By Keith Healy
Mighty Auto Parts
Like many systems on a vehicle, brakes require scheduled maintenance to insure “like-new” performance. The focus of this article is to examine the opportunities and benefits offered through a preventive maintenance (PM) approach to brake service, rather than the piecemeal approach of replacing a failed component.
A vehicle’s braking system is clearly one of the most important safety features of an automobile. For a repair shop, the best approach to insure that a brake system is operating as it did when the vehicle was new is to offer a complete brake service. Following a thorough inspection procedure of the braking system is critical. Let’s look at some important aspects of a complete brake inspection procedure.
Interviewing the Customer
The best way to insure the accuracy of a diagnosis is to be thorough in the customer interview process. Ask questions that help identify possible problem areas, such as:
What is the exact description of the problem?
How long has the problem existed and with what frequency?
Is there a certain pattern connected to the problem’s occurrence? This may help a technician re-create the symptom.
Does the brake warning light come on?
Is this customer the primary driver of the vehicle? How long have they owned the vehicle?
When was the last time brakes were serviced?
Does the customer use the parking brake on a regular basis? Does the parking brake hold the vehicle?
These questions not only help in the inspection process, but also help in the selling process. If a vehicle is safe to drive, a road test can be a critical step in verifying the customer’s complaint and problems identified in the inspection.
The Underhood Inspection
Offering preventive maintenance as part of the brake inspection starts with a look under the hood. The master cylinder converts mechanical force from the brake pedal into hydraulic pressure. This hydraulic pressure is transferred, via brake fluid, through steel lines and rubber hoses to calipers and wheel cylinders. New brake fluid has certain properties that protect the internal components of a brake system. As fluid ages, it can begin to damage the system. By flushing the system with new fluid, the hydraulic system can be restored to a like-new condition.
At the Wheels
A thorough inspection of the brake assembly means looking at all four brake pads for signs of cracking or uneven wear. This could be a sign of worn hardware or a malfunctioning caliper. By examining the brake fluid, indications of internal wear may be detected, which also contributes to uneven pad wear. Neglected calipers are also a major contributor to premature pad wear.
As insignificant as brake hardware may seem, it plays a significant role in the operation of a brake system. Disc hardware not only reduces the chance of brake noise by securing the pads, but also insures the proper movement of the brake caliper. Many brake pad manufacturers have begun including hardware with new pads to address problematic vehicles.
Although drum brake replacement has become less common in recent years, the need for servicing continues. Cleaning and adjustment of the drum brakes as routine preventive maintenance helps keep the braking system properly balanced and in like-new condition.
When brake shoe replacement is needed, pay close attention to the additional drum brake components for signs of wear. When subjected to heat over a long period of time, drum hardware becomes fatigued and unable to support the shoes properly. Commonly, hardware replacement is recommended as part of PM when replacing brake shoes. Wheel cylinder and drum inspection is
also a critical step in the brake inspection procedure.
Offering brake service maintenance on a scheduled basis helps to insure the vehicle’s safe operation benefiting the customer while providing additional service opportunities to repair shops. Taking the time to perform a complete brake inspection and provide comprehensive service will keep the customer safe and satisfied.
For information on Mighty Auto Parts, call (800) 829-3900 or visit www.mightyautoparts.com.