change your Brake Fluid on the proper schedule. Brake fluid usually needs to be changed every 30,000 miles. (Check your owner’s manual) Mechanics will call it bleeding and/or flushing. You gain nothing if you save brake material but the interior brake system rots away due to lack of maintenance. Flushing the brake fluid will make the internal components last longer and the brakes function better. Flushing the brake fluid out of the system gets rid of dirty fluid, and trapped air that has accumulated in the lines. Brake fluid naturally attracts water. In an emergency stop or after repeated brake applications, this moisture boils and severely reduces braking effectiveness. Moisture also promotes internal corrosion, which ruins critical rubber seals.

Note: If you intend to flush the brake lines yourself, it is important that you follow the directions in your vehicle’s repair manual. You can seriously damage an expensive Master Cylinder by following the wrong procedure. If you don’t know the proper procedure, take your vehicle to a qualified service center and have a good technician complete the brake flush.

Tip 6: Be savvy about brake maintenance. Bargain brakes will wear out much quicker and require more trips to the service center. All brakes will wear down, so pick or ask for good quality brakes. Trying to extend brake life too long will cost you big money. If metal touches metal, your service bill probably just got much bigger. A good time to inspect brake material thickness is when you have your tires rotated. Keeping tires properly inflated, and changing or rotating them regularly, will maximize your tread wear and improve the life of your brakes. When you do get new pads, make sure the rotors and or drums are machined. Machining gives pads more grip, reduces heat, and extends brake life. While you’re in the service center, consider changing your shocks/struts (usually recommended every 50,000 miles). New shocks and struts can significantly improve brake performance.

Tip 7: Have your brakes checked at least twice a year by a good mechanic. Preventive maintenance can save your life as well as save you money. Using a good mechanic is as important as using a good doctor. Even if you’re a careful and conscientious driver, there are times when you will need to have you car fixed and fixed properly. A poor mechanic can not only fail to fix the problem you have but can end up creating new ones costing you more money and time. In the long run spending more money on a reliable and professional mechanic is worth anything you might save with a less experienced and “cheaper” one.

Following these tips is easy and will save you gas as well as extend the life of your car or truck. Keep in mind, however, that brakes will wear faster under certain conditions, such as: Having a teenage kid in the house who thinks she or he is NASCAR material; if you typically drive through mountains or hilly areas; and, if you choose a poor mechanic who installs cheap brake parts or installs parts improperly. But, regardless of your particular circumstances, these tested and true tips will fatten your bankroll. If you have any additional questions about brakes, contact the Brown Bros. Service Department at 877-251-5403.