Knowing When to Take a “Brake”

Making sure your brakes are in good working order and replacing worn parts like pads and shoes, when necessary, can not only save you money in the long term. It may also save your car or possibly your life in the event of an accident. But how do you tell when it's time to change your brake pads or shoes? What are they used for? Let's take a deeper look at the how, what, and why of replacing your vehicle's brake pads and/or shoes.

What exactly are brake pads? What exactly are brake shoes?

On passenger cars, two types of brakes are used: disc brakes and drum brake shoes. There are some differences between the two.Whenever the driver applies the brakes, "pads" of friction material made of biological, metallic, or ceramic materials are pushed against a "rotor" or "disc," which is a piece of metal or plastic. The vehicle slows down because of the friction. In most cars today, the front axles have disc brakes, as well as many rear axles.

Drum brakes, like disc brake pads, employ friction material, but it is fastened to half-moon shaped "shoes" that press against the interior of a drum when your foot on the brakes. The vehicle is slowed because of their friction with the drum. Drum brakes were once prevalent on all four-wheel locations, but they are now only found on the rear axle of modern vehicles and light trucks.

Pads and shoes both wear down over time, so it's important to get them checked out on a regular basis to keep an eye on their condition. When parts of the brake system, like drums and discs, wear out, it could be dangerous for them to be changed before other parts of the brake system do. It can be very dangerous to drive with worn brake pads or shoes. It can also cost a lot of money to get them fixed.

What happens when brake pads or shoes fail?

People who drive cars have to keep their brake pads and shoes clean. In the long run, the friction substance will become less thick and less sticky. A worn-out pad or shoe will show up if you don't change the friction material. When these steel pieces hit the discs or drums, it takes a while to stop. They also hurt the discs and drums. People can tell if they need to change their brake pads or shoes by hearing them squeal or scream. If the brake pads of a car show signs of wear, a driver may hear screams, screeches, or whining noises when the brake pads are used. This sound is made by a small metal piece on the back of the brake pad that is made for this purpose. Putting your finger on a chalkboard works the same way. When you hear it a lot when you brake, it's time to take your car to a brake expert for a check-up. Bear in mind not all brake pads can do this, so don't just look at the sound of your brakes to see if they're in good shape.