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Brakes: Your Pressing Questions Answered

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I love how my elephant tattoo peaks out of my dress in this photo.

Today I’m answering your questions about brakes. I routinely ask my Instagram followers to ask me anything they would like to know about a subject and answer the questions in blog posts like these. Follow me for opportunities like this and so much more info about cars, social media, fashion and love.

Ryan Abigail:  "My brakes squeak when they are wet! The mechanic awhile ago said not to worry about it. When do I start worrying about it?"

Water or dew tend to accumulate on the face of the brake rotor. A layer of rust develops on the face of the rotor. As you drive, the brake pad will wear that rust off and the brakes should begin operating like normal. The rust particles may cause grooves in your rotors, which could cause a long term squeaking. Your mechanic is right, this is not something I would advise you to worry about.

Be sure to take your car to a full service shop for your oil changes. As part of a regular multi point inspection the brakes will be checked. When your brake pad gets really thin, the brake wear indicator causes a similar squeaking sound that you may miss. If you brakes start grinding, you notice a longer stopping distance, or a brake light comes up on your dashboard, bring the car in right away.

wet-brakes
The layer of water that builds up on the rotor when it rains can cause your brakes to squeak.

Sophie: "When your mechanic says only one rotor is damaged, why do they replace all of them... am I just paying for things I don't need?"

@A0k:  "Is it true brake pads must be changed in pairs?"

Rotors and brakes need to be changed in pairs. This is because:

1. As brakes and rotors wear they become thinner. If you have different thicknesses on each of the front or rear wheel it will effect your stopping distance and the car may pull when stopping.

2. Since the rotors are thinner because of wearing, when you only change one, the other rotor is highly susceptible to heat and may warp. If the rotor warps it may cause a pulsation while braking.

3. Brake pads should be wearing evenly Lexie. The set should be ready to be changed at the same time. If only one brake pad is worn, it suggests that you may have a caliper problem. The caliper is what actually causes your brake pads to close against the rotors to stop the car. If one side is worn then one of the calipers may be stuck and causing the brake pad to stay against the rotor.

Simply put Sophie, your mechanic is right if they recommend that you change your brakes in sets of 2.

Brakes-QA

Lexie: "What does it mean when the steering wheel shakes when you hit the brakes?"

This is usually surprisingly not a brake problem at all. Most often shaking in the steering wheel when you are braking occurs when the is a front end problem like bad tie rods.

This is something I would have checked out by a mechanic as soon as possible. The mechanic should take the car on a test drive and then check the areas of concern.

@ariwearsthings: "How often should you do maintenance work on your brakes?"

Brakes are one of those systems that doesn’t have a specific regular maintenance. As I suggested above, make sure your mechanic checks your brakes at every oil change service. Depending on your driving style and the city you live in, your brake pads may last between 10,000 and 50,000 miles. When working in NYC shops, I find that brakes last between 10,000 and 25,000 miles but in Milwaukee closer to 50,000 miles.

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Stretch Your Giving Dollar

Stretch Your Giving Dollar The shopping weekend is over (finally) and now it’s time to give money to organizations that desperately need our support this holiday season. Every year I sit…

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