Ask The Car Chasers: Save money on brakes

Jeanine Ibrahim
26 April 2013

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Along with giving useful advice in the video, Ables demonstrates how to check the pads and rotors on a disc brake system. The process is fairly quick and does not require specialty tools, Ables said.
Here's a breakdown of how to check a vehicle's brakes without a trip to the shop.

Check the Brake Pads

First, expose the brake system by removing the tires. The disc that is attached to the axle and that spins along with the wheels is called the rotor. The clamp-like object that encases the rotor is called the caliper. Calipers house the brake pads, which create the friction that helps stop the vehicle.

To check the pads, remove the calipers by unscrewing the bolts, then wriggle them off the rotors. The brake pads are held in place with clips. Snap those out, examining them for damage and wear.
"You don't want anything less than an eighth of an inch," Ables said, referring to the width of the brake pads. "Once they've gotten down to an eighth of an inch, the pads are bad. Replace them."
Inspect the Rotors

When the calipers are off the rotors, inspect the disc for ridges. If you find any, Ables suggests that you take the rotors to a parts store to have them resurfaced.

Also check the rotors for unevenness by looking at them closely and feeling the discs.
"If there are any grooves, it means [the rotor has] been damaged by either bad pads or neglected maintenance in the past, and it'll probably need to be replaced," Ables said.

How Frequent Should You Check?

Brakes that function properly are essential, so checking them regularly is important. Of course, a good time to inspect brakes is whenever the tires are off. Another guideline is to perform basic inspection during every other oil change, according to Ables.

"Having this done in a shop will run you $200 in labor alone, plus whatever the parts are going to cost to get it replaced," Ables said. "You want to make sure that you're not causing damage to your brake pads or your rotors. The earlier you can catch problems, the more money you're going to save."

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