technician checking brakesBrakes not only influence how your car drives but operation affects the safety of yourself and other drivers. Multiple factors can affect your brake system, from moisture in the fluid to thinning brake pads.

Riding the brake, or keeping your foot pressed on the pedal for extended periods of time, accelerates wear and impacts performance. This action causes the brake system to overheat and places greater strain on all parts and fluids. Here’s what you should know.

How the Brake System Works

Whether your car has a disc or drum design, putting pressure on the brake pedal causes fluid to travel to the caliper, which results in the pad applying pressure and friction to an axle or drum. This action helps your vehicle slow and eventually stop.

Repeat use causes the brake pad material to gradually wear down – a process that also generates brake dust. Vehicle size also plays a role: Larger cars and trucks require more friction and generate more heat.

Air passing over the rotors helps move heat away from the system when the brakes are not in use. Yet riding the brake or repeatedly engaging it prevents this process from fully unfolding. Repeat friction generates excessive heat and prevents the brake system from completely cooling down.

Effects of Riding the Brake

Along with the friction and heat generated, riding the brake:

  • Increases contact between the brake pads and rotor, causing both parts to wear out sooner.
  • Has a wider-reaching effect on the full system. This can boil the brake fluid and wear out the hoses and calipers.
  • Can contribute to “brake pedal fade”, or decreased effectiveness of the braking system. Your car then requires more stopping distance – if it stops at all.
  • Can cause gas bubbles to form between the brake pads and rotors. These decrease the friction created and increase the time your car needs to slow down.
  • Can eventually lead to brake failure.

As a result of repeatedly riding your brakes, you’ll find that the pads and rotor or drum wear out sooner and need to be replaced more often. These parts may also develop glazing, which decreases friction. A rotor or drum with glazing will need to be resurfaced or replaced to deliver the friction needed to stop your vehicle.

In addition to repairs due to excessive wear, riding the brake:

  • Can be confusing for other drivers, who may not be able to tell if you intend to stop
  • Can reduce your car’s fuel economy
  • Turns into a safety hazard as you drive downhill
  • Increases risk of getting into an accident

Alternatives to Riding the Brake

If you regularly drive through or live in an area with hills, mountains or inclines, use lower gears. To lessen wear placed on your brakes:

  • Shift into a lower gear as you plan to head down an incline.
  • Apply your brakes only briefly – no more than five seconds – if your car starts to accelerate.
  • Keep your foot off the gas as you travel downhill. Depending on your car, you may need to use the overdrive button. At this stage, the engine and transmission take on most of the work.
  • The ABS may activate to prevent the brakes from locking up.

Especially for winter driving, you may need to apply the brake to travel downhill when the roads are covered with snow or ice. Along with putting greater distance between yourself and the vehicle in front, apply light yet consistent pressure to maintain a slow, even speed. If your car starts to fishtail or lose traction, the ABS will engage to improve your steering.
Are you concerned about wear on your brake system? Have the technicians at DaSilva’s Auto Body inspect all parts and make recommendations for repairs or replacements. Contact our Naugatuck shop to schedule an appointment.