Brakes: The Most Important Safety Feature On Any Vehicle

This winter was especially tough throughout many areas of the United States, and winter weather - with its road salt and harsh conditions - can be especially hard on brakes.

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That's why it's important to check your car's braking system to uncover any damage that may have occurred during the winter months.

At the first sign of a problem, the brake pads should be replaced. If you neglect to change the brake pads at the proper interval, you may eventually need to replace the rotors and caliper, turning what could be a $50 repair job into one that costs hundreds.

Why is it important to proactively check a vehicle's brakes?

  • Brakes are the biggest safety feature on any vehicle. Preventative maintenance promotes safety, and can also save time and money associated with larger repairs or breakdowns.

What causes brake failure, especially in winter?

  • Excessive buildup of road salt/brine solutions can create binding/contamination of exposed brake parts and premature deteriorating conditions. Winter can be extremely hard on the braking system. Temperature changes, ice and snow conditions as well as increased use of Antilock Braking Systems (ABS) can impact brake-related components.

What can a motorist do to care for and protect the braking system in the winter months?

  • Check for rust deterioration on brake parts such as non-friction surfaces of rotors and hardware.
  • Check friction surfaces for excessive wear
  • Check hydraulics for leaks.
  • It is important that the ABS system is inspected after heavy use. Due to icy and hazardous road conditions, faults within the braking system will have a larger effect on performance.

What are the warning signs of brake system failure?

  • Brake failure is typically the result of neglecting brake system warning signs such as squeaking, grinding and pulsation. Brake fluid level can be an indication of worn brakes or a fluid leak. Rotor condition inspected through the wheels can identify a number of braking issues.

    Other signs of brake wear include:

    • Car pulls to one side during braking
    • Brake pedal pulsates when the brakes are applied
    • Brake pedal feels "mushy"
    • Noise when the brake pedal is stepped on
    • Repeatedly needing to add brake fluid to the master cylinder

What happens when brakes fail? Does it have any lasting impact on other car components?

  • When brakes fail, pedal feel is compromised, and the brake system performs below standards, which causes premature wear of all system components and loss of the driver's confidence in the vehicle's stopping ability.
  • When a brake pad wears beyond the service limits, it will cause damage to the brake caliper, and the piston seal will become stretched and distorted.

Bruce Bonebrake, ASE Certified Master Auto Technician, explains your car's braking system and shows you how to replace your disc pads and calipers. (5:26)

Source: Neotek Corporation, Inc.

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Batteries: The #1 Cause Of Roadside Breakdowns

Most batteries last only 3-5 years in ideal driving conditions. Do you know how old yours is?

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If you're not sure - or if you suspect your battery might be failing - stop in your local AutoZone for free battery testing. In addition to emergency towing service that can cost more than $100,* the true price of a roadside breakdown is even greater when you consider your time and the possibility of being stranded at nighttime or in bad weather.

What does a vehicle battery do?

  • A car battery stores electrical energy and functions in a vehicle's starting and charging system. The battery also supports the vehicle's electrical system and provides energy to all accessories and electrical components from the headlights to the automatic sliding doors.

How does weather impact batteries?

  • Corrosion is the leading cause of battery failure.
  • Many batteries that fail in early winter had already been significantly weakened during the preceding hot summer months.

Does a car's age, maintenance, driving style and amenities affect battery life?

  • As a car ages, mechanical components related to starting the vehicle deteriorate, causing additional strain on the battery. Additionally, cars that are poorly maintained may increase the likelihood of premature battery failure.
  • Frequent starts and stops of a vehicle's engine inhibit a battery from fully recharging. People who drive very short distances are likely to experience shorter battery life.
  • From DVD players to GPS systems, today's cars are equipped with amenities that can drain more battery power than ever before.

What are signs that my battery may be failing?

  • A vehicle may experience very subtle signs of battery failure that often go unnoticed.
  • Signs that a vehicle is experiencing battery failure may include: dimming headlights and interior lights, slow engine starting, "check engine" light is on or accessories failing to operate.
  • Since indications of battery failure are commonly subtle and misdiagnosed, many drivers only become aware of the condition when their car no longer starts.

What can motorists do to protect themselves and their loved ones?

  • Drivers should make a battery condition check a part of their cars' regular maintenance schedule.
  • The National Car Care Council encourages drivers to proactively replace their batteries after three years since the chance of sudden failure increases after three years.

When's the best time to get my battery tested or replaced?

  • To avoid getting stranded during the hottest or coldest parts of the year, it's best to get car batteries tested during summer and early fall.
  • Drivers should pay attention to their cars' subtle hints. Drivers who are concerned that their batteries may be failing should get them checked or replaced immediately.
  • If the battery is more than three-years-old, it's best to get it replaced to avoid a breakdown.

Learn how to diagnose and repair a dead battery from Bruce Bonebrake, ASE Certified Master Auto Technician. (6:36)

Source: Johnson Controls, Inc.

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Car Care Tips

Car Care Tips And FAQs

Learn more about how to protect your investment by taking proper care of your car.

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Car Care Tips

  • Perform routine scheduled maintenance checks. Motorists should check their owner's manual for a schedule of recommended maintenance intervals from the vehicle manufacturer. If the owner's manual has been lost, many websites, such as the National Car Care Council's web site, offer a recommended maintenance schedule for vehicles.

  • Be proactive. Don't wait for a breakdown to check under the hood. Replacing engine components at required intervals can help prevent an unexpected breakdown.

  • Be prepared. Visit an automotive retailer such as AutoZone┬« to purchase a roadside emergency kit. Also keep items such as a tire pressure gauge, spare serpentine belt and jumper cables handy.

  • Brakes and batteries are two of the most important components on your car and should be checked and replaced at the recommended intervals. Check the braking system quarterly to protect the brakes and ensure they're in optimal working condition. Although batteries last an average of three to five years, check your battery annually to prevent an unwanted breakdown.

  • Have your brakes and batteries checked when there are subtle signs that these components could be failing.
    • Signs of failing brakes include car pulling to one side during braking, brake pedal pulsating when applying the brakes, brake pedal feeling "mushy" or noise occurring with the brake pedal is applied.
    • Signs of a failing battery include dimming headlights and interior lights, slow engine starting, illuminated "check engine" light or failing accessories.

  • Check the braking system for signs of wear. Pay special attention to the braking system in winter months, as winter weather is harsh on brake components.
    • Check for rust deterioration on brake parts.
    • Check friction surfaces for excessive wear.

  • Take proactive steps to avoid unexpected battery failure. Dead batteries are the leading reason why vehicles fail to start.
    • Include battery tests in your regular maintenance program.
    • Be prepared to test batteries annually and replace them every three to five years
    • It's recommended to replace batteries after three years since batteries often do not give warning signs that they're about to fail.

Source: Neotek Corporation, Inc.
Source: Johnson Controls, Inc.

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