Brakes

It's Brake Time (Brake Calipers)

Race car drivers have demonstrated the advantages of disc brakes, so most modern vehicles use them.  Sometimes just the front wheels have disc brakes, but many vehicles now have them all the way around. 

A major component of the disc brake is called a caliper.  It works by squeezing brake pads against the disc or rotor, kind of like a bicycle hand brake.  The brake pads themselves are what contact the rotor, causing friction to build and the wheel to slow down, but it's the calipers that apply the pressure to the pads.

Caliper design has evolved over the years, and there are two common types.  One is called a floating caliper.  It has one or two pistons on one side of the disc. When you push down the brake pedal, the piston or pistons in your caliper put pressure on that one side.  A mechanism connected on the other side of the disc applies pressure as well, squeezing your disc so the vehicle stops.  Floating calipers are less expensive since they have fewer parts.

The other type is called a fixed caliper.  They use pistons on both sides of the disc, sometimes several.  They are often used in more high-performance or heavy-duty vehicles.

Calipers can have rubber seals to keep out dirt, debris and moisture, but when that rubber wears out, sometimes the calipers can get contaminated.  They can stick or start leaking; they can even rust.  Then your caliper can get stuck applying that "squeeze" when you are not pressing on the brake pedal.  Or they can get stuck in the other position, not applying stopping power when you press the pedal.

When this happens, it's not unusual to feel your vehicle pull to one side when you brake.  You might notice a burning smell from the constant friction if the caliper is stuck on, plus you may feel the heat from the wheel after you park and get out of your vehicle.  Sometimes you'll hear a high-pitched sound or clunk if your calipers are binding up. 

That's your cue to have them checked out at your vehicle service center.  If your calipers aren't working correctly, it can be a safety hazard.  Sticking calipers can affect your ability to steer and stop; this is the kind of "brake time" you need so you can get them back on track and working properly.

PDR
1008 N. Cunningham Avenue
Urbana, Illinois 61802
217-367-9481
http://www.pdrauto.com

Bad Vibes (Disc brake rotor problems)

If you were to name the most important safety feature on your vehicle right now, what would your answer be? A lot of driving experts would agree that it’s your brakes.  Most newer vehicles use a well-engineered and efficient style of brakes called disc brakes. 

The name disc brakes comes from one of the components: a disc attached to the wheel hub that is squeezed by parts called calipers.  If you’ve ever ridden a bicycle with hand brakes, you probably have seen how they squeeze against the rim of the bike wheel to stop the bike. It’s similar to the way your vehicle’s calipers squeeze against the disc rotor, with added parts called brake pads attached to the calipers that are what create the friction and stop your vehicle.

Here’s why disc brakes need regular maintenance.  Over time, that friction creates wear and tear on the brake pads and the rotors, and you’ll start to see the signs.  Your brakes may have one of the 3 “S” sounds: squeaking, squealing, or scraping. The sound is usually the first sign of brake pad wear which can lead to rotor damage.  Soon you may notice a pulsating or vibration when you brake. That’s because your once smooth and straight rotor disc is warping from the heat generated from friction. Or it may be due to wear.  Eventually, your brakes will take a longer distance to stop your vehicle, and the rotors can have grooves carved into them.

When you start noticing any of these signs, it’s a good idea to have them inspected by a trained technician.  They will measure the rotor thickness, check wear patterns for grooves and heat discoloration, and see how much of the brake pads remain. They will also check to make sure all brake components are moving freely, check your brake fluid, and look for corrosion.

Most vehicle manufacturers require worn or damaged rotors to be replaced, not resurfaced. It’s all part of a complete brake job, replacing pads and the brake hardware parts along with the rotors. It reduces the chance of premature failure.

How often you will need your brakes serviced depends on the manufacturer’s recommendations, your driving habits, and the environment you live in.  Your service facility can recommend the best replacement parts based on those factors. 

Regular maintenance and attention are vital for keeping your brakes performing like they are designed to. Remember, your brakes are your vehicle’s most important safety feature.

PDR
1008 N. Cunningham Avenue
Urbana, Illinois 61802
217-367-9481
http://www.pdrauto.com

Slipping into Fall (Driving with ABS Brakes)

As the weather changes over from hot to colder, drivers will have to deal with more slippery streets.  And it's important to know how to drive with the brakes you have on your vehicle. 

