Visit the Brake Pad Evaluation Center at Berkeley Bob's
Most customers know brake pads are part of a car’s braking system. They also know the brake pads wear out and need replacement every 3-6 years depending on driving style and terrain. But not many know the mechanics of braking and what role the brake pads play. The pads are relatively small from 2” X 3” to 4” x 8” on most cars and the friction material averages about ½”. Most are made of a non-asbestos composite material and some can have imbedded metal to add to longevity or be made entirely of ceramic which prevents heat build-up. The brake caliper holds the brake pads. When the brake pedal is depressed the brake pads are pushed up against the brake rotor creating friction and making the car stop. The process slowly wears material off the brake pads. Most cars show evidence of the process in the form of a dark dust that builds up on the surface of the wheel or hubcap.
So what's involved with brake pad replacement? At Berkeley Bob’s any time we perform a service we do a thorough wheels off brake inspection. If the brake pad friction material is found to be at 2 mm or less remaining we advise replacement. With authorization we order the brake pad set and any other components needed and the repair begins. The technician removes the brake pads from the brake calipers by removing the hardware and gently retracting the caliper pistons allowing enough room to remove the worn pads and insert new pads, the caliper is then repositioned into place and hardware is reinstalled or replaced if worn out or rusted. The surface of the brake rotor is wiped free of dust and debris and wheels are reinstalled. The brake fluid level is checked and topped off.
So you think it’s time for brake pad replacement but how do you know? Most drivers won’t know unless they are either told by their mechanic or they have waited until there is noise or vibration when the brakes are applied. The latter happens when the brake pad friction material is worn away and the metal backing is rubbing against the brake rotor surface. This causes a condition known in the industry as “metal to metal”, when the brake pad metal backing plate gouges the surface of the brake rotor when stopping, damaging the rotor. Here are some tips to avoid this unnecessary condition as well as when it might be time for brake pads:
- Have the car serviced regularly. At least once a year have a professional auto repair perform a 5,000 mile service on the car. At Berkeley Bob’s this includes a full vehicle inspection encompassing the brakes. Ask the service advisor to confirm and when picking up the car ask for the results of the brake inspection. The amount of friction material left on the brake pad will be noted and you will be advised if replacement is needed in the near future along with any other concerns found with the brake system. Different car models have different thickness brake pads so the time when they need to be changed varies. Note: Taking the car for a quickie oil change does not include a complete vehicle inspection and would not provide an accurate evaluation of the brake system.
- Look and listen for warning signs. Late model vehicles have sensors embedded in the brake pad that make a sound when the friction material wears down. The sensor creates a sound when it comes in contact with the rotor every time you brake. If this happens take the car for repair immediately to avoid damaging the brake rotors. The newest cars have a dash light that comes on when the brake pads are low so please watch and heed the dash light warnings. Study the manual and know what the icons mean.
- Grinding noise when braking. If the car starts making grinding or rumbling noises when depressing the brake pedal bring it in for repair as soon as possible. Those types of noises indicate a problem within the brake system. Most often the grinding is an indicator the cars brakes have gone metal to metal. Obviously the brake rotors would need to be replaced along with the brake pads if this happens.
- Squealing noise when braking. A squealing noise is indicative of inferior quality or defective brake pads but also a condition referred to as glazing. Glazing happens when the brakes are heated so hot (often from repeated hard, high speed braking or repeated uphill/downhill braking) that brake pad friction material is transferred and fused to the surface of the brake rotor. The cure is to install better quality brake pads possibly upgrading to ceramic brake pads. Sometimes the brake rotors will need replacement if the fused material cannot be removed.
Brake pad replacement is without question one of the most critical repairs performed on a vehicle. There are two things a car must be able to do; start and stop. Most consumers know the consequences of not having your brake pads changed when they are low. Be careful there is a lot of misinformation about when brake pads need replacement. Unfortunately there are repair shops, franchises and dealerships that will recommend brake pad replacement before it’s needed just to make money. At Berkeley Bob’s we inspect cars all the time whose owners were told they needed brakes when they don’t. Get a second opinion if you suspect the need of brake replacement.
At Berkeley Bob’s we notice brake pad replacement cost is the second most price shopped repair after oil changes. Brake pad replacement is a repair which customers shop for the least expensive option. Why is unclear as brake pads and other brake components are the most critical parts on any vehicle. A customer should look for a shop that will inspect the entire brake system, evaluate all the components, make educated recommendations on what to replace and suggest a specific type of brake pad if it better suits a customer’s driving habits. A customer should not choose a shop based on price alone because the car will likely be fitted with the cheapest available, low grade friction material brake pads. These are the type to develop problems. The low quote brake jobs are rushed usually not giving the technician enough time to thoroughly inspect all the brake components. They may not even suggest replacing compromised brake rotors which will lead to noise and vibration almost immediately. The best advice on how to compare brake repair from shop to shop is ask questions. It should be about competency, quality and warranty not just price. These are some of the things to consider:
- • Will the shop inspect the complete brake system?
- • What is their standard brake inspection procedure?
- • Are all 4 wheels removed when inspecting the brakes?
- • Is the brake fluid tested for contaminants?
- • Do they provide one type of brake pad or do they offer options?
- • What’s the warranty on brake pad replacement?
When you bring your car to Berkeley Bob’s for a brake inspection you get a thorough evaluation. The following is our checklist:
- • Test drive evaluation of brake operation
- • Remove all wheels
- • Examine inner and outer brake pads for wear and irregularities
- • Examine brake rotors for wear in form of grooves, hot spots or dishing
- • Inspect brake flex hoses for leaks, cracking or bubbles
- • Inspect brake metal lines for leaks or rust
- • Check condition of the brake hardware
- • Check brake fluid level in master cylinder
- • Test brake fluid water content
- • Check for dash brake warning lights or notices
- • Test emergency brake operation
- • Make a recommendation based on findings
The service advisor will relay all the technician’s findings. If repair is indicated a detailed estimate will also be created and fully explained.
After authorization, the work can begin. It takes about 3 hours in most cases for a test drive, complete brake inspection and replacement of brake pads on most vehicles. Longer of course if more than brake pad replacement is needed. Also the car’s condition or availability of parts can alter the time but generally the car is done in a few hours.
So next time you think you need brakes make Berkeley Bob’s Foreign Auto Service your destination for quality brake pad replacement. We are brake experts. Our trained, ASE certified techs know how to replace brake pads and will get the job done right. We know just what to do, how to do it and can get your car’s brake pads replaced and have your car braking like new in just a few hours. Same day service for most cars and our best in the business guarantee, 3 years or 36,000 miles.