Your Volvo brakes are an extremely important part of your car. There's really no denying that. But do you know how to tell if they are in need of attention? Though there are lots of aspects to your braking system, the brake pads are pretty crucial. And letting them go past the recommended replacement point can have a devastating effect on not just your car’s rotors, but the entire braking system if neglected for too long.
The Most Commonly Replaced Component in Braking
That would be your brake pad. Specifically, your front-end brake pads. Today, the front wheels use disc brakes to hydraulically operate brake calipers. These push the pads against a disk (commonly made of steel). Each side of the disc has a pad and they are clamped together by the caliper’s hydraulic force. Before the disc wears out, ideally, the pad wears. Pads are cheaper to replace, so that's good. Driving conditions and style have everything to do with the life expectancy of your brake pads. Those factors make it harder to pin a specific number on how long you should go between brake pad replacements.
Signs of Brake Pad Wear
There are four categories with which to oversee the condition of wear on your brake pads. It might be time to get your brakes checked or replace your brake pads if any of the following hints apply:
- Check – Has it been 12,000 miles or 12 months since you last had an inspection done on your brakes? If so, it's time.
- See – Do you see a warning light? If you have an ABS or brake warning light on your dash, has it come on?
- Feel – How does it feel when you apply your Volvo brakes? Do your brakes pulsate or pull? Does the brake pedal fade or feel soft?
- Listen – If you hear a grinding, squeaking, or squealing noise when you apply your brakes, it's time to get them checked.
Warning Systems – Some Sophisticated – Some Not so Much
On automobiles of yesteryear, they used to have a little something frequently referred to as “dummy lights” on the dash. These were unreliable at best. Today's warning lights are far more sophisticated. Some modern automobiles have built-in wear sensors that will trigger a dashboard warning light when the minimum level has been reached on your brake pads.
Not all cars have these warning systems, however. A very common warning technique is nothing more than a loud squealing noise that can be heard when your brakes are applied. This means that the pads have worn through and your middleware indicator is rubbing on your rotors. If you hear this, get the brakes done on your car immediately.
And yet again, not all cars have even that much of a warning system. On some cars, you simply have to do a visual check of the brake pads on your own. On many cars, it's relatively easy to check the thickness of your brake pad. This will, however, mean jacking up your car and using an axle stand. There are couple of ways to visualize your pads:
At the caliper, you can look through the spokes at your Volvo brake pad’s thickness. That's for alloy wheels. There should be no less than a 3 mm thickness to your brake pad friction material. But, this way, you can only see one pad – not both. The wear rate on both pads may not match.
For other types of wheels, in order to check the thickness of the brake pad, you may actually have to remove the wheel. And when you check your brake pads, if at all possible, it's important to check both pads whenever possible because of the just mentioned unequal wear rate.
Remember that any time you are handling wheels and brakes, to be careful. If you have driven the car recently, these parts can be very hot. Avoid touching them if you've recently driven your car.
But when all else fails, have a certified Volvo mechanic check and replace your brakes – particularly if you don't feel comfortable doing it yourself.