We know how much you all like heading up into the mountains based on how often we perform brake maintenance and change out brake pads at the shop! It’s a simple fact of Colorado life that brakes need more attention because they get a lot more use.
6 Top Brake Issues
Brake warning lights. NEVER ignore a brake warning light, it can signal hydraulic leaks, worn brake pads or drums (depending on the type of brakes your car has,) warped rotors and more.
Worn out brake pads. Brake pads are found on disc brakes which are commonly used for front brakes in most passenger cars (some cars have drum brakes on the rear wheels.) As brake pads run down they wear even faster because of their inability to dissipate heat and they throw off more brake dust. If you notice your wheels are quickly covered in black it can be a sign your brake pads are getting low. Squealing brakes, especially when your foot is off the brake pedal, is another sign of wear. Any noise from your brakes warrants your attention.
Warped rotors. Rotors can warp under stress which inhibits your brake pads from applying even pressure. This drastically increases how long it takes for you to stop your vehicle. If your steering wheel shakes when you press the brake it’s likely you have a warped rotor.
Hydraulic leaks. Leaks of brake fluid can lead to sudden brake failure. If you notice a leak under your car or realize your brake pedal pushes to the floor there’s a good chance it’s a leak in the hydraulic brake system. If you are concerned that you have a hydraulic brake leak, you should stop driving immediately and have it towed in for an inspection.
Emergency brake is on. This is an easy one to fix but it often happens that a driver forgets the emergency brake is on. If you feel your car is dragging check the emergency brake first. Driving with the brake on can quickly damage the emergency brake system.
Smoking brakes. Brakes smoke and/or smell when they are overheated and the main reason they get overheated is by constant application of brakes on descents of mountains and hills. If the brakes get to the smoking point, damage has likely occurred (or something is leaking onto your brakes – also bad as this causes the brake pads to glaze up.)
Common Brake Warning Lights – Don’t Ignore These!
Here are some common brake warning lights:
Brake fluid level warning light. Brake fluid is low.
Anti-lock braking system warning light.
Fault in hydraulic system/brake fluid level dangerously low.
Parking (emergency brake) is on.
Brake Maintenance Tips
- Learn how to brake properly on mountain roads.
- Have brake fluid changed every 2 years (or sooner if the fluid looks brown) in order to protect your car’s critical brake components.
- Get your brake pads checked frequently, especially if you do a lot of mountain driving.
- Don’t ride your brake pedal.
- Avoid sudden braking by giving yourself more room between your car and the one in front of you.
- When your brake pads need replacing buy the highest quality pad you can afford. Be sure the new pads meet or exceed factory specs.
How A Battery Works
That sinking feeling when your car won’t start…most of us have been there at one point or another and it all could have been so easily prevented. Fortunately knowledge is power and understanding how your battery works, what its limitations are, and how to recognize the warning signs will help not get caught in this position again. First, a short lesson on how a car battery works:
How Long Does A Car Battery Last?
The average life of a battery is 3-5 years. At some point all batteries die. The lead chemical coatings on the battery cell plates deteriorate to the point the battery can no longer provide sufficient charge.
Things That Decrease The Life Of A Battery
- Frequent short driving trips. Your car’s alternator takes over once your battery starts your car. It takes the alternator at least 20 minutes of driving to recharge the battery.
- Faulty alternator. If the alternator isn’t working properly it will drain more energy from the battery.
- Corroded battery terminals prevent the battery from fully recharging.
- Leaving lights on after your car is turned off.
- Extreme cold. Cold engine oil is thicker and requires more energy to get it moving. Simultaneously, cold slows down the chemical reactions happening inside the battery.
- Extreme heat. High heat can cause the sulfuric acid bath your battery cells live in to evaporate resulting in internal structural damage. (Extreme heat is much harder on batteries than extreme cold.)
How Do You Know When You Need A New Battery?
The most dramatic way you’ll know you need a new battery is when your car won’t start. Generally, it’s easy to avoiding getting to this point. Part of our regularly scheduled maintenance program here at Pellman’s is to check the health of your battery. Our diagnostic test tells us if your battery is healthy and if not, gives us a general idea of how much life is left.
Other Warning Signs
- An old battery. To determine the age of your battery look for the 4-5 digit code on the battery cover. Look for a letter (A-L.) The letter tells you the month the battery was made (A=January, L=December.) Following the letter is a number which represents the year the battery was made. A number “1” means the battery was made in 2011. (The rest of the numbers in the code designate where the battery was made.)
- Car takes a long time to turn over.
- Low battery fluid level warnings.
- Swollen battery case (usually caused by extreme heat.)
Be Sure To Recycle Your Old Battery
At Pellman’s we recycle batteries. If you are the DIY type, please be sure and recycle your old battery. A typical car battery contains up to 20 pounds of lead and a gallon of sulfuric acid. Don’t throw it in the landfill!
Curious how batteries are recycled? Check it out:
Motor Oil 101
One of the most important things you can do to help your car last a good, long time is regularly change the oil. Motor oil does three things:
- Lubricates the moving parts of your engine.
- Cools the engine by conducting heat away from the moving parts.
- Prevents engine corrosion by holding the products of combustion (metals like silica, water and dirt) in suspension.
There are two main types of motor oil for car engines on the market today.
- Mineral oils, refined from crude oil to make a base lube stock. Motor oil manufacturers take this base and add detergent, dispersants and anti-foaming agents to make the oil you buy in the store. (This is the oil you are probably most familiar with.)
- Synthetic oils, manufactured in a laboratory. This controlled process produces small oil-like molecules that are uniform in size and shape and give synthetics a more flowing “slippery” quality.
Motor oils, both synthetic and mineral, are available in several viscosity grades. If you have ever stood at the auto parts store scratching your head at the numbers on the containers they have to do with how well the oil will flow at varying temperatures. If you live in very cold or very hot temperatures it is particularly important to have the right viscosity oil in your engine. Using the wrong viscosity oil can lead to shorter engine life and in cold climates can make your car harder to start.
Which Type of Oil Should You Use?
The short answer is use the motor oil recommended by your auto manufacturer and change the oil and filter at least every 5000 miles. If you drive in extreme weather conditions (very cold or very hot,) do a lot of stop and go driving or drive high performance vehicles you may want to consider switching to synthetic oil. A semi-synthetic (combination of petroleum and synthetic oils) is also available. There are varying opinions among car experts about the pros and cons of synthetic oils. Here is a summary:
Synthetic Oil Pros
- Resists extreme temperatures.
- Last longer (more miles between oil changes.)
- Environmentally friendly (due to the fact you change the oil less frequently and the fact that a non-renewable resource wasn’t used in the production of the oil.)
Synthetic Oil Cons
- Significantly more expensive than regular motor oil (approximately three times more.)
- Debate about oil changing frequency. Many auto experts feel it is still important to change synthetic oil on the same schedule as regular oil due to the dirt and other contaminants that get in the oil.
- Recycled synthetic oils are processed the same way as recycled mineral oils and are equally as damaging to the environment when they are not disposed of properly. (Most recycled oil whether it is synthetic or petroleum is filtered, cleaned and reused as a lubricant.)
Our best advice? Have your oil changed regularly and if you think you’d like to try something different talk to a qualified auto service technician who will help you make the right decision for your car.