Brakes 101

Everything you need to know about brake repair and the symptoms of defective or worn brakes.
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Stay Ahead of Brake Problems

vehicle getting a brake service

SCREECHING – Brake pads are wearable components consisting of a block of friction material attached to a stamped steel backing plate. If you hear screeching, this could mean your friction material is almost gone, or that the selected friction material is the wrong choice for your vehicle. Inferior quality brake pads are notorious for loud noise upon application.

SQUEALING – Some manufacturers fit brake pad wear indicators to their brakes. Mechanical wear indicators consist of a steel tab attached to the brake pad plate. When the friction materials wears past a certain thickness, this tab makes slight contact with the rotor and produces a squealing noise. This noise indicates it’s time for new pads.

GRINDING – This typically means your friction material is gone, having been completely “used up.” With no friction material, your brake rotor is being subjected to direct pressure from the exposed steel brake pad backing plate, resulting in a distinct, loud, and typically uncomfortable grinding noise. Your brakes need to be repaired immediately!

SPONGY BRAKE PEDAL – This typically means air has been introduced into the braking system hydraulic fluid. You’ll experience poor stopping power until the system is properly bled.

PULSATING BRAKE PEDAL – When you apply the brake pedal does it pulsate as you stop? If this is the case, your brake rotors or drums are most likely warped. The replacement of these wearable components will solve the problem and prevent uneven brake wear and more.

VIBRATING STEERING WHEEL – Warped rotors or drums can also cause your steering wheel to vibrate. If you experience steering wheel vibration during braking, this is the most likely culprit. This symptom is often coupled with a pulsating pedal. Brake repair is needed.

CHOOSE THE RIGHT REPAIR SERVICE – It all starts with the first brake service. Do you know who performed brake repair the first time? What grade parts did they use? You might think “brakes are brakes” but unfortunately that is not the case. In fact, there are typically three to four levels of quality options. Was the repair done correctly by a qualified technician? Most shops will affirm they employ ASE-certified mechanics, but there is often more to that claim; a shop needs only one ASE technician to qualify for that designation. The replacement of brake pads/shoes or rotors/drums needs to be done correctly in all phases – even a simple error like not tightening lug nuts correctly could cause new rotors to warp prematurely. In addition to sub-par training, a common shop issue is the sale and installation of inferior grade brake parts. These are cheaper and initially appeal to customers seeking the infamous “$99 brake job.” The catch is these brakes jobs usually won’t last even a year, which means you return to that shop on a warranty claim, which they pro-rate, and then use your presence in the shop to up-sell additional repairs you may or may not need. At Brakes To Go we only sell premium grade replacement parts that meet or exceed OEM specification. We also only employ ASE-certified technicians to ensure every repair is done right the first time.

VEHICLE WEIGHT/MODIFICATIONS – The weight of your car or truck has a serious effect on braking. The heavier your vehicle, the harder your brakes work, and the more difficult it is the stop your car. Likewise, aftermarket vehicles modifications (i.e., truck lifts, over-sized wheel/tire combinations, etc.) can drastically increase brake component. In both cases, these factors translate to more work, which means more heat and premature wear. Don’t carry unnecessary loads for prolonged periods and resist the urge to upgrade your vehicle if you aren’t also prepared to upgrade your brake system.

CONSTANT BRAKING & AGGRESSIVE DRIVING – Poor driving habits are a primary cause of premature brake repair. Riding the brake (putting your foot on the brake pedal, however lightly, while driving) is a bad driving habit. It produces an enormous amount of heat in the brake system and can destroy everything from calipers to rotors. Break this habit to save your brakes! Likewise, aggressive driving demands extra braking. Excessive speed and last minute decisions to brake generate massive amounts of heat in very short bursts, which create unnecessary wear and tear on your brake system components. Driving aggressively means you will buy brake service more often.

While machining fixes the problem, it only does so temporarily—this approach is not a solution, it’s a band-aid fix. Machining rotors may be less expensive upfront, but the maintenance and repair are more costly in the long run.

AT BRAKES TO GO, WE ONLY REPLACE ROTORS. – The cost may be slightly higher than to machine rotors at another shop, but you’re getting a longer-lasting product, superior service, and high-quality parts. Plus, we offer free brake inspections alongside our 36-Month/36,000 mile nationwide warranty.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU? – Peace of mind. Call us today to learn more.

The Mechanics of Brakes & Brake Repair

You apply pressure to the brake pedal and the car stops, but how?

It all starts with your foot and works from there. Every part of the braking system relies on each other to stop the car safely and confidently. The system converts your foot pressure into hydraulic pressure to stop the vehicle. It does this by pushing a cylinder that’s activated by pedal pressure to push hydraulic brake fluid forward, which squeezes your pads together on the rotors, which creates friction to stop the vehicle.

All of the brake parts work together to accomplish one main task, to stop your vehicle accurately and safely.

master cylinder

Brake pads are wearable components consisting of a block of friction material attached to a stamped steel backing plate. Their contact with your brake rotors create the friction that breaks vehicle speed.

worn brake pads

A brake rotor is the silver metal disc installed on your wheel hub directly behind your wheel/tire combo. A caliper holds and squeezes your brake pads onto the rotor to slow and stop your vehicle at speed.


Brake shoes are similar to brake pads. They consist of friction material attached to a metal backing that pushes outward on the inside of a brake drum to slow or stop the vehicle.

brake drums

The brake drum is similar to the rotor as they both serve the same purpose. The brake drum rotates around the brake shoes; when the brakes are applied the shoes push outward onto the drum creating friction and slowing or stopping the vehicle.

brake drums

A caliper houses the brake pads and when brake fluid is pressured against the piston in the caliper it squeezes the pads around the rotor to stop or slow the vehicle.

When force is applied to the brake pedal, brake fluid is pressurized and converts mechanical power into hydraulic power. If the vehicle has a leak, the brakes could barely function or not function at all. It’s crucial to make sure your brake fluid is in good condition and bled properly; if air is introduced into the braking system you can have trouble stopping your vehicle.

master cylinder

Brake fluid travels down your brake lines from your master cylinder to your calipers to activate your brake components.

brake line hose

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Still Have A Question? No Problem!

Our staff is happy to answer any question you may have about brakes or our service. Give us a call, shoot us an email, or open a chat. We are available Monday thru Saturday from 730AM to 630PM.