Reader Question: Breaking in Brakes?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Tom asks: How important is it to “break in” new brakes?

My reply: It’s more important to not wear them out!

Most new cars have disc brakes all around though a few still have drum rear brakes. Either way, assuming the rotors/drums are trued/new you can drive the car normally immediately. It is a good idea to avoid heavy braking and sudden stops for the first few miles to allow the pads/shoes to bed in but it’s not likely you’ll hurt anything unless you subject the car to sustained heavy/repetitive braking, which can overheat and so warp the rotors and so on.

Most people don’t do that.

But some people do drive their cars beyond the point at which the pads/shoes ought to have been replaced. Most pads have wear warning tabs built into them that cause the brakes to screech as they approach finis – but some people keep on driving. This can result in ruts being dug into the surface of rotors and other expensive problems.

For this reason, it’s a good idea to keep a notebook in the glovebox that notes the last time the brakes were serviced so that you can anticipate the need for the next service. As a general rule, front disc brake pads should be checked about every 30,000 miles and rear brakes (disc or drum) around 40,000 or so. The reason for the disparity is that most of the work of stopping your car is done by the front brakes, which is why they tend to wear faster.

Related: The fluid level in the brake system (master cylinder) should be checked every six months for correct level and if the level changes, it cause for immediate concern because ti implies a leak in the system – which can be dangerous. The fluid should flushed/replaced at least every three years. If it is not light/honey-colored, it is in need of changing. If the fluid is black, you ought to change it right now.

. . .

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  1. Couple of tips that have worked for me: 1) At oil change time, I draw off a few cc’s (Say about 50) out of the master cylinder and replace. I have a syringe that is meant for measuring two-cycle oil amounts, and it works great. 2) When I have the wheel off, I open the bleeder screw and take a few cc’s from that side of the hydraulic circuit. A vacuum pump (e.g. Mighty Vac) is awesome for this: crack the screw first to get it loose, then reseat it. Then put the Mighty Vac on and squeeze to draw a vacuum. Then loosen the bleeder screw allowing fluid to be drawn. Then close the valve. Do this a couple of times to get a few cc’s from the caliper side. (say 20-50).

    I did this on my motorcycle which had orig brake fluid, many years old. What was in the master cyl was pretty clear. But what was by the caliper was milky! Makes sense: All the heat is generated at the caliper side, and all the rain/wetness is there, contributing to the corruption of the fluid there.

    Unsure about how much circulation of fluid is present in the hydraulic circuit of the brakes… probably zilch.


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