In the 1970s, anti-lock braking systems (ABS) started to be installed on vehicles and they've been a game changer for drivers.  Most modern vehicles have ABS and it's important to know how to drive with them.

In older vehicles without ABS, the driver applies the brakes by pushing down the pedal.  That, in turn, sends braking pressure to all four wheels at once.  But all four tires don't have the same traction because the road surface they're each on isn't exactly the same.

ABS allows sensors to determine when particular wheels are slowing down more quickly.  The ABS then reduces braking pressure to the wheels that are about to lock up.  That way the wheel turns and the tires keep some grip. (You have to have grip to stop.) It's kind of what drivers try to achieve when they pump the older-style brakes without ABS.

Another engineered feature of ABS is that it makes sure your front wheels will continue to rotate and maintain some traction.  That's important because the front wheels are used to steer, and being able to steer gives a driver more control in a quickly-changing situation.  So ABS is all about stopping as fast as the road surface will allow but at the same time enabling the driver to maintain control. 

ABS is designed for the driver to put steady pressure on the brake pedal and let the vehicle’s computerized system handle the braking.  Pumping the pedal in a vehicle with ABS can defeat what the system is trying to do to help you maintain control.

Because stopping techniques in a vehicle with ABS are different than those without, it’s important to know which brakes you have so you can operate them accordingly. 

If you have any doubt, consult your service advisor.  ABS involves sophisticated technology and must be maintained in order for it to work properly.  Your service advisor can recommend a maintenance schedule for you to follow so your ABS is always on the ready to help you stop when you need to.

PDR
1008 N. Cunningham Avenue
Urbana, Illinois 61802
217-367-9481
http://www.pdrauto.com

The Need for Speed (Wheel Speed Sensor Maintenance)

Today's vehicles have some pretty amazing technology in them, including a computerized braking system we all pretty much take for granted these days.  Antilock brake systems (ABS) have been around for years but they help drivers stop in much shorter distances reliably than ever before.  When you see your ABS warning light come on, it's important to find out what's causing the problem. It's a safety issue.

Often the problem when the ABS light comes on is a faulty wheel speed sensor.  (In some cases the traction control light will also come on, perhaps because of a non-working wheel speed sensor.) Your vehicle uses the speed sensors to measure the rotational speed at each wheel. That sensor sends the speed data to a computer that can then adjust braking power and prevent your wheels from locking up. 

If any of the wheel speed sensors isn't working right, the ABS warning light will go on and the vehicle's computer will turn off the antilock brake system.  You'll still have working brakes, but you will lose the functionality of that computerized system.

When your vehicle warns you the ABS has a non-working sensor, you can have a technician check to see what's going on. It could be one of the sensors is dirty and a cleaning will solve the problem.  But it also could be that one or more sensors needs to be replaced. 

A technician will use computerized diagnostic equipment to determine what and where the problem is, replace any bad parts and then check to make sure the system is fully operational. 

Antilock brakes and traction control are significant technologies that help prevent your vehicle from slipping on less-than-perfect road surfaces, especially useful during wintery weather.  Make sure they're helping you drive the way they designed to.

PDR
1008 N. Cunningham Avenue
Urbana, Illinois 61802
217-367-9481
http://www.pdrauto.com

Time for a Brake (Brake Pad Replacement)

Stop! It's one of those things your vehicle has to do consistently and reliably.  That's why brake maintenance is vitally important, worthwhile for you to make sure stays up to date.

A brake system has many components. If your vehicle has disc brakes, they have pads that make contact with the rotors (the metal discs).  Those pads usually have a metal back, and the part that presses against the discs is made of a material which provides friction to stop the vehicle. Because of that friction, the pads are expected to wear down and eventually the rotors will, too.  But the pads usually are the part that will need to be replaced more often. But how do you know when it's time?

There are several signs, one of which is when your brakes squeak or make a high-pitched sound when you step on the brake pedal.  Many newer vehicles also have sensors on the brake pads.  When the pads get worn down to a certain point, the sensor will tell the vehicle's computer to turn on a light on the instrument panel.  When that light comes on, it's time to have your service facility check out what's going on.  If you don't know what that light looks like, ask your service advisor or look it up in the owner's manual.

