Brakes are pretty much the most important safety device on your car. If
you ’ve ever partially lost your brakes in the past, you'll agree that it's
not something you want to experience again. Inspecting your brakes twice a
year for wear and damage can protect you and your passengers. Additionally,
it will also help save you money by catching any damage before it becomes too
Brake System Components That Can Fail
The master cylinder, the heart of the vehicles
braking system, holds the brake fluid when it is not being delivered to the
brakes through the brake lines. If brake fluid leaks because the master
cylinder is worn or brake lines are plugged or broken, the fluid cannot be
delivered and the brake pads will become ruined.
The brake fluid itself can become dirty or contaminated as it draws
rust-causing moisture and picks up other debris, or it can break down from
excess heat. Clean brake fluid is either clear or slightly yellow, while
dirty brake fluid may be brown or even black. Old and dirty brake fluid can
damage ABS brake systems internally.
The brake lines connect to the master cylinder through a combination
valve, which combines a metering and proportioning valve. It regulates the
pressure on the front and rear wheels to make sure both sets of brakes are
applied simultaneously. A malfunctioning combination valve may cause the
wheels to lock up.
Brake pads and shoes can be made of ceramic, metal or organic materials,
while the disc rotors and drums they press against are made of metal. Because
the pads and shoes create friction to stop the car, they gradually wear down
over time and may wear away completely, letting the metal of the calipers and
cylinders they are attached to grind against the rotors and drums and damage
them. (Some pads have a metal strip attached that sounds a warning whistle
when the pad becomes too worn, but this strip sounds only when the car is in
motion and the brakes are not applied.