Vehicle brakes should be changed when worn out, but how often do brakes require servicing? Some trucks and vehicles have rear drum brakes, but most vehicles on the road today have disc brakes on all four wheels. How disc brakes functions: the brake pads are mounted on both sides of the brake disc (also known as rotor). When a driver depresses the brake pedal, the hydraulic pressure pushes the piston (or pistons) out of the brake caliper. As a result, the two brake pads squeeze the brake disc in between them.
To operate properly, the brake pads need to be able to slide inside the brake caliper towards and away from the disc. In a brake system with a floating caliper seen in most vehicles, the caliper itself equally must be able to move on its bracket (anchor plate). In this design, the caliper goes on two slide pins.
The brake endures a lot of heat and dust during braking, as well as moisture when driving in the rain. As a result, the rust buildup may make the brake pads to stick within the bracket or the brake caliper slide pins to seize up. This issue is very common in the Rust Belt.
Similar problems happen with the rear drum brakes: rust on the brake drums can produce squeaking, and some parts, especially the parking brake components may seize up because of corrosion or lack of lubrication. Of course, the drum brakes are fully covered by the drum, and they often can last longer without servicing.
When brake pads stick, or the caliper seizes up, the brakes might not function properly or not release fully. This will make the brakes to overheat and the braking performance will be sabotaged. A brake caliper might become damaged from overheating and need replacement. In many vehicles, this issue is the prime cause of premature or uneven brake pad wear and brake caliper replacement. A squeaking noise issuing from brakes is one of the possible symptoms of this issue.
In most service shops and dealerships, mechanics check your brakes whenever your wheels are removed when doing a tire rotation or other service. Brakes cannot be properly checked without removing the wheels. That’s why, to keep your vehicle safe, we advise having your brakes properly checked at least once a year, particularly in the Rust Belt. Inspect the reviews when choosing the shop, you don’t want to trust your brakes to an incompetent mechanic.
A brake inspection typically involves inspecting the calipers or rear drum brake components, measuring the brake pad or brake shoe material thickness and checking the brake discs.
If there are indications that pads or caliper slide pins are not moving freely, your mechanic may recommend servicing your brakes. Servicing brakes does not involve replacing any component.
The disc brake service is inclusive of removing the pads and calipers, cleaning and lubricating slide pins and the caliper brackets to stop sticking or seizing. The brake discs (rotors) might equally need to be cleaned out from the surface rust, particularly on the edges, to stop squeaking. Servicing brakes doesn’t require any components.
The rear drum brake service equally involves cleaning the parts, including the parking brake components and lubricating components that need to be lubricated, as well as removing excessive rust buildup from the drums.
Should you service the brakes or change them? If the brake pads are worn out close to the safe limit or the discs are in a bad shape, it might be more cost effective to replace brakes instead of servicing them. How long will the brakes stay if you service them now? Is a vehicle safe to drive if you decide not to service brakes, but rather change them later? What is the price difference? These are the questions you can ask your mechanic or service writer when weighing pros and cons of either option.
Changing the brake pads and rotors includes brake service, which implies the brake components are equally cleaned, serviced and lubricated.
What is the benefit of servicing brakes? The benefit is that the pads will wear evenly and last longer, the caliper slide pins will not seize up, the brakes are less likely to squeak and you know your vehicle is safe. Is servicing brakes included in the maintenance schedule? There are vehicles where the periodic brake service is stated in the maintenance schedule, however in most vehicles, the maintenance schedule only state regular brake inspections. How long do brakes last on a vehicle? On average, disc brakes last for 30,000-50,000 miles. Rear drum brakes may last for up to 150,000 miles.
Is servicing the brakes expensive? Ideally a brake service costs $80-$130 per axle if no components are replaced. Both brakes on the same axle are often serviced at the same time.
If your brake discs or drums get rusted, warped, or worn unevenly, your mechanic may suggest having them turned (machined) on the brake lathe. This costs more. Warped, or unevenly worn brake discs or drums make the steering vibration and brake pedal pulsation during braking.