Emily Chung: Mummy Mechanic


Breaking In New Brakes

How To Avoid Premature Brake Wear

I can't emphasize enough how important it is to wear in your new brake materials properly-especially pads and rotors. Too much heat is a big problem for your car, and a lot of it is produced when you brake. Overheating in brakes causes many issues, including ineffective braking (it may take longer to come to a complete stop or you'll need to push harder on the brake pedal) and pulsation in brakes (due to warped rotors).

In case you wanted clarification on terminology:

Disc brake diagram from HowStuffWorks.com

Here are a few guidelines when it comes to wearing in your new brakes:

 Generally speaking, the break-in period for new brake pads is 300kms.

 Avoid making panic or abrupt stops to 'test' the brakes. Slow and gradual stops will ensure that the brake pads seat properly. That is, the brake pads' friction material forms a good fit to the surface of the rotor.

 Avoid 'riding' the brakes—a.k.a. prolonged braking—as this generates too much heat.

 Please be aware that a slight squeal or squeaking noise may occur during the first 100 kms. If this persists, it should be investigated.

 Towing during the break-in period can damage brake pads.

 The brakes might feel/function differently. Caution should be exercised until the driver has become familiar with their operation.

Too much heat is usually generated by two extremes: hard stopping and soft, prolonged stopping. Many people intuitively know the first (hard stopping). The other extreme is when someone 'rides' their brakes. They lightly brake, miles before the stop light, or they stop and slowly creep up until the light is green (or the car in front of them starts moving). In both cases, too much heat is being generated and the brakes don't have ample time to cool off.

So what is an ideal braking condition? You want to be like Goldilocks—not too hard, not too soft . . . just right. Come to a firm, complete stop and avoid being a creeper or hard braker (or heart breaker, as my son used to pronounce it). It's easier said than done. Your braking habit won't change overnight, so just keep this post in the back of your mind and next time you're driving, be aware of how you brake.

And don't get me wrong, there may be times when you need to abruptly stop! I'm not saying to avoid the extreme types of braking altogether, but when we see cars come in with premature brake wear, it's usually because of driving habit and not because of a one-off stop situation.