Braking Tips: How to Make Your Brakes Last Longer

You Need to Slow Down

Remember when you took driver’s ed. and the teacher kept saying over and over how dangerous speeding was? Well, it’s especially dangerous for your brakes. Stopping from high speeds is the #1 enemy of brakes and will wear them out faster than anything. We’re not going to go into all the math but as an example, your brakes dissipate about 33% more energy when you stop from 65 mph than 55  mph. All the energy and heat produced from stopping at high speeds are what kill brakes before their time.

Think “Roller Coaster”

You know how roller coasters use the energy from the beginning to speed through lots of twists and turns? The same principle applies to your car. When you coast, you slow down without braking, preserving your brakes for the next time. You know you can’t blow through the light at the end of the freeway off ramp so coasting down to 45 mph from 65 mph before stopping isn’t going to waste your time. What it will do is significantly decrease the wear and tear on your brakes.

Plan Ahead

In life a person who plans carefully usually winds up with a good outcome. The same is true when you drive. If you look down the road, you’ll be able to see traffic backing up or upcoming stoplights. If you think ahead, you can time the lights and/or adjust to the traffic by coasting effectively, not braking.

Know your Route

Want to use less gas and save your brakes? If you’ve got a standard freeway route, you know the places where other drivers inappropriately slow down like slight turns in the road where people who are unfamiliar with the terrain expect a something more drastic. What often happens is that you need to slow down to their speed. However, if you plan ahead, you can change lanes and coast past them without slowing down, which saves gas and your brakes. Keep a decent distance between your car and the one in front of you on surface streets and you can keep on coasting all the way to the bank.

Don’t be a Cheapskate

Waiting too long to fix your brakes is horribly unsafe and foolish. And if you wait so long that metal touches metal, you’re not only posing a danger to yourself and others but also going to have to spend a lot more money in the long run to repair all the damage you’re doing to your car. The next time you have your tires rotated, inspect the brake pads  (or have your mechanic do it) to make sure they’re within spec. And remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Flushing and Bleeding are Good Things

An inexpensive, easy task for a DIYer is changing brake fluid, also called brake bleeding or flushing. Like anything that requires maintenance, the brake fluid should be changed every few years. Why? The internal components will last longer and the brakes will work better when you flush the brake fluid. Not changing it causes damage inside the system as the water that gets into the fluid boils and decreases braking effectiveness. You’ll also run the risk of having internal corrosion, which can wreck critical rubber seals. Be safe, not sorry and change the brake fluid.

Your Mother was Right—Buy Quality

If you buy cheap brake pads, don’t whine or be surprised when they wear out quicker than you thought. Quality brake components are part of complex systems, designed for specific uses. For example, people who drive a lot in the mountains need different brake materials than those who live in flat areas. Be sure to ask your mechanic or someone at the auto parts store to recommend the right parts.

Put your Vehicle on a Diet

Hauling around heavy stuff unnecessary makes a difference, especially if you’ve tricked out your vehicle with all the latest aftermarket parts. The best thing to do though is to think about vehicle weight BEFORE you buy since the heavier the vehicle, the harder it is to stop and the more gas it uses.