Saturday Project - How to Inspect Your Brakes
Routine brake system inspection and fluid service can help extend the life of your brake system and ensure your brake system is safe and functioning as it should.
Inspect your brakes once a year, or when noticing any changes in the brake system, ie. poor stopping, soft brake pedal, or excessive noises.
Visually inspect the rotors for excessive or uneven wear, heavy grooves, and hairline cracks. Then, you'll need to check the thickness of the rotors. If you're a handyman, you might have a micrometer or a industry standard brake thickness gauge, which you can purchase. Compare the measurements to the recommended brake disk thickness spec range.
Second, you want to check your brake lines. Checking rubber lines is critical on older vehicles due to age and exposure. Sometimes hoses visually look good on the outside, while deteriorating on the inside. You can usually diagnose this by squeezing the lines to feel flexibility and visually expose cracks. Also make sure all hoses are dry. Any moisture could be brake fluid.
Inspect the brake pads for consistent wear and pad depth. Some pads have a line. As a general rule, if it looks thin, it probably is thin. While the pads are out, inspect brake caliper dust covers, looking for tears, cracks, and or fluid leaking.
On some older cars with drum brakes, inspect dust boots at the brake cylinder. Look for leaks and excessive damage or rust. Check brake pad thickness and excessive wear on the drum. Always refer to manufacturer specs.
Next, to flush the brake fluid out of the system, we have a couple of recommendations. For older cars, we recommend gravity bleeding, seen in the photo below. Hover over images for more detailed instruction.