Although it’s hard to get great numbers, from what we’ve read online, the percentage of accidents cause by VEHICLE MALFUNCTION is between 12-13%. Of those, most are simply due to a car being ‘out’ of maintenance. I’ve talked about them before, but brakes are HUGE. Just like we don’t thank the electric company every time flipping the light switch makes the lights come on, we simply don’t think about what is making our car stop when we need it… and we need that dozens and dozens (maybe you brake hundreds and hundreds of times?) a day! Please don’t underestimate the importance of brake inspections. They could, quite literally, save your life.
Simply put, brakes are a combination of a rotor (that turns with your wheel) and the caliper that squeezes the brake pad against the rotor when you press the brake pedal. If you remember what brakes on a 10 speed bike look like, the concept is similar, and the pads and calipers are very similar. On a car, however, the rotor is in place of the bike wheel metal, and the pad, instead of being rubber, is a ceramic/metallic mix that feels sandy to the touch. An industrial grade sandpaper chunk. But still, something is minimizing rotation through pressure. Got it?
Here are photos of one of the extraordinary brake issues we’ve seen in the shop this week:
Imagine the rotor goes round and round, at up to 70 mph. You press the brakes and the pads push against the rotor to slow the revolution of the tires (which then slows you down). In a car, the rotor is a thick metal sandwich, with ‘fins’ sandwiched between two thick pieces of metal. The fins help dissipate heat when you brake. This is what a rotor looks like when it’s okay (it’s not perfect, it has pits and things that render it no good, but the thickness isn’t the issue). The top “piece of bread” (the part reflecting light in this photo) is shiny where the pad (which is like sandpaper), presses on this rotor over and over again. It sands down that top piece of bread every time you brake. The reason we check these periodically is because you won’t likely know when your top piece of bread is getting thin.
When we saw THIS one come in….. well, sometimes you have to wonder how many ‘lives’ these lucky folks have burned through. This rotor’s top “piece of bread” in their rotor sandwich is quite literally, gone. We are looking at the fins. And even the fins are worn down! I can only imagine the grinding, even growling, they must have heard every time those pads hit the fins. The fact that this person didn’t get in an accident where he/she couldn’t stop their vehicle is pretty miraculous.