Servicing the brakes is the best way to ensure that you stop short of problems

Mechanic replacing a brake disc

When contemplating Mr Clutch Autocentres and their wide range of motoring services, writes Iain Robertson, while they slot perfectly into the ‘fast-fit’ classification, they might be described more fairly as a ‘motoring safety centre’.

Often referred to as ‘the anchors’, a boating term related to dropping a heavy weight into the water to hold a vessel securely in one spot, a modern motor vehicle’s brakes are considerably more sophisticated than the cartoon image often presented. Operating on all four wheels, which are likely to consist of either an all-disc, or a disc (front), drum brake (rear) set-up, they can take into account weight distribution, cornering forces and even weather conditions, especially if they also feature an anti-lock system (ABS).

As with most serviceable items on a vehicle, the brakes are also regarded as ‘wear components’. In other words, every time that you apply the brakes, either using the foot-pedal, or the parking-brake, an amount of wear will occur both within the mechanical system and also on the brake pads, or friction materials used to draw the vehicle to an assured halt. Interestingly, research has proven that vehicles used for short distances can wear their brakes down as readily as those used for much longer journeys.

While smooth progress is preferred by most drivers and their passengers, working brakes are an essential safety device, although familiarity with their performance can sometimes be overlooked, even at service and MOT time. Yet, a Mr Clutch Autocentre will always advise you, if the technician spots excess wear, brake fluid leaks, or a loss in brake fluid quality (it is ‘hygroscopic’, which means that it absorbs water that can lower its boiling point, making it less effective), and taking reparative action is strongly recommended, for your primary safety.

Peering through the spokes, or slots, of a typical alloy wheel can reveal some clues of wear and tear on brake discs. If they are used frequently, the discs should be shiny and clean. However, if the discs, to which the vehicle’s wheels are attached, are ridged, showing signs of uneven wear and have rusted edges, a brake service may be essential. You might be able to see the dark grey friction material contained by the brake pads but only removal of the road wheels will illustrate the actual wear. It is not as easy with drum brakes, as the friction material (known as ‘shoes’) is fitted within the cast iron drums.

Other clues can be displayed by a vehicle suffering braking problems. A brake pedal that needs to be pumped to obtain any braking pressure, or that sinks into the carpet but scarcely slows down, hints strongly at a low brake fluid level, or worn pads. In addition, its brake fluid may have absorbed too much water and your Mr Clutch Autocentre can resolve that problem by replacing the fluid simply and cost-effectively (at a price of just £34.95, which you can book online at mrclutch.com).

If there is a graunching noise every time the brakes are applied, there may be a foreign body, such as a stone, that is trapped within a brake calliper. If the vehicle pulls to the left, or right, under braking, you should seek attention as soon as possible. Alternatively, the pads may be emitting a worn metal-to-metal noise, as well as reduced braking performance, which suggests that an immediate replacement is needed.

With regular servicing, drum brakes can last for the life of the car, as long as the friction material is serviced regularly. Disc brakes tend to wear more heavily but replacements are easy and are available on a fixed price basis at a Mr Clutch Autocentre, covered by a 12-months warranty afterwards. Being able to stop efficiently makes the brakes on your vehicle the most vital safety feature of them all.