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How to prevent brake failure

No matter how good is your brake, no matter what technology what your braking system had such as ABS, EBD, BA, AB-i used. Braking system follows the same principle: hydraulic.  A cylinder drum pressured from your feet, then channelled to pinch your disk.

Know your brake

The problem that plague every braking system is heat.

There are 3 vital subsystem on every braking system: hydraulic fluid, brake pad and brake rotor (disc)

Hydraulic fluid

Hydraulic fluid or the brake fluid is vital since it is your connector between the brake pedal and the brake pad.  The brake fluid will boil when it over heats and failed the entire braking system.  However well maintained brake fluid is unlikely to boil before the brake pad fails.

Brake pad

Brake pad is the thing that pinch your brake rotor.  Heat, too can fail your brake pad and rendering total loss of braking.  Brake pads should be replaced when you hear squeaks every time you push your brake pedal.  The brake pad usually changed every 30000-40000 km, depending on your car size.  Smaller car requires less often changing while larger car requires more.

My experience shows that worn brake pad tends to lock your wheels therefore making the car skids.  Moreover they also damages the brake rotors more.

Brake rotor

Brake rotor on the other hand requires less changing compared to brake pad, since brake rotors are not consumed by much.  However they are too vulnerable to heat.

Your brake rotor can only used for hard braking only twice and at most three times before they fails you.  The brake motor will bent and become wavy.  You can feel failed rotor when braking from vibrating steering wheel.  Your braking performance will degrade, however the brake system is unlikely to totally failed.  Me, myself damages quite a number of brake rotor :)

Maintain your brake

Make sure brake pad is good and the brake fluid is good.

Brake fluid

Change brake fluid every 2 years or 40000 km. The problem with brake fluid is, even when changed too late still, your car still can brake.  Therefore delivering false sense of safety.  However once the brake fluid boils due to water trapped inside, your entire braking system failed.

My trick is to use better braking fluid when changing the brake fluid.  If your brake system accept DOT 3 and DOT 4 fluid, you can put DOT 4 brake fluid on your car.  DOT 4 fluid is a little bit more expensive, however they have higher boiling point and making them more resistant to late changing and abuse.

Brake pad

Brake pad should be changed when you hear squeaks when you brake.  It is sound of metal to metal, the brake rotor's metal to a metal deliberately put from car's manufacturer to sign worn brake pad.  I don't know about the sound emitted by ceramic brake rotors, but I suppose it should be similar.

Moreover worn brake pad tends to lock your wheel on hard braking, therefore making the car skids and that means more problem with the handling of the car.

Worn brake pads also damages your brake rotor more!

Brake rotor

Brake rotor does not really require changing and usually lasts for more than 100.000 km.  One of my car's brake rotor still in a fine condition after 300.000 km (200.000 miles).  However it does not mean that brake rotor can't be damaged.  Damaged brake rotor will be wavy and its waviness are invisible then can only detected using special tool.

When your brake rotor get wavy, you can machine your brake rotor once or twice and after that I suggest that you replace your brake rotors.

Make your braking system light, no oversize rims

Heavy large rims are harder to stop from spinning.  This means that they are likely to heat your braking system and brake fluid therefore rendering the braking system failed quicker.

Give your brake a break

When the brake feels a spongy or after hard braking, pull the car over and let your brake cools down.

Combine brake with your gear

Use 1, L or lower gear on extended steep downhill slope.  Do not hold your brake.

Although most modern automatic transmission car can shift down and making engine brake, usually the engine brake is not enough for steep downhill.  You need to manually shift your car to lower gear to force your car to use maximum engine brake.  Just do not exceed the maximum speed allowed for lower gear or you might break your engine. 

This technique is also useful in helping your car to stop after braking failure.

In short, do not rest your foot on the brake! 


As the only means to stop your car, braking system is very essential to maintain and understand.  Any driver should not underestimate their car's braking system health.

That's all that I know for braking system.  If you know more, please email me about it and I'll share it here.

You can find my email from Sony Lin page which the link you can find on the bottom of the page.