|Brake repairs – critical? Of course! Your brakes keep your family safe. Brake repairs and parts for imports – expensive? You bet! Brake rotors for import cars, unlike domestics, are built with minimal thicknesses to save weight – meaning they can’t be “turned”; they must be replaced.
Brake rotors for imports are also more sensitive to warping from heat, and overheated brakes are the second most common cause of failure (first is wear-and-tear).
Save money on brake repairs and parts with these tips:
Use Your Eyes & Ears to Inspect Your Brakes
Visually inspect your brakes’ condition at least every six months. Here are some things to look for:
Brake Rotors (discs) should be inspected all the way around the surface and on both sides for any concentric scoring (grooves) or obvious defects. If defects are found, replace your rotors immediately. Any rotor discoloration may be a sign of overheating and an inspection by a brake repair professional is needed.
Brake Pads will normally match rotor scoring but should also be inspected for uneven wear, breakage or cracking on the friction surface. Again, if defects are found, replace the pads immediately. Many cars also have brake pad sensors to warn of pad wear. If your car uses sensors, replace these at the same time as your pads.
Brake Drums (if equipped) should also be inspected on a regular basis. Check for the same types of flaws as noted above. The drums should not have excessive grooves or have a deep “trough” dug into them where the shoes ride.
Brake Shoes (if equipped) should be worn evenly and have no rivets protruding to the friction surface.
Additional Troubleshooting: When inspecting brakes, check calipers, wheel cylinders, hoses and fittings for any hydraulic fluid leakage.
Inspect the master cylinder, reservoir and proportioning valve assemblies as well. Replace or rebuild as required.
A “spongy” brake pedal or one that’s gotten lower underfoot also needs looking into. It could be caused by sticking calipers, worn pads, low fluid or hydraulic system problems.
If you can’t “pump them up”, then you definitely have hydraulic problems that need work. If you always have to pump them up, at the very least your hydraulic fluid needs replacement.
To check brakes by sound, know how your brakes should sound and listen for out-of-the-ordinary noises.
Most cars have a slight brushing sound from the pads lightly touching the rotors. This is perfectly normal. Sounds to beware of include:
Squeaking may be caused by dust or dirt on the brakes, loose pads vibrating when applied or worn pads.
Rhythmic noise might mean you have a warped rotor. Instead of a solid squeaking noise, it pulsates. In extreme cases, the brake pedal will also pulsate underfoot.
Constant brake noise is never a good sound and any grinding noise spells real trouble!
Most importantly: As soon as any problem is noticed, get it repaired immediately. Delaying brake repairs is extremely dangerous.
Overstressed rotors and drums can break. Brakes may be too worn or damaged to stop your car in an emergency.
Even if you manage to avoid physical harm, the longer you delay fixing brake problems, the more you increase the cost of doing so.
Badly worn, warped or overheated rotors can damage wheel bearings and the complete wheel hub assembly. These parts often cost as much or more than the brakes themselves.
Even if you like doing your own work, every few years your brakes should be examined by a professional. Checking brakes for “run-out”, warping, wheel bearing play, proper proportioning balance, among others, are normally more involved than can be accomplished in your garage. This inspection can also uncover underlying problems that could eventually become costly or dangerous.
Important Things to Remember
Heed these tips and you’re on your way to ensuring your brakes won’t fail:
Tip #1: Keep the hydraulic reservoir at the proper level with the fluid type recommended by the car manufacturer. Never substitute or mix types of fluid. Remember also that hydraulic fluid absorbs water. Never use old hydraulic fluid – always use a fresh container.
Tip #2: Keep brakes clean by washing them off at the same time as your car. This keeps squeaky dust and dirt off the pads and makes brakes easier to inspect and work on.
Tip #3: Never spray, touch or drip any oil or lubricants on the brake friction surfaces. If this occurs, spray immediately with brake cleaner to remove completely.
Tip #4: There are no shortcuts or quick fixes to brake problems. They either function properly or they don’t. Know your brake system – how it should work, feel and sound – before it acts up so you’ll know when something’s wrong.
Tip #5: Most imports don’t have serviceable rotors. They must be replaced at the same time as the pads. The rotors cannot be “turned” to remove imperfections. There isn’t sufficient metal thickness to safely accomplish this.
Tip #6: Keep a repair log with receipts when any service is performed on your car. It helps when you need to check if your warranty is still in effect. More importantly, it’s a great gauge of performance and an indicator of other problems.
Tip #7: Whenever the pads are replaced, the hydraulic system must be bled to remove any air bubbles. Most specialists recommend changing the fluid with every pad replacement. If you’re unsure of the proper technique for bleeding the hydraulic system, don’t perform the job yourself. Seek help from a professional. ABS equipped cars should be bled only by professionals.
Tip #8: Most noises are usually related to your pads. However, whenever replacing pads, you should also replace the sensors and seriously consider replacing the rotors at the same time.
