An intricate network of parts springs to action when your foot hits the brake pedal in your vehicle. At least, well, they’re supposed to. Regular brake maintenance is not only a good idea, it could be life-changing for you and others if you neglect them. Maintaining brakes on an off-road vehicle is no different.
Brake pads don’t last forever. Your brakes need to be maintained for safety at all times, on or off-road. The friction it takes to slow your vehicle when the brakes are applied gradually wears down the pads over time, grinding off the pad material and eventually exposing bare metal to your rotors.
Thankfully, brake pads are removable and can be replaced. So how do you know when you need to replace them?
#1 – Indicator Lights
If you have a newer model vehicle, one of the first signs of trouble with your brakes will appear on your dashboard. Before trouble arises, though, check your owner’s manual to see if your vehicle is equipped with a low-pad warning system. If it is, a warning indicator light should signal you with a light and/or sound. When you have your brakes replaced, you’ll also have to have the sensors replaced as well.
#2 – Squealing and Screeching
Wear indicators will help to produce a noise such as squealing or screeching when the brakes are applied. The sound comes from the tiny metal indicator on the brake pad backing plate. This is the whole purpose of the indicator, alerting you when there is trouble. They work on the same idea of scratching nails on a chalkboard. When you hear the noise, you can’t help but pay attention to it.
Because not all brake pads are equipped with this feature, don’t rely on it as a factor in determining whether your brake pads are worn or not. Brake pads exposed to damp conditions will make a similar noise, but if the sound disappears after you have applied the brakes a few times, it’s a safe bet it was caused by excess moisture. If the sound continues, take it to the shop.
#3 – Grinding and Growling
The grinding and growling occur after you’ve ignored the squealing and screeching from the brake pad indicator. This means the brake pads have completely worn away, and you are metal-to-metal with your brakes and rotors, which are now being shaved down every time you press on the brakes. This is not even the worst of it. This could also mean you have even further damage in your braking system due to metal contact on your discs or drums. Get your braking system checked out as soon as possible if you hear these noises.
#4 – Stopping Takes More Time Than Usual
Brake fade is the result of applying the brakes for a long distance before the vehicle comes to a stop. This is something that all of us have probably done at one time or another. Sometimes brake fade occurs when applying the brakes while going downhill on a steep grade or driving on a winding road.
Repeatedly forcing pads against the rotors for an extended amount of time causes both components to heat up. As this occurs repeatedly, the ability to create friction to stop the vehicle will be reduced over time. If this is your regular route of travel day to day, continuing to do this will take a toll on the braking system after some time.
#5 – Less Than a Quarter Inch of Brake Pad
You’ll have to remove the wheels to do this, but a visual inspection of your brake pads may tell you if they need to be replaced. You should be able to see your brake pads against your rotor by looking down on the brake assembly holding the brake pads. If the material on the pad or shoe is less than ¼ inch (about seven millimeters), it’s time to have them inspected and most likely changed.
#6 – The Nose of Your Vehicle Pulls to One Side When You Brake
Brake pads won’t always wear down at the same rate. Thinning could happen on one side faster than the other. If this happens, your car will likely pull to one side or the other when you press on the brake pedal. If you leave this problem unchecked, you will be putting extra stress on your steering rack (and the ball joints, wheel bearings, and steering knuckles). Brake pads aren’t always the cause but having them checked out is worth the time when it comes to safety.
Mach1 Motorsports Has You (and Your Brakes) Covered
At Mach1 Motorsports, we service all models and makes of vehicles from old to new. We can take care of all your off-road needs by helping you with our specialized experience with aftermarket parts, auto repairs, off-road vehicle builds, 4×4’s, diesel vehicle builds and specialized repairs.
We earn your trust and deliver the best service in the industry. Our entire team is committed to meeting any needs you may have and consider our customers’ needs are of the utmost importance. Because of this, much of our business is from repeat customers and referrals. Contact us today and let us take care of your ride as if it was our own.