Car Care - Understanding Brakes

  • Jul 07, 2017


Acceleration and top speed are all the fun. But when the fun times are over, you need those brakes to bring it back to a stop in a safe and predictable manner. Good brakes also add precious seconds to the lap times if you want to have some track day blast. Having the power to stop is crucial especially considering our road conditions and the surprises we encounter every day.

Two things to keep in mind for a strong bite are brake pads and brake fluid. The pads need to have enough friction material on them to avoid metal-to-metal contact and maximise grip. Brake pads usually last about 40,000-50,000km, but if you drive extensively around town, frequent braking may require you to replace them earlier.


Sintered pads are the way to go as they offer good bite when cold and even better if they're hot. The friction material comprises of metals densely packed together with high heat and pressure, and hence they last long too. Organic pads are the budget choice but not recommended as they only include rubber, glass and natural fibres with a small quantity of metal for longevity. Ceramic pads are of the semi-organic variety, but they're costly and don't offer a healthy price-to-performance ratio.

The brake fluid, should be clear and ready to deal with high temperatures. As you frequently apply brakes, the fluid boils and heats up. This temperature variations cause the brake fluid to break down and change its opacity. Brake fluid turning darker is a clear sign that you should replace it immediately. Not doing so would result in a spongy brake feel even if you have a fresh set of pads installed around the disc.


If you also open the brake fluid cap in your car, then you're at a higher risk of making the liquid worthless sooner. The humid weather leaves a tonne of moisture in the air. Brake fluids are hygroscopic and can quickly absorb the moisture from the air, which will also affect the braking abilities. Consider replacing the fluid every 40,000-50,000km or just make it a point to replace them with the pads.

When replacing the brake fluid, make sure you bleed the old one out and keep adding fresh fluid until the dripping fluid starts to look like new.


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