Tip #9: After installing new pads, remember to “set” them properly. This conditions them for maximum performance and prevents premature failure. Instructions for setting pads is usually provided in the package with your new pads.
Brake Parts Shopping List
When shopping for parts, remember two important things:
1. OEM/OES (original equipment manufactured/supplied) or equivalent pads and rotors are not always cheap. You do, however, get what you pay for. OE parts will give you the most trouble-free driving and peace of mind. And . . . isn’t that what’s most important?
2. Before requesting any brake parts for your import car, make sure you have the year, exact model designation, engine size and type, brake configuration, type of rotors (solid or vented), vehicle ID number (VIN) and production date. For Volvos, you’ll also need rotor diameter, caliper manufacturer and mount and shape of the pads.
Here is a list of parts you should consider when working on brake systems:
– Front Brake Rotors (Brake Discs) –
It’s a beautiful night and you and your sweetie are driving down a pretty country road. The bliss of the night is interrupted by a high-pitched scream. The scream wasn’t Sweetie; it was you because the car just lost all power to the headlights.
Since the car is running fine the only conclusion to make is there is a blown fuse. Luckily a few tips and tricks of the trade, not to mention knowing where to look, will fix the problem in a jiffy.
The first thing to do is be prepared. The Boy Scouts are on to something with that one. Being prepared means having the correct fuses for your vehicle on hand, not in the garage at home. They won’t help you there. Ten dollars or less spent at the auto store will provide your car with a spare set of fuses for any emergency.
Newer model cars and trucks rely heavily on their electrical systems. Ask anyone who has worked on them. Some of these models have up to three different fuse boxes.
An easy way to determine which box to check and which fuse to change is using the owner’s manual. There should be a chart detailing those specifics included. If the chart is missing, the fastest way to find the faulty fuse is to test it with a test light or voltmeter.
Now, if the Boy Scouts’ rule has been forgotten, the option left for you is to check them by sight individually. To test if the fuse is blown, connect the ground wire of your test light or voltmeter to a chassis point, one with exposed metal is a good choice. Then touch the tool’s probe to the fuse’s conductor.
A working fuse will show voltage power on both sides. Obviously the faulty culprit fuse will be missing its charge on one side. Fortunately changing the fuse involves removing the bad one and plugging in a new fuse.
Pay attention here. Make sure the fuse you are using to replace the bad one is the correct amp. If you use a fuse with too high amperage it is possible to start an electrical fire in your vehicle and do more damage than a simple blown fuse is worth.
Fuses typically come in three sizes, mini, normal, and maxi. The fuses that are mini and normal are color-coded. The wrench thrown in is that the maxi sized fuses are color-coded differently.
This being the case it is imperative to check that the amperage on the fuse is correct for location. Don’t even trust a trained mechanic, they make mistakes too. Just because that was the last fuse put in doesn’t mean it was the right amperage.
Knowing how to change your car fuses and being prepared for the possibility is the perfect way to ensure that there won’t be any late night blackouts. Sweetie will thank you for it.
You’re not sure if you hit a nail or ran through glass. What you do know it that your tire is definitely flat. It could be repaired at the mechanic’s shop or you could save yourself the trip and expense and do it yourself. The process can be a little time consuming, but once you know how to repair a flat you will never again be at the mercy of closed shops or stuck in the middle of nowhere. Taking the time to learn this essential maintenance process now will save a lot of time and hassle later.
The first thing you need to do is determine where the puncture is located. A quick way to do this is to submerge the tire in water and watch where air bubbles form. Obviously this area or areas are the place you need to concentrate on. Before the patch job can begin it is important to remove any foreign object that is stuck there. Pliers are a good tool for this step. Simply use the pliers to pull the object out in the same direction as the tire’s tread. Being sure to go with the tread helps ensure that minimal additional damage is done to the tire.
Now is the time to prepare to patch the tire hole. Using a tire reamer clean the hole out from the inside of the tire. This will remove any dirt or oil that may later cause adhesion issues with the cement and patch. Place the patch centered over the puncture to be sure sizing is correct. Remove the patch and coat an awl with cement. Be sure to run the awl through the hole several times to be sure the cement is coating the damaged area adequately. Place a coat of vulcanizing cement on the patch and buffed area of the tire and allow to dry thoroughly.
To finish up the tire repair job and to help make sure your tire problems are a thing of the past, take the time to complete a few preventative measures. One useful precaution is to take a look at your valve stems. If they look worn, old, or damaged it is a good idea to change them. Be sure they are the right length and diameter for your car’s tires.
Valve stems are important because not only do they function to retain valve core air retention, but they also keep moisture and dirt from getting inside the tire. Once you are assured that the valve stems are in good condition reinflate the tire. Using soapy water sprayed on the tire is useful to see if there are any leaks in the new patch, around valve stems, or the beads.