Every driver knows that brakes are crucial when it comes to car safety and functionality, but many don’t realize that their driving habits can affect how long their brakes will last. In fact, there are multiple factors that can have an influence on brake lifespan, causing it to vary widely from car to car.
Both driving style and geographic location have an impact on brake longevity. If you live in an area with a lot of stop-and-go traffic, you’re probably going to be using your brakes more often than someone who lives in a rural area with little to no traffic. The quality of the parts in the brake system will also affect how long you can expect your brakes to last.
Even though some factors are outside of your control, there are still several practices that can help you maximize brake life for your car.
What is progressive braking? Progressive braking is essentially variable braking instead of constant braking. It should start slight, increase with pressure and finish light. Progressive braking is a safe driving technique, which:
When you have mastered progressive braking, you will have stopped where you intended on stopping, the entire braking process will be smooth and when you come to a stop, it there will be no aggressive jolt at the end. Progressive braking doesn’t necessarily mean slowly, progressive braking is even carried out in an emergency stop situation. The point is that it’s done progressively and not to simply stomp on the brakes.
To achieve this, start on a flat or slightly downhill gradient, and on a quiet, straight road. Don’t set yourself a target of where you need to stop initially, just get the feel of the brakes. To understand and master the progressive braking technique, you’ll need to do it in stages. Before braking however, ensure you are covering the brake with your right foot and the covering the clutch with your left foot. This simply means placing your foot onto the pedals in preparation of stopping, but not pressing them.
Steps to utilise progressive braking:
The greatest enemy of brakes is speed. The higher the speed, the more effort is required by a vehicle’s braking system to bring it to a complete stop. In fact, it takes about 33% more energy (and more brake material) to stop a vehicle traveling at 65mph v. 55mph. Here at Virginia Tire & Auto, we recommend that you try to go the speed limit and even consider using a technique called coasting.
Coasting is a technique where you take your foot off the gas pedal and let the vehicle slow down naturally before applying the brakes. Coasting isn’t appropriate for every situation on the road, but it tends to work well when you’re preparing to turn or if you see a traffic light or traffic slow-down ahead.
When it comes to using your brakes, you should keep it to one foot only. You’ve probably seen a car accelerate with illuminated brake lights before, and it can be pretty confusing. This is a direct result of the driver pressing on the brake pedal with their left foot while simultaneously pressing the gas pedal with their right (also known as brake riding). This practice continuously wears down the pads and warps the rotors. Our experts recommend using only your right foot while driving!
Being a follower on the road is not always a good thing. Braking each time when someone in front of you unnecessarily brakes will cause your brakes to wear faster. Instead, consider the coasting technique mentioned previously but please remember that practicing this recommendation requires you to keep a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front of you.
Overloading a vehicle and adding additional weight can significantly impact the life of your brakes. Consider only carrying necessary items while leaving the rest behind. Also, consider the weight of aftermarket products before installing them on your vehicle since such parts can be heavier than their original equipment counterparts. Of course, if at all possible, consider buying a lighter vehicle, which will be easier on brakes, tires, gas and ultimately your wallet!
Brake fluid naturally attracts water, which can reduce the boiling point of the overall fluid inside the braking system. Diluted brake fluid can significantly reduce braking performance. The added moisture from outside water can also lead to internal corrosion, causing parts of the braking system to literally rot away. To prevent this from happening, we recommend replacing and/or flushing your brake fluid at regular intervals.
The industry recommendation is to perform a brake fluid flush every two years. To get the specific manufacturer recommendations for your make and model, call any Virginia Tire & Auto location for a quick answer. We have the recommended maintenance intervals for every car ever made at our fingertips—you can test us!
Technological breakthroughs continue to improve braking performance while adding complexity to these parts. Many such parts are being designed for very specific uses.