Brakes are pretty much the most important safety device on your car. If you’ve ever partially lost your brakes in the past, you’ll agree that it’s not something you want to experience again. Inspecting your brakes twice a year for wear and damage can protect you and your passengers. Additionally, it will also help save you money by catching any damage before it becomes too costly.
Brake System Components That Can Fail
The master cylinder, the heart of the vehicles braking system, holds the brake fluid when it is not being delivered to the brakes through the brake lines. If brake fluid leaks because the master cylinder is worn or brake lines are plugged or broken, the fluid cannot be delivered and the brake pads will become ruined.
The brake fluid itself can become dirty or contaminated as it draws rust-causing moisture and picks up other debris, or it can break down from excess heat. Clean brake fluid is either clear or slightly yellow, while dirty brake fluid may be brown or even black. Old and dirty brake fluid can damage ABS brake systems internally.
The brake lines connect to the master cylinder through a combination valve, which combines a metering and proportioning valve. It regulates the pressure on the front and rear wheels to make sure both sets of brakes are applied simultaneously. A malfunctioning combination valve may cause the wheels to lock up.
Brake pads and shoes can be made of ceramic, metal or organic materials, while the disc rotors and drums they press against are made of metal. Because the pads and shoes create friction to stop the car, they gradually wear down over time and may wear away completely, letting the metal of the calipers and cylinders they are attached to grind against the rotors and drums and damage them. (Some pads have a metal strip attached that sounds a warning whistle when the pad becomes too worn, but this strip sounds only when the car is in motion and the brakes are not applied.
Transmission Fluid Service. Each vehicle has fluid and most have serviceable filters that require changing/servicing at either 30,000 or 50,000 mile intervals. As fluids age, they break down and stop lubricating as needed, so this service helps prevent any expensive breakdowns of the internal transmission components.
Differential Fluid Services. The rear differential, as well as the front (on 4wd and AWD vehicles) require scheduled fluid services to replace aged fluids to assure proper lubrication of all internal gearing, normally every 30,000 miles on most vehicles.
Transfer Case Fluid Service. 4wd and AWD vehicles have transfer cases that require scheduled fluid services to replace aged fluids to assure proper lubrication of all internal gearing as well, normally every 30,000 miles.
Power Steering Fluid. Vehicles are either manual, power or electric steering. If the vehicle is power steering, it is fluid based and also requires scheduled fluid flushes to replace aged/worn down fluid with new in order to prevent damages to internal components.
Engine oil is what lubricates a car’s engine, allowing it to run smoothly and last longer.Car owners must maintain a car’s engine by changing the oil and using the oil appropriate for their cars make and model.
The necessary frequency of oil changes has become a point of contention among experts. The Engine Oil Bible maintains that engine oil can’t be changed often enough, but Nordic group insists that, with the advent of detergent oils and multi-weight oils, some vehicles can go as far as 6,000 miles before needing an oil change. The best course of action is to check the owner’s manual and follow manufacturer’s recommendations.
How important is your vehicles suspension system?
Think of it this way: Research indicates that the average vehicle is driven about 12,000 miles per year. A car with worn suspension components can cause angle misadjustment of 0.34 degrees (only 0.17 inches) out of specification will drag the tires sideways for more than 68 miles by the end of the year!
What are the “symptoms” of a vehicle with faulty suspension or steering components?
Have your vehicle checked if you notice:
Excessive or uneven tire wear.
The vehicle pulls to the left or right.
Feeling of looseness or wandering.
Steering wheel vibration or shimmy.
Steering wheel is not centered when the vehicle is moving straight ahead.
How often should I have my vehicles suspension/steering components inspected?
Follow the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation noted in your owner’s manual. As a general rule, have your suspension and steering components checked every 10,000 miles or at least once a year.
The Importance of Total Alignment:
Reduced Tire Wear: Improper alignment is a major cause of premature tire wear. Over the years, a properly aligned vehicle can add thousands of miles to tire life. Most tires are replaced prematurely due to adverse wear.
Better Gas Mileage: Gas mileage increases as rolling resistance decreases. Total Alignment sets all four wheels parallel, which along with proper inflation, minimizes rolling resistance.
Improved Handling: Does your car pull to one side? Do you constantly have to move the steering wheel to keep your car traveling straight ahead? Many handling problems can be corrected by having an alignment, but could also require component replacement. With all the vehicle components aligned properly, road shock is more efficiently absorbed for a smoother ride.
Safer Driving: A suspension system inspection is part of the safety inspection procedure. This allows worn parts to be detected before they cause costly problems.