Some vehicles also give you a reminder based on the distance you've traveled. It may be a message that displays on the dash or a light that illuminates. 

Your best bet is to have your vehicle regularly serviced at one shop you trust.  They will keep a record of your brake maintenance Then, when you take your vehicle in for oil changes or other routine things, they'll check your brakes for wear.  Sometimes you'll only need pads, but you may also need rotors or other parts replaced.  Oh, and you need pads replaced in pairs. That way stopping power will be equal on both sides and your vehicle won't pull in one direction. 

Brakes make up a key part of your vehicle's safety systems.  Keep them in good shape and they'll be able to stop your vehicle when you press down that pedal.

PDR
1008 N. Cunningham Avenue
Urbana, Illinois 61802
217-367-9481
http://www.pdrauto.com

For Brakes' Sake (Brake Rotor Service in Urbana)

Think of how much abuse your brakes take. Day in and day out, they stop your vehicle when it's going fast and when it's going slow. Maybe your vehicle has been vibrating when you brake, or maybe it seems like your stopping distance is a little bit longer than it used to be.

Then it's time to get your brakes checked out. After all, you have to be able to stop if you want to be safe. Nearly all newer vehicles have disc brakes on the front, and many have that type of brake on all four wheels. That makes it likely you'll be getting disc brakes fixed at some time in your vehicle's lifetime.

Knowing how disc brakes work is as easy as riding a bicycle. If your bike had hand brakes, you'll probably remember a mechanism that squeezed a couple of pads on each side of your bicycle wheel when you applied the brakes. Disc brakes are similar; but instead of the bike wheel, there's a metal disc instead. If that disc is warped or has irregularities in it, it's going to vibrate.

It used to be that rotors were thick, and when they warped, a technician could "turn" them to scrape off a layer of metal so their sides were straight again. The latest vehicles are using thinner, lighter rotors with a slightly different construction. Now, it's likely that rotors that are resurfaced this way will not have enough metal left to work safely. In fact, some manufacturers advise only replacing rotors that are worn out.

Newer designs have reduced rotor prices, and in many cases, the labor cost of turning the rotors is higher than buying new. There are times, though, where your rotors can be resurfaced and still meet manufacturer specifications.

If you have a rotor replaced on one side of your vehicle, it might be a good idea to replace rotors on the other side, too.

Maybe you're looking for the new rotors to last longer than the ones that were on there. New technologies can offer a longer lifespan in a premium rotor. Armed with knowing the type of driving you do, you and your PDR service advisor can make the best decision on which direction you want to go with your new brakes.

PDR
1008 N. Cunningham Avenue
Urbana, Illinois 61802
217-367-9481
http://www.pdrauto.com

For Brakes' Sake (Brake Rotor Service in Urbana)

Think of how much abuse your brakes take. Day in and day out, they stop your vehicle when it's going fast and when it's going slow. Maybe your vehicle has been vibrating when you brake, or maybe it seems like your stopping distance is a little bit longer than it used to be.

Then it's time to get your brakes checked out. After all, you have to be able to stop if you want to be safe. Nearly all newer vehicles have disc brakes on the front, and many have that type of brake on all four wheels. That makes it likely you'll be getting disc brakes fixed at some time in your vehicle's lifetime.

Knowing how disc brakes work is as easy as riding a bicycle. If your bike had hand brakes, you'll probably remember a mechanism that squeezed a couple of pads on each side of your bicycle wheel when you applied the brakes. Disc brakes are similar; but instead of the bike wheel, there's a metal disc instead. If that disc is warped or has irregularities in it, it's going to vibrate.

It used to be that rotors were thick, and when they warped, a technician could "turn" them to scrape off a layer of metal so their sides were straight again. The latest vehicles are using thinner, lighter rotors with a slightly different construction. Now, it's likely that rotors that are resurfaced this way will not have enough metal left to work safely. In fact, some manufacturers advise only replacing rotors that are worn out.

Newer designs have reduced rotor prices, and in many cases, the labor cost of turning the rotors is higher than buying new. There are times, though, where your rotors can be resurfaced and still meet manufacturer specifications.

