What’s stopping you?

Without placing too fine a point on things, writes motoring journalist Iain Robertson, we rely totally on the modern braking systems of our motorcars but not having them checked, or serviced, regularly would be the same as ignoring primary safety.

While the German Tiger tank of WW2 was among early vehicles to use disc brakes, Jaguar first slowed its racing cars with discs at the 1953 Le Mans 24-Hours race to secure an historic victory. However, pioneering Citroen applied the technology to its mass-produced DS model from 1955. These days, there are very few cars not equipped with all-round disc brakes as standard, or fitted to the front axles in combination with drum brakes on the rear.

The performance of hydraulic disc brakes has been enhanced over the years by the use of more durable friction materials in the pads, the incorporation of anti-lock technology and incorporating cooling within the discs, yet they remain overall one of the less complex elements of vehicle engineering. They can slow down a car in a manner directly proportional to the amount of force employed by the driver’s foot on the pedal.

The more traditional drum brake, now relegated to the rear axle of several makes and models of cars, or trailers and caravans, continues to provide a secure parking brake, mainly due to the surface area covered by the friction material shoes acting on the inside edges of the cast iron drum, when the parking brake is applied. However, by definition, the friction materials wear with use and both road grit and weather conditions can affect their efficiency negatively. In addition, the brake fluid can be weakened by climatic and wear conditions. Its level must be monitored regularly and topped-up, or even replaced (every two years by recommendation), should it become contaminated.

The difference in braking performance between regularly serviced brakes and those in need of maintenance can be substantial. An emergency stop might take several yards longer in the latter case, the consequences of which could be dire.

Among the many specialist services offered by Mr Clutch Autocentres is a blend of fixed price pads and discs replacements and more comprehensive brake system repairs, although every minor and major service carried out at a Mr Clutch Autocentre also involves checking brake fluid levels and topping-up as required. Should you opt for an interim service, or above, our Mr Clutch Autocentres technician will inform you of the wear rates of the discs and drums themselves, should an overhaul be deemed necessary. You can book a service here:

Ironically, cars that are used for short hops, or commuting purposes, tend to wear down their braking systems more frequently than those used for higher speed, longer journeys. Spotting the tell-tale signs of brake wear falls normally into two categories

  1. The vehicle pulling to either left, or right, which might suggest uneven wear, or that a pad, lining, or hydraulic component may be sticking
  2. A grating sound, which may suggest worn friction materials, or that something has become trapped between the pads and the discs, or linings and drums.

It is important that you recognise these signs but your Mr Clutch Autocentre can check your brakes thoroughly and will be able to resolve the problems and alleviate your worries speedily and cost-effectively. If you want more information, please visit Check your brake pads and discs, where you will find details on prices and other advice on brake system maintenance.