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Putting On the Brakes Tips for How to Care for Your Vehicle's Brakes

Have you ever been surprised by something suddenly coming in front of your vehicle and had to slam on the brakes? You probably have, and if your brakes stopped you in time, you've probably heaved a massive sigh of relief. If not … you know the con-sequences. Either way, you understand that reliable, predictable brakes are probably the number one safety item on your vehicle.

The Car Care Council - a group dedicated to educating the motoring public about the need to maintain their vehicles - recommends that a car's entire braking system be thoroughly checked once a year or at every 12,000 miles. The inspection should include checking brake lining wear, brake fluid level, rotor thickness, condition of hoses and brake lines and brake warning lights for any signs of problems. Warning signs of brake problems you can detect yourself include brake grabbing, low pedal feel, hard pedal feel, vibration and squealing.

Ensure safe braking with quality replacement parts
"Within the brake system, most of us know that what stops the vehicle is brake pads or brake linings applying pressure against spinning brake rotors or drums," said Jack McGrail, Product Manager, Brake Systems, for Bosch, a leading supplier of brake and other components to original equipment manufacturers (OEM)/vehicle manufacturers and the aftermarket. "The pads in today's vehicles do most of the braking, and what they are made of and how they are constructed are very important - not all brake pads are created equal."

"Materials, formulas, design and craftsmanship can differ dramatically from one pad to another, and over time, greatly influence how well the vehicle stops. Premium brake pads, such as those available from Bosch, are manufactured from vehicle-specific, specially-formulated friction materials that deliver exceptional stopping power over a long service life," McGrail said.

Depending on the make and model of their vehicles, motorists can select between ceramic or premium technology brake pads. Ceramic pads, which feature tiny flecks of ceramic embedded in the friction material, offer a luxury feel and superior power and are generally preferred by vehicle owners who are looking for the ultimate in smooth, quiet, powerful braking. Bosch premium technology brake pads, on the other hand, are designed for high-hard-working vehicles such as trucks, mini-vans and sports cars and are best suited for aggressive driving styles and towing applications.

And to minimize annoying brake noise, Bosch pads place an exclusive platinum -enhanced underlayer between the friction material and the pad's steel backing plate.

"Brake pads and rotors are not commodity items," McGrail said, "Well-engineered, premium technology brake pads and rotors promise safe braking every time you hit the pedal for tens of thousands of miles." The brakes are your vehicle's most important safety feature. A complete and thorough check should cover every aspect of the system from the master cylinder to the calipers and wheel cylinders. Simply replacing the brake pads and nothing else will only invite trouble down the road.

For instance, disc brake pads require a perfectly clean, smooth and fine flat surface on the rotors to function at their best, and all rotors, like pads, are not equal either. If it is necessary to replace the rotors to ensure the proper surface, always replace them in pairs and make sure they are top quality and designed for the vehicle they are being installed on. Premium brake rotors such as those from Bosch, utilize original equipment type metallurgy to prevent pedal vibration, rotor warping and brake noise. Precision machining and vehicle specific cooling vanes maximize cooling, minimize vibration and provide a long service life.

Warning signs of brake wear
Recognizing the early warning signs of impending brake failure is critical. For example, "any out of the ordinary sound coming from the brakes can be one of the leading indicators that there is a problem," McGrail said. "Look out especially for a grinding noise." Other signs include an increase or decrease in brake dust or small metal flakes on the wheels, the car pulling to the left or right or the front end of the vehicle shaking when applying the brakes, or, the brakes feel 'soft.'

In 1978, Bosch introduced the world's first antilock brake system, and today Bosch supplies braking systems to car manufacturers around the world, including the Daimler-Chrysler, Ford and General Motors in the United States. The company has been committed to innovation and continuing technological research for the past 100 years and has set the standard for braking safety, durability and performance.

(Source: The Car Care Council)