Of all the safety systems on your car, the brake system works the hardest. Every time you slow in traffic, stop for a light, or inch your way through a jam, they quietly ensure that you can actually stop. For this reason alone, the policy of always using new parts for all your brake repairs is best. But it is also important to think about those bolts, clips, and lines that tend to be forgotten when swapping out pads and rotors.
COMMON BRAKE PARTS THAT REQUIRE REPLACING If you have ever owned or leased a car for longer than two years, you might have had the brake pads replaced. The pads are designed to wear down with use. Their “softer” surface provides the friction required to slow your vehicle without overheating the entire brake system. While your rotors are more robust in design, they do require replacement after 50,000 to 75,000 miles due to the repeated heated and cooling cycles associated with your brake system. While the brake calipers will last longer, they have bushings that become brittle with age. Finally, your brake lines can corrode, get bent, or simply break free after too many impacts.
THE SMALL HARDWARE INCLUDED IN THE BOX WITH PADS OR ROTORS Most brake pads are sold with mounting clips or shims that help to reduce noise and limit vibration. While the old clips may still look like they are in good condition, it is still wise to change them out at the same time. A broken clip can cause the pad to move, creating an uneven braking surface. That can negatively impact your stopping distance and cause premature wear and tear on all the parts in the braking system.
The rotors may arrive with an anti-corrosion formula sprayed on the surface. It is intended to be removed before mounting. It will wear off on its own, but it can hinder the pads from doing their proper job. There are typically no other parts included in the rotor part box.
INSPECTING SHIMS, BOOTS, AND BOLTS FOR WEAR AND TEAR While you have the wheel disassembled to change out your pads, it is smart to inspect the entire assembly for any other parts that should also be replaced. Pull back the boot on the caliper and inspect the mounting bolts, especially on older rides. The bolts can corrode and actually prevent the boot from compressing. Are the lugs all in good shape? A rusty lug can prevent the nuts from properly seating, leading to a vibration in the wheel. Look at the ball joints and the control arms, especially the connection points.
GRINDING THE ROTORS: WHEN IT IS A GOOD IDEA But your buddy always says how he has his rotors resurfaced. Should you really just replace them? It all depends. If your rotors are only one or two years old, a quick visit to the machine shop can get you another year or so out of them. If you are doing your friend a favor and they have no idea when the last time the car was serviced, it is better to replace them. The vibrating rotors may be an indication that they have been on the road far beyond their suggested lifespan.
DAD ALWAYS SAVED THE USED PADS Is your old garage filled up with boxes of old brake pads? If you are a true DIY mechanic, the idea behind this behavior is that if your brake pad shatters, you can use one of the old pads to get you to the auto parts store. That is fine, as long as you aren’t waiting a week to do the chore. The old pad was removed because it had worn down to its indicators and was making that annoying grinding noise. It isn’t safe to use on a car for any kind of extended period.
BRAKE LINES AND THEIR CLIPS: ONE TIME USE PARTS Brake lines are actually one of the most durable parts on your truck or SUV. Built out of stainless steel or other corrosion-resistant compounds, they rarely simply fail. That being said, the sudden loss of brake fluid can lead to a serious accident. Never save old brake lines. Also, the mounting clips used with your brake lines are always exposed to the elements. If the lines are being replaced, spend the two dollars on new clips and guarantee a safer and more durable installation.
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