Servicing your brakes is essential to keeping your car safe on the road, but it's not always straightforward to time your next brake service. Moreso than many other maintenance items, your car's disc brakes can be drastically affected by conditions and driving habits. The relatively high cost of brake maintenance also means many drivers want to extend the life of their brake pads for as long as possible.
Fortunately, you don't have to go into your next brake service blindly, nor do you need to follow a set mileage schedule that may not apply to your specific needs. Instead, keep these three critical factors in mind so that you can choose to perfect time to schedule an appointment to service your car's brakes.
1. Brake Wear Sensors
Many modern vehicles come equipped with brake wear sensors. The details of these sensors can vary from model to model, but most use a sacrificial design. The typical style places a sensor so that it will contact the disc when your brakes fall below a minimum thickness. This contact destroys the probe, opening a circuit that triggers a brake wear indicator on your dash.
If you see this sensor light up, it's time to service your brakes. Remember that your sensor will only trigger when your pads reach a minimum thickness, so you shouldn't wait too long to schedule disc brake services.
2. Brake Noises
You can also find a more low-tech version of a brake wear sensor in nearly every brake pad. Manufacturers include small metal wear strips in their pads. These strips serve a similar function to the brake wear sensor. As the friction material on the brakes wears down, the strips contact the rotors and create an annoying screeching sound.
This squealing noise is another indication that your brake pads are below minimum thickness. Brake manufacturers place wear indicators at different depths so that you may hear a squealing before your car's brake wear sensor triggers. In these cases, scheduling a brake service quickly enough may allow you to reuse your existing sensor.
3. Routine Inspections
Routine inspections are arguably the best way to time service visits for your car's brakes. During an inspection, technicians will check the thickness of both your brake pads and rotors. These measurements will let you accurately gauge the remaining life of your braking components, allowing you to keep your brakes operating safely without scheduling unnecessary replacements.
Whichever option you choose, remember that deferring brake service can mean reducing your car's stopping power and ultimately making your ride more dangerous to drive. Perfectly timing your next brake service can save some money, but it's always better to err on the side of caution and schedule a visit if you suspect your brakes are beginning to wear out.