We’ve had a lot of questions from our customers about when to replace their brake pads? When should they be inspected and when should the brake fluid be changed and why?
The brake system is obviously something you want to fix before the brakes make noise or the pedal feels funny. Regular inspection of the brake system is recommended. In general, we recommend inspecting the brake pads, rotors and brake fluid at every oil change or 5 months. This usually gives a safe cushion to detect brake wear before it becomes a major problem between regular services and the unnecessary costs of replacing the brake rotors because of “metal to metal” wear. “Metal to metal” wear is when all of the brake pad friction material wears off and the steel backing plate of the brake pad grinds into the brake rotor. (See below)
Volkswagen VW brakes Santa Monica
The picture below is a color coded industry standard scale that is used to determine brake friction material thickness before they go “metal to metal” and grind into the brake rotors. New brake pad material usually measures between 10-12mm (green). Then as the pad wears the yellow measures between 7mm-4mm and red measures 3mm-1mm its time to replace the brake pads
Driving conditions can affect brake pad material wear. The factors that cause excessive brake wear are stop and go traffic, heavy braking or panic stops, mountain roads and curvy roads. Regular brake inspections are recommended.
Your Volkswagen brake system is a hydraulic system and uses brake fluid to transmit the force from the brake pedal to the brake pads. Like engine oil, the brake fluid breaks down over time and needs to be replaced. The brake fluid is a special type fluid and there are many different types of fluids used, depending on performance and climate.
There is a boiling point to brake fluid. A large amount of heat is transmitted to the brake fluid from the friction of the brake pads and rotors. Brake fluid boils in extreme heat/heavy braking situations, which can cause the fluid to vaporize in the brake line effecting the brake system efficiency and the condition of the fluid.
Part of a brake inspection that we do is to inspect the condition of the brake fluid and measure the moisture content of the fluid with an electronic tester with every customer visit. Brake fluids are hygroscopic (water absorbing) which means they absorb moisture from the atmosphere under normal humidity levels. Moisture in the brake fluid can cause internal failure of brake components, lowers the boiling point of the brake fluid effecting the braking efficiency under curtain situations and moisture contaminates the fluid, which can cause brake pedal fade and/or a spongy brake pedal. These are extreme cases but these can happen and can effect the braking system if regular “brake fluid flushes” changing the brake fluid and brake inspections are neglected.
We hope this helps clear up some of the brake questions. Please give Jeff a call if you have any questions or to set an appointment to have a vehicle inspection, fluids topped off, check tire pressure and a brake inspection before the holidays.
Happy Holidays and safe driving!