SUV Care Tips: Brake Maintenance

Published March 21, 2017 by Sean Jackson

Driving can be a dangerous endeavor. Along with having to share the road with drivers who alternate their attentions between driving and texting, shaving, eating and more, obstructions can appear at any moment. When this happens, your hope is your SUV’s brakes operate at optimal levels to provide the stopping power you need. If you do regular brake maintenance, you won’t encounter any issues, Your SUV will supply the stopping power you need from plowing over Bambi or hitting a stopped vehicle further down the road. Here are some tips you can do to ensure your SUV’s brakes work optimally.

Your Driving Habits Matter

As much fun as it is to speed, aggressive driving behaviors can wear down critical parts of your SUV such as its brakes easily. By speeding, you place added stress on the brakes when you stop because it requires more force to slow down from a faster position. This will wear down the pads quicker- if you brake promptly from fast speeds often. The traffic pattern(s) is another area of focus as it pertains to your driving behaviors. This is especially the case if you do much in the way of city commuting, as the hiccuping traffic patterns result in you using your SUV’s brakes more often. Conversely, if you can help it, aim to coast as often as you can. One effective way to do this is to let your foot off the gas pedal some when approaching the exit ramp of a freeway. Approaching the exit ramp at say 45 mph relative to 60 mph, means there’s less energy your SUV’s brakes have to exert to slow the vehicle down. The more you are able to coast, the more energy it saves your brakes from using, extending their life. The amount of weight your SUV carries is also an important factor. If your vehicle is bogged down from many people and equipment, then it places more stress on components like the brakes, which have to work harder to stop. Sometimes you might not be able to help who or what you have to transport. However, instead of thinking of keeping heavier gear in your SUV when you are not using it for the sake of convenience, take it out. You’ll give your SUV's brakes some rest. Lastly, distracted driving can be a huge factor. When you don’t place full your attention on the road ahead of you, you’ll have slower reaction times when you identify obstructions. This will cause you to panic where you slam on the brake pedal to stop quickly. Do this often and it wears down the pads and rotors much quicker than if you were fully engaged in traffic.

Inspect Brake Fluid

Once every few months you should pop open the hood of your SUV to inspect its brake fluid level. Auto Anything states if you notice the brake fluid having a milky color, it’s time to change it. The reason it can have a milky color is over time the brake fluid develops moisture due to applying the brakes regularly. A failure to change it could result in the failure of the master cylinder in the brake system, resulting in large repair costs relative to inspecting, filling, and even flushing the brake fluid.

Do a Flush

Flushing your SUV’s brake fluid is a smart way to help the vehicle maintain its stopping effectiveness. The only instance where you need to do this is when you see the brake fluid becoming a milky color. When this occurs, drain the watered down solution and replace with fresh brake fluid. Luckily, this is an inexpensive thing to do. You can find YouTube videos from reputable mechanics who will take you through each step of the process. Please note there’s no reason to do this at a mechanic or oil change facility, as they overcharge for this service.

Do a Drive Test

Every few months you should drive your SUV around your neighborhood and test its brakes. To do this, make sure there are minimal distractions by turning off the music and driving alone. When you notice no traffic around test your brakes by slowly applying your foot to the brake pedal. You should also do a sudden stop to test its effectiveness. If you hear metal grinding, the steering column shake or the brake pedal seems sluggish, then it’s time to take your SUV in for repair. By doing this every few months, you can identify small issues before they morph into larger ones, which could cost you a significant amount of money.

Adhere to Maintenance Schedules

One of the most important aspects of keeping your SUV in the best shape is to take it in for regular services. You can find out which services you should do by consulting your vehicle’s owner manual. By doing this, you keep other components such as your SUV’s tires in great condition and alignment, reducing the amount of wear placed on the brakes. In addition, many mechanics can inspect your SUV at the time of service. This is an excellent opportunity for them to make sure all systems function properly and if not, recommend services to ensure they do.

Take Advantage of Tech Tools

Many manufacturers have made it simple for owners to keep abreast on their vehicle’s condition. A great example of this is the OnStar service through Chevrolet. When subscribed to the basic plan, owners received diagnostic reports each month on the SUV’s most critical areas. Each system such as the engine, anti-lock brakes and more comes colored coded, denoting if the system is in good shape or if it might need attention. You can also receive real-time alerts via text or email to stay on top of any changes to your SUV.

Our Take

By adjusting your driving behaviors, you can reduce the amount of stress placed on your vehicle’s most important components like its brakes, so it extends their life, helps your SUV receive better stopping power, and saves you money. This is a brake hat-trick any SUV owner would want.

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