We know that brakes should be replaced when worn, but how often should brakes be serviced? First, let’s review why brakes may require servicing between replacements. On average, disc brakes may last from 30,000 to 70,000 miles, while drum brakes may last up to 150,000 miles.
Most of today’s passenger cars have disc brakes on all 4 wheels, while some cars and trucks have drum brakes on rear wheels. Disc brakes are designed so that during braking, the brake disc is squeezed from both sides by the brake pads installed within the brake caliper, see the photo. This means that brake pads should be able to move within the caliper and the caliper itself should be able to slide on its bracket. Your brakes must endure a lot of heat and dust during braking and moisture when driving in the rain. All this causes rust buildup, that in some cases, may prevent brake pads from moving and releasing completely, see the photo below. If one of the brake pads sticks, brakes may start squeaking and wear faster. If one of the calipers seizes, your brake performance will be compromised and brake pads will wear faster too. Similar issues happen with the rear drum brakes: rust on the brake drums can cause squeaking and some components may seize due to corrosion or lack of lubrication. To prevent this type of problems and keep your vehicle safe, your brakes must be inspected regularly.
Typically, mechanics inspect your brakes whenever your wheels are removed, for example, when your tires are rotated or during an annual inspection. Brakes cannot be properly inspected without removing your wheels, for example, during a quick oil change in a drive-through fast lube shop. That’s why it’s recommended to have your brakes properly inspected at least once a year. A brake inspection typically involves checking the calipers or rear drum brake components, measuring the brake pad or brake shoe material thickness and inspecting brake discs and drums. If your mechanic finds that your brake pads or shoes still have enough material, but rust or brake dust buildup prevents brake components from moving freely, he or she may recommend servicing your brakes instead of replacing them. This typically involves cleaning moving components and lubricating parts that need to be lubricated, as well as removing excessive rust buildup from the brake discs or rear brake drums. Servicing may help your brakes last longer and reduce brake squeaking.
Is servicing your brakes expensive? Typically a brake service costs $80-$130 per axle if no parts are replaced. Both brakes on the same axle are always serviced at the same time. If your mechanic finds that your brake discs or drums are warped, worn unevenly or have major rust, he or she may suggest having the discs or drums turned on the brake lathe. This will cost more. If the brake pads are more than 50% worn out, it may make financial sense to have them replaced rather than serviced. Replacing the brakes usually includes brake service, which means, related brake components are also cleaned, serviced and lubricated. On average, brakes on each axle may need servicing once or twice before replacement. Brake servicing needs to be done more often if the vehicle is driven in moist or dusty conditions, if the car is parked for a long time, or if salt is used on the roads during winter months.
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