You become accustomed to your brakes – their sound, the feel of the pedal, and how quickly they halt your vehicle. Then, one day, your brakes just don't feel right. They make strange noises, the pedal feels odd, and you need to press it further. Most concerning of all, stopping takes longer.
At Kunes Chevrolet Buick GMC of Lake Geneva Service Center, we recognize that change in your brakes is unavoidable. Brake pads and rotors experience wear and tear due to the extreme friction and heat they face. Air enters brake lines, and dozens of other components in your brake system can wear out at any moment. Our Kunes Service Center technicians’ expertise is needed to restore your confidence in braking.
When you visit us for any brake issue, our professional technicians perform comprehensive inspections on your brakes. We then take the time to thoroughly explain your vehicle's condition and inform you which problems are urgent (and which can be postponed). We also discuss the most suitable options for your budget and provide a written estimate before conducting any repairs.
Whether you suspect a brake issue (due to your brake light, pedal, or a suspicious leak) or have reached your vehicle's recommended service interval, start by scheduling a brake service appointment with us.
The components included in a brake job depend on the lifecycle of each part. For instance, you may not need new rotors when replacing brake pads. However, some brake services must be performed on both wheels of the same axle. Multiple systems in your vehicle are designed to have matching parts on both sides of your vehicle.
A brake inspection should encompass a review of all brake components and connectors, dashboard lights, external brake lights, brake fluid condition, and hydraulic pressure throughout the brake lines.
How often should my brakes be serviced?
Depending on your vehicle, environment, brake components, and driving habits, your brake pads or shoes may last between 20,000 and 80,000 miles. Brake fluid can last 2-5 years. With such an unpredictable replacement cycle, regular brake inspections are crucial.
Consult your vehicle owner's manual for your brake inspection schedule – every 10,000-12,000 miles or every year are standard recommendations.
How can I tell when I need new brakes?
New brake pads, rotors, or brake fluid may be needed if you notice any unfamiliar sound or diminished pedal response when braking. Worn brake pads can squeak and worsen until you hear the grinding sound of unprotected rotors.
Worn pads and low brake fluid pressure can both cause a distressing delay in pedal response. Warped rotors can lead to vibrations while braking (not to be mistaken for the normal pulsing sensation when your ABS engages).
Here are some typical signs of deteriorating brakes:
What transforms your foot's pressure on a pedal into a powerful force capable of halting your vehicle? Part of this magic occurs in your brake lines, where the fluid inside conveys the hydraulic pressure that activates your brakes.
If your brake fluid level drops too much, your brake lines can't generate as much pressure, making it harder for you, your pedal, and other braking system components to stop the vehicle.
If you lose too much pressure, your brakes can fail.
Frequent Brake Fluid Issues
Hydraulic pressure in your brake lines can decrease for several reasons, involving various brake components. Still, the three main themes are:
Regardless of your brake fluid's condition, a brake inspection is always the first step.
How does air enter your brake lines?
A car's brake fluid level can decline due to normal brake system wear and brake fluid leaks. Air enters the brake lines to fill the vacuum created by lost fluid. It can enter because the brake line system isn't completely airtight and is exposed to the air each time someone checks your brake fluid level.
What color is brake fluid?
New brake fluid varies from colorless to light brown or amber, while older brake fluid is often darker brown. Old brake fluid can carry debris that, over time, may damage the seals on your master cylinder and brake calipers. However, color alone doesn't indicate when to replace your brake fluid.
Instead of relying on brake fluid color to determine when to change fluid, the Automotive Maintenance and Repair Association's (AMRA) Motorist Assurance Program (MAP) recommends brake fluid testing by a qualified technician. Kunes Chevrolet GMC Buick of Lake Geneva Service Center can test your brake fluid for depleted corrosion inhibitors and incorrect fluid added, among other things.
What happens when you have aged or contaminated brake fluid?
Like motor oil, brake fluid has additives that combat corrosion and fluid breakdown. Similar to motor oil, brake fluid is periodically replaced to maintain its protective and performance properties. Another reason brake fluid doesn't last forever is contamination. It absorbs water from the atmosphere each time it's exposed to the air. Over time, this moisture can cause rust and corrosion in your brake system's internal metal components.
Why is my brake fluid low?
A vehicle's brake fluid decreases either due to leaks or from normal brake operation. As your brake pads and/or shoes wear down, more space forms between the pads and/or shoes and the brake rotors and/or drums in their resting position. More brake fluid is needed to cover that larger space and reach the wheels, thus lowering the brake fluid level.
What happens when you have low brake fluid?
Low brake fluid starts with air in your brake lines (resulting in a spongy brake pedal) and can escalate to a critical loss of hydraulic pressure in the brake lines (leading to brake failure). If your brake fluid level is low due to normal operation, it will gradually escalate to bigger problems.
However, if you let it get too low, you risk introducing air into expensive parts like your anti-lock brake system (ABS). If you have a brake fluid leak, there is no way to know how quickly your brake performance will deteriorate. As soon as you notice any difference in your brake response, or signs of a brake fluid leak, have your brakes inspected as soon as possible.
Can low brake fluid cause spongy brakes?
Although brake fluid problems are often responsible for spongy brakes, several parts of your brake system could be the source of a leak or pressure disruption.
Causes of spongy brakes that can be resolved through regular maintenance include:
Causes of spongy brakes that require diagnosis and repair include:
Kunes Service Center technicians are well-versed in all aspects of spongy brake origins, from the master cylinder to the calipers and brake shoes. Our team will inform you about what needs immediate attention (and what can wait) and provide a written estimate before making any repairs.
What does it mean to bleed brake fluid?
Bleeding your brake lines refers to removing air from the brake lines. This is done by draining brake fluid to eliminate air bubbles, then adding enough fluid to restore the correct hydraulic pressure to your brake system.
As long as the air in your brake lines isn't caused by a brake fluid leak, bleeding your brakes removes a major cause of mushy or spongy brakes. Bleeding is an alternative to flushing the brake lines when you're not close to your recommended brake fluid change interval.
How does air in my brake lines feel?
The first symptom of air in your brake lines is a soft, spongy, or mushy feeling in your brake pedal. If your brake pressure continues to decline, you'll have to push your brake pedal closer and closer to your vehicle's floor.
What issues can air in my brake lines create?
Air in brake lines can compress, causing the brake pedal to feel spongy. However, air in the brake lines might also indicate other brake problems, ranging from worn braking system components to brake fluid leaks. Some of these issues can result in brake failure, so early diagnosis of any change in brake response is crucial for road safety.
If the air in your brake lines is due to a brake fluid leak, your brakes could eventually fail!
That's why it's essential to have your brakes inspected as soon as you notice any change in your brake pedal or brake response.
The term "Brake Flush" is commonly used by automotive shops to describe the process of draining, filling, or exchanging the brake fluid in an automotive brake system. Sometimes, a flush chemical such as denatured alcohol is used if a contaminant (like power steering or transmission fluid) has entered the hydraulic portion of your brake system. This decontamination procedure is the most technical definition of a brake fluid flush, and some experts refer to this procedure as a chemical flush.
Outside of the chemical flush scenario, periodic brake fluid exchange is typically recommended for routine maintenance. This process simply involves removing your old brake fluid and replacing it with new fluid. Many shops call this process a "Brake Flush" even though flush chemicals are not used.
How do I know when my brake fluid should be replaced?
How often should brake fluid be changed?
Brake fluid can last anywhere from two to five years, so check your vehicle manual for your recommended brake fluid maintenance cycle. If your vehicle manufacturer does not recommend a specific maintenance schedule for brake fluid replacement (often called brake fluid flush), monitor your brake fluid level, and have the fluid tested with every oil change. Schedule a brake inspection at the first sign of spongy brakes. Kunes Service Center technicians can help you decide when it's time for new brake fluid.
To help detect brake problems early, it's a smart precaution to check your brake fluid with each oil change. And remember: our expert techs check your brake lines and fluid levels as part of every oil change.
How can I tell if my brake fluid is leaking?
Any of these signs means your brakes should be inspected by a qualified mechanic.
To begin investigating your brake fluid leak, trust our professional technicians at Kunes Service Center for a comprehensive brake inspection. Your expert Kunes technician will explain the cause of your leak and provide a written estimate before making any repairs
Maintaining the proper brake fluid level and quality is essential for the optimal performance and safety of your vehicle's braking system. Understanding the various factors that can impact your brake fluid, such as leaks, air in the brake lines, and contamination, is crucial for ensuring timely inspections and necessary services.
Our experienced technicians at Kunes Chevrolet Buick GMC of Lake Geneva Service Center, are committed to providing thorough brake inspections and offering expert advice on the best course of action for your specific situation. We prioritize customer satisfaction and safety, making sure you can confidently get back on the road with a well-maintained braking system.
Schedule a brake inspection or fluid service with us today and experience the superior service and peace of mind that comes with trusting your vehicle to Kunes Service Center.
What are brake discs?
A brake disc, also known as a rotor, is a metal plate connected to a vehicle's wheel hub that works with the brake pads to halt the vehicle. The disc is positioned within a caliper, which holds the brake pads on both sides of the disc. When you apply the brake pedal, hydraulic pressure from the brake fluid forces a piston(s) to press the brake pads against the disc, stopping your wheels. Brakes consisting of a disc, brake pads, and calipers are referred to as disc brakes.
The other prevalent brake type is the drum brake, which use shoes instead of pads and drums rather than discs. The majority of new cars now have disc brakes on all four wheels or disc brakes on the front wheels and drum brakes on the rear wheels.
Brake discs degrade over time due to friction with the brake pads. However, replacing the discs isn't always necessary when changing brake pads. In many cases, discs can be resurfaced one or more times to extend their lifespan.
However, each resurfacing reduces the thickness of the discs, eventually necessitating replacement. Always adhere to the vehicle manufacturer's recommendations when changing discs.
How can I tell if I need new brake discs?
Here are some indicators that it's time to examine your brake discs for potential resurfacing or replacement:
Before reaching this point, your mechanic can inform you if your discs are too worn from brake pad contact to be safely resurfaced. Mechanics must replace any disc that has worn below the manufacturer-specified minimum thickness.
The most convenient time to inspect the discs is during a brake inspection. On most vehicles, it's challenging to examine your brake discs without removing the wheels. Your Kunes technician will advise you if it's time for new discs now or if the task can be postponed.
What causes grooves in brake discs?
Brake discs are designed to wear down in the shape of brake pads, and these indentations can often be resurfaced (until the disc becomes too thin and requires replacement). Grooves can also be caused by foreign objects under the brake pads, corrosion, or softer metal in the discs compared to the brake pads. As long as the groove isn't deeper than the disc's minimum thickness, these can also be resurfaced.
What causes brake discs to warp?
The primary cause of brake disc warping is excessive heat buildup, which can result from:
What are the signs of a faulty master cylinder?
Spongy brakes are one of several indications of a malfunctioning master cylinder, which occurs when the cylinder's seals are too worn to maintain pressure from the brake pedal to the brake lines.
The primary function of your vehicle's brake system is to halt your car, but it requires numerous components working in unison to accomplish that task. Each component has its own distinct replacement schedule.
Our skilled Kunes Service Center technicians first carry out a comprehensive assessment of every element of your brake system. Our inspections cover both common issues, such as brake pads and fluid leaks, as well as more elusive culprits like slow-leaking power brake booster seals that could potentially cause your vehicle to stall.
If we detect a problem with your brakes, we provide an assessment of what requires immediate attention and what can be deferred. Our team will take the time to carefully explain your vehicle's condition and offer a written estimate before conducting any repairs.
What does a brake inspection entail?
A brake inspection should always involve a detailed examination of your entire brake system, from the pedal to the rotors and drums (the brake components connected to your wheels). Your brake lines should be inspected for leaks and appropriate hydraulic pressure during the process. Even your external brake lights should be tested.
Kunes Chevrolet Buick GMC of Lake Geneva Service Center's brake service inspects the following major components (as well as smaller parts such as seals and connectors):
On Drum Brakes:
On Disc Brakes:
Following the inspection, the Kunes service advisor will offer a written estimate to address any brake problems they identify and will help you prioritize what requires immediate attention (and what can be postponed) before performing the repairs
How frequently should my brakes be inspected?
It's typical to have your brakes inspected annually or every 10,000-12,000 miles, but consult your vehicle owner's manual for the suggested brake inspection interval for your model.
Additionally, have your brakes examined by a mechanic as soon as you notice any of these brake issues:
How long does a brake inspection take?
Typically, brake inspections take under 30 minutes as a standalone service. Additional time will be required for any repairs or maintenance to your brakes. Your Kunes service advisor will supply a written estimate and a thorough explanation of any identified brake issues prior to performing repairs.
Anti-lock braking systems (ABS) are designed to stop your vehicle's wheels from locking up (and skidding) during emergency braking and other challenging situations. ABS operates using electronic sensors and high-pressure pumps that, under specific circumstances, can monitor your vehicle's speed, wheel slippage, and brake force. When the sensors identify a skidding risk, your ABS system actually applies the brakes for you, with greater speed and accuracy than a human driver can achieve.
How do ABS brakes benefit you?
ABS assists you in maintaining control of your vehicle when stopping suddenly or braking on slippery surfaces. By preventing wheel lock, you retain traction and steering while stopping, instead of skidding. In some vehicles, ABS may also reduce the braking distance necessary for safe stopping, although this is not their primary purpose.
Why is my ABS warning light illuminated?
The ABS warning light could be on due to a regular system check, or it could be signaling an issue with your ABS brake system:
What should I do if my ABS warning light comes on?
When the ABS light comes on, the solution depends on when it’s activated.
Anytime your ABS light remains on after startup, you should schedule an appointment with us for ABS service. After inspecting your ABS, your Kunes Service advisor will explain what is necessary and what's optional, providing you with a written estimate before any work is performed.
Is it safe to drive with the ABS light on?
It is safe to drive with the ABS light on if your brakes are functioning normally, but it is less safe than driving with a working anti-lock brake system. In situations where ABS would usually engage, you're at an increased risk of brake lock and skidding if the ABS light is on. It is a good idea to have your ABS checked as soon as possible.
Is it safe to drive with both the ABS light and brake light on?
Driving with both the ABS and brake light on is unsafe for most vehicles. In most cases, the brake light warns of issues such as low brake fluid or low brake pads. On some older vehicles, the brake light will activate alongside the ABS light to alert you to an ABS system issue. If your vehicle is not one of these, it's best to err on the side of caution, assume your brakes are unreliable, and consult your local Kunes expert as soon as possible.
Why does my brake pedal sometimes pulsate?
If your brake pedal pulsates during sudden stops or on slippery roads, it's likely your ABS in action, applying the brakes. Keep your foot on the brake until your vehicle comes to a complete stop.
Various brake issues can cause the brake pedal to pulsate. If your vehicle feels different without an apparent reason, it's a good idea to request a brake inspection appointment at Kunes.
What is the difference between ABS and traditional brakes?
The primary difference between ABS and traditional brakes lies in the way they