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Replacing Brake Rotors, Pads and Parts
”Dad, should our car sound like that?”
When your automobile needs new brakes, you, and everyone around you know it. What starts as an annoying squeak, soon becomes a head-turning embarrassment. And, nothing’s worse than squealing to a stop and watching your fellow motorists cringe as if you ran your nails down a chalkboard.
Jordan Catalano of AutoAnything.com explains, “I stopped at this red light and noticed this hot babe in the next car staring at me. At first I thought, well, well, well—what do we have here?! Then, by the contorted look on her face, I could tell it wasn’t me she was into. She was staring because my brake squeal just perforated her eardrums, it was the most emasculating moment of my life.”
That squeak, at least in the beginning, is the brake sensor dragging on the brake rotor. It lets you know that the pads have worn thin and require replacement. At this point, your vehicle should still be safe to drive; however, you want to service your brake system straight away.
If you manage to ignore this annoyance, in a few weeks the squeal becomes a grind—and that’s bad. This is the sound of the brake pad’s backing grinding against the rotor—metal on metal. Since there is no pad material left, the rotor is being destroyed as well. This leads to a costlier repair, not to mention that driving is very dangerous. Rule of thumb: never let your brakes go beyond the squeak.
So they Squeak—Now What
If you’re handy, get ready to do a brake job. This can be a tricky operation if you’re not familiar with mechanics. There are several variables involved and sometimes special tools are required.
If you’ve got a squeak, you know the pads need changing—but what about the rotors? During normal servicing, rotors are turned to renew the disc surface. This, along with age and use, causes rotors to wear thin, so they may need replacing, too. Checking this requires a micrometer to gauge the rotor’s thickness, as well as knowing how thin is too thin. If they check out, then you still need to send them to a machine shop for turning before you can install your new pads. If the rotors are too thin, then new ones are definitely in order.
If you’re not the DIY weekend-warrior type, have your brakes done by a professional mechanic. Never fear though, this doesn’t mean an automatic rip-off. You can purchase the brake pads, brake rotors and brake hardware for your vehicle yourself and take them to the mechanic for installation. This allows you to shop around for the best bargains and avoid the hefty price markup most mechanics place on parts.
What about Performance Brakes
When you’re preparing to do a complete brake job, you may want to consider an upgrade to performance brake rotors and pads. Since you’re replacing most of your brake components anyway, this is the best time to add some spirited performance into your pedal.
Since most performance brakes are built as direct replacements, upgrading is no more difficult than replacing your stockers. Of course, installing oversized discs and 6-piston calipers is a whole different project, and most likely overkill. Easy bolt-on performance brakes make a dramatic difference over factory brakes.
So whether you go for replacement brakes or a performance set up—do it yourself or take it to the shop—fully functional brakes are a must for safe driving. Don’t let that annoying squeak turn into a costly brake system overhaul, swap out your brake pads and rotors today.