If you have a rotor replaced on one side of your vehicle, it might be a good idea to replace rotors on the other side, too.

Maybe you're looking for the new rotors to last longer than the ones that were on there. New technologies can offer a longer lifespan in a premium rotor. Armed with knowing the type of driving you do, you and your PDR service advisor can make the best decision on which direction you want to go with your new brakes.

PDR
1008 N. Cunningham Avenue
Urbana, Illinois 61802
217-367-9481
http://www.pdrauto.com

Give me a Brake (Light)!

If that little brake warning light pops up on your dash, do you know what it means? Well, if you said no, you wouldn't be alone. You know it has something to do with your brakes, but exactly what? You're not sure. One of the reasons is that it could mean a lot of different things.

It could be something simple, like you put your parking brake on and forgot to take it off. Easy fix, you're on the road in seconds.

Or, it could mean there's something wrong with your anti-lock brake system. That is a pretty complex symphony of speed sensors, computers and wiring, and sometimes things get a little out of whack. You could have a defective sensor or some wiring may have gotten damaged or come loose. A trained technician at PDR with special equipment can sort it all out.

It's also possible you have low brake fluid. That could be caused by a number of things. One simple reason is that your brake pads have worn down. Replacing them could solve the problem. Another possibility is that you have a leak in your brake system. That could be serious. If your brake fluid level gets really low, your stopping power goes down along with it, and a vehicle that can't stop is a safety hazard to you and others on the road.

Of all the warning lights on your instrument panel, pay attention to the brake warning light. If it comes on, come on over to PDR very, very soon. A vehicle is great when it's moving. But if it can't stop, well, that is a disaster waiting to happen.

We’d love to hear from you. Let us know if you have any questions.

PDR
1008 N. Cunningham Avenue
Urbana, Illinois 61802
217-367-9481
http://www.pdrauto.com

PDR Brake Service for Safe Stopping in Urbana

Let's talk about something critical for all Urbana drivers: your brakes. Your vehicle is heavy, and it takes a lot of muscle to bring it and your passengers to a safe stop – so everything needs to be in good working order.

Here's an explanation on how your disc brakes work:

The wheel hub keeps your wheel attached to your vehicle. The brake disc – or rotor – is attached to the hub and rotates with the wheel as you drive around Urbana. Your brake pads clamp onto the rotor to slow the wheel.

The brake caliper straddles the rotor and squeezes the rotor to slow it down. The calipers contain brake pads which press on the rotor when you put your foot on the brake. The brake piston causes the calipers to squeeze and release as you use your vehicle brakes.

Your brake pads start to wear the first time you step on the brakes. Eventually the pads wear out and need to be replaced. If you don't replace the pads when they're worn out, the metal parts of the brake will grind against the rotor and carve grooves into the surface. We've all heard grinding brakes and it's not a pretty sound.

If a rotor isn't scored significantly, your friendly and knowledgeable PDR technician can put it on a lathe and smooth it out. If the grooves are too deep or if the rotor is warped or cracked, you need to replace it.

Sometimes brake pistons can stick and must be replaced. Typically it's cheaper to replace the entire caliper at PDR in Urbana than to rebuild the piston.

So there you have it – an important lesson on how your disc brakes work. If you replace brake pads on time, it will not only keep your vehicle stopping safely but could save you cash on unnecessary repairs down the road.

PDR
1008 N. Cunningham Avenue
Urbana, Illinois 61802
217-367-9481
http://www.pdrauto.com

Automotive Tips from PDR: Brake Noise

Your brake pads are the important parts that rub against the rotor (or disc) to slow and stop your car when driving in Urbana. They eventually wear down.

When your pads are worn too much, they won’t stop your vehicle as well. When the friction material is worn away, metal parts of the pad are exposed and you’ll hear a squeal or grinding sound.

That’s when Urbana drivers should replace their brake pads at PDR. Not only will new pads restore your stopping power, but replacing them on time will prevent damage to the rotor.

If your brakes are making noise, ask your PDR service advisor to inspect your brakes. Addressing problems early will restore your safety and prevent expensive brake damage.

PDR
1008 N. Cunningham Avenue
Urbana, Illinois 61802
217-367-9481
http://www.pdrauto.com