San Jose Auto Repair

Brakes and Brake Jobs. STOP IT!

It has been said that every car stops…eventually.

The reason you need good brakes is so you, the driver, have control over when and where your car stops.


The dictionary definition of brakes is that they are mechanical device designed to stop or slow a mechanism; usually by means of friction. Airplanes use both wheel brakes and air-flap brakes. For our purposes, the mechanism being stopped is your car, light truck or SUV.
Let’s look at a few facts about brakes.

How can you know if you need brakes?

Several ways:

  • The best way to find out you need brakes is an inspection by an expert (hmmm… comes to mind here: Tires Unlimited Silicon Valley!)
    • The reason for this is because you can often catch a brake need before it goes “to the next (read PRICEY) level”
  • If the brake light on your dash is glowing either amber or red, get them checked.
    • Either light indicates some problem with the brake system.
  • If the ABS light is on, get the ABS system and the brakes checked.
    • ABS is the anti-lock brake system. It is designed to keep you car from skidding out of control when braking
  • A squishy or spongy feel to the brake pedal could indicate a problem.
  • If your car shakes when you are braking, have the brakes inspected.
    • Issues could be related to warped brake rotors that might need either resurfacing or replacement.
  • If there is a noise associated with braking, you should have the brakes inspected.
    • This is important whether the noise OCCURS WHEN braking
    • OR if it STOPS when braking.

Many times, drivers will ask how long they should expect brakes to last. All brake pads wear, so do rotors. There is no right answer because there are so many variables.

    Brake wear can be affected by your driving style.
    • Town driving and commutes with a lot of “stop and go” will wear the brakes faster.
    • A commuter who has long stretches of continuous driving that does not require much braking will get the most miles from their brakes.
    • A driver who anticipates stops and uses brakes lightly will get longer brake life than a driver who habitually speeds toward a stop and then brakes hard at the last moment.
    • Heavier cars require more brake power to stop.
  • Some auto builders use larger brakes than others. Larger brake pads and rotors are often used in ultra high performance applications or super duty trucks. It is not uncommon to see completely different results in these; based on use.
    • A high performance car driven “hard” by an enthusiast-type driver will inevitably wear the brakes quickly. The same car, driven by a more moderate driver, may get very long wear because the brakes are so efficient.
    • The same comparison is true of a truck or SUV application when comparing a truck that hauls heavy loads to a “grocery-getter.

Not every brake noise means you have brake problems. Some brake noise can be normal. Dust, humidity or severe braking can affect the amount of noise brakes make. Also, some noise happens simply because the material used on today’s cars is hard. This semi-metallic compound is safer and longer-lasting, but has the obvious benefits mentioned above.

Brake noise usually happens as a result of vibration. The pads push together and sometimes vibrate; resulting in squeak. Other brake materials have an inherent tendency to groan or creak when pressure is removed from the brake pedal. Normal.

BUT…have any “new” brake noise inspected by an expert…because you never know what’s really happening until you look at these parts that are so critical to the safe operation of your vehicle.

Got time for a hopefully-not-too-boring and very short physics lesson?

Here is a very simple version (it has to be simple…I understand it!)

Automotive brakes use friction to stop your vehicle.

The kinetic energy that is being created by the movement of your car is converted (by friction) to…heat.

What is one of the biggest enemies of brake life, quietness and overall performance? If you guessed HEAT, you win!

Hybrid vehicles use regenerative braking, which converts much of the energy into electric energy with is stored in the batteries for future use.

Safety is very important…and so is your wallet! Waiting too long to replace your brakes can result in the need for early drum or rotor replacement. And that can be quite costly.

There are many things that contribute to brake wear.

There are also many different parts that can wear or fail in your brake system.

If you have questions, please visit our website

or our Facebook page at

The website has an email link to me (Jeff)

The Facebook page allows you to private message me.

You can also call in to NorCal AutoTalk (888-367-5329) while it is streamed live at on Saturday mornings from 8am-9am Pacific time.

I’d love to help you with any of your car care questions; brake related or otherwise.

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