October 2021

Very few of us have any idea how the braking system in our car works. We just tend to press the pedal and hope for the best. However, the braking system is one of the most important safety systems in your car, so it's essential to know a little about how it works, how quickly you should be able to stop and how to tell when your brakes need some maintenance.

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Braking Distances

Be honest... you haven't taken the slightest bit of notice of stopping distances since you studied for your driving test, have you? While it's true that most cars now come with ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System) and better performing components that reduce the braking distances well below those listed in the Highway Code, it's still worth paying attention to them as a guide. There's an easy way of making sure you've got enough room to stop in an emergency. It's recommended that you stay two seconds behind the car ahead, and you can check this by imaging two cars driving in between you and the car ahead.

If the road is wet, you need to double the following distance. In snowy or icy conditions, keep at least 10 imaginary cars / 10 seconds behind.

Anti-Lock Brakes

Most modern cars are fitted with anti-lock brakes, known as ABS. These work by applying and releasing the brakes several times a second when you brake in an emergency, preventing your brakes from locking up and reducing the chance of a skid developing. The operation of your anti-lock brakes causes a vibrating sensation through the pedal when you brake hard, so it's worth trying them out sometime if you've never felt them kick in. Try a safe and controlled emergency stop on a quiet road, to reassure yourself that they work, and feel how they operate. Otherwise, you'll hopefully never need them!

Diagnosing Problems

The only real way to be sure that your brakes are in good working order is to have them checked regularly. However, there are some telltale signs that your brakes need attention:

  • Squealing - Do your brakes make a persistent squealing or screeching noise every time you brake? This could be as simple as a stone caught in the system somewhere, or it could be a sign of worn discs or pads.
  • Grinding/Vibrations - If you feel or hear grinding or vibrating under braking, your brake pads and/or discs might need replacing.
  • Veering/Pulling - If your car veers to one side when you brake, this could be down to uneven wear or even a binding brake pad.
  • Decline in performance - If your brakes seem to get weaker as time goes on, it's likely they need checking. It could be down to the pads or discs, or even water getting into the brake fluid system.
  • Warning light - If your brake warning light comes on, it means your pads or discs are far too low. By the time it reaches the point of the light coming on, they will need urgent attention.

Most good dealerships will check your brakes as a routine part of your service. Here at Thame Cars, it's included as part of your complimentary 40-point health check and we'll always advise you if they need replacing. Your brakes will also be checked as part of an annual MOT test, so there are plenty of chances to identify any problems. However, if you think something is wrong, don't wait for the next service, because your braking system is absolutely essential to safe motoring.

For more information or if you'd like to make a booking, feel free to pop in and see our Service team, or visit our website.