The way you drive can affect the longevity of your car’s parts, especially wear items like brakes. By following these simple tips, you can extend the life on your brakes and save yourself money in the long run.
Your vehicle’s brakes generate stopping power by creating huge amounts of friction and heat. This friction and heat slows or stops your vehicle, but it also means that your brakes wear out a little every time you use them. This is how brakes work and it means that occasionally you’ll need to replace components like brake pads and rotors.
Brakes are a “wear item” — that is, a component designed to wear down while doing its job over the course of many months and miles. As such, a few simple tricks can help extend the life of your vehicle’s braking system parts, ensuring that the wearable components last longer before requiring replacement, saving you money in the process.
It’s all about making life easier on your brakes. Read on for the details:
Prolonged periods of high brake system temperatures can degrade or even damage components over time, which is why it’s important to help your brakes out by being conscious of when they’ll be hottest and helping to cool them down if possible.
After generating high brake temperatures, try to allow the vehicle to cruise a few moments without any application of the brake pedal (where feasible) at the highest speed possible. This allows cool air to flow over the brakes, reducing temperatures in a quick and controlled manner.
Your brakes will be hottest in a variety of scenarios, including immediately after braking down a steep hill (more so with a trailer in tow), after spirited driving around a winding road or road course, or after executing a rapid stop from a high rate of speed. Basically, any time they’re applied for a length of time from a high speed, or repeatedly in quick succession, your brakes will become piping hot, and heat ‘soaks’ into components like the brake calipers, pads, rotors and fluid.
It’s immediately following these conditions where an opportunity exists to prolong brake component life by providing extra cooling. If possible, avoid stopping, slow speeds or parking within a minute or two of conditions like those mentioned here. This may not always be feasible and that’s fine — your brakes are designed to stand up to the heat. But cooling them down with an extra spin around the block or a few more minutes of driving can go a long way towards prolonged brake component life.
Maintenance Is Key
Proper maintenance of your vehicle’s brakes can prolong the life of wearable components within. Check your owner’s manual for details; parts of your braking system may occasionally need to be dismantled, cleaned, lubricated and reassembled. This bit of brake-system pampering can work wonders for performance and safety and also ensures that all parts of the system are healthy and in proper working order. A healthy braking system is a long-lasting braking system!
Following too closely is a bad manner, safety hazard and key cause of accelerated brake system wear. The closer you follow another vehicle, the more often and harshly you’ll have to apply your brakes as traffic speeds up and slows down — and the faster they’ll wear. A bigger gap between you and the next car in traffic means more opportunities to coast, instead of braking, to slow down. You’ll be at lower risk of an accident and your brakes will last longer too.
Look further up the road and your brakes will thank you with longer life. Most drivers don’t look far enough up the road, preferring to leave their eyes trained in the area about two car-lengths ahead. But looking further ahead provides more time to respond to changing traffic conditions, like slowed or stopped cars. Keep your eyes trained ahead and you’ll have more time to plan your stop. Moving your seat into a more upright position as you drive can be helpful here.
When you see an upcoming stop, remove your foot from the accelerator immediately. Let the vehicle coast, so it can decelerate slowly on its own, without using the brakes. Get the timing right and you may not even have to touch the brake pedal at all before the light turns green or slower traffic up ahead begins to move again.
Watching the road in the distance opens up numerous possibilities to coast — rather than brake — to a stop. This helps your vehicle go further and further on a set of pads and brake rotors. Coast when you can, instead of braking, and your wallet will thank you.
Don’t underestimate the effectiveness of the downshift to help slow your vehicle while reducing or eliminating the need to use the brakes. Whether you drive a manual transmission or an automatic with a manual shift function, consider downshifting a gear or two ahead of steep hills or drawn-out stops. This offloads some of the work of slowing your car to its engine and transmission, both of which (unlike your brakes) have their own cooling systems.
Downshifting from sixth to fourth gear, for instance, can affect a degree of deceleration on its own, reducing workload and wear on your brakes in the process.