Q: My Corolla now has
close to 40,000 miles and a friend told me my brakes will be worn
out soon, if they are not already. How do I know?
ó Alison B.
A: This may be true,
and itís easy to find out! Brake life is the result of many
variables: the type of vehicle, how itís driven, the specific
brake pad composition, environmental conditions, among others.
Most brake pads
include a wear sensor, a metal tab that begins rubbing on the brake
rotor when the padís friction material wears thin. It creates a
squealing noise that is oddly more apparent at first when the brakes
arenít applied. The noise may quickly alternate or be steady. It
will worsen gradually to the point of embarrassment and annoyance.
Vehicles not so equipped should have periodic inspections!
Checking brake pad
thickness, at least a rough estimate, depending on wheel type, may
be possible by simply looking through the wheel spokes with an
angled inspection mirror. Better is a close look as the tires/wheels
are removed for rotation. Color-coded thickness keys are often used
to demonstrate remaining pad thickness to the consumer.
The friction material
on a new brake pad is typically about 8-12 millimeters thick, and
those that are ready for replacement are worn down to about 3 mm.
Itís important to replace the pads before the friction material
wears out completely, as the padís steel backing will begin
scoring/damaging the brake rotor if contact continues.
When brakes are to be
serviced, there can be many opinions regarding what should be done.
If the brake rotors are in good condition (sufficient thickness,
smooth surface finish) and no pulsation has been observed when
slowing, a simple pad replacement is usually sufficient. If the
rotors are scored or pulsation is evident, they can usually be
resurfaced, if remaining rotor thickness is adequate. Many shops
simply replace them, as parts prices have become quite reasonable.
The downside here is a cheap rotor is nobodyís friend. Iíd
prefer a slightly imperfect original rotor over an inferior quality
replacement. Or insist on a mid grade or better replacement. Same
goes for pad quality!
Other brake services
may be offered/pushed as well, such as caliper replacement, or
installing whatís known as a ďloaded caliperĒ which contains
new pads. I believe this to be overkill unless the vehicle has many
miles or caliper leakage or stickiness has occurred.
Flushing/renewing brake fluid is a good idea in any case perhaps
each 4-5 years or sooner if specified.
Q: My windshield
washer stopped working. The wipers are fine, just no spray. How hard
would this be to fix?
ó Gene T.
A: This may be pretty
simple to fix, depending on your make and model.
If both washers
stopped at the same time, itís unlikely the spray nozzles are
clogged. And since the wipers work, the fuse should be good.
Was any service
recently performed under-hood? If so thereís a chance the washer
hose somewhere between the pump and nozzles became kinked or
Can you hear the
washer pump run, and/or does a puddle appear on the ground beneath
the vehicle? If not the pump is likely faulty. This cylindrical
component is usually plugged into the side or bottom of the washer
fluid reservoir. Depending on make/model, this could be a $20 part
and possibly pretty simple to renew. If itís a more expensive part
or access is poor, testing at the pump for a viable electrical
command would be warranted prior to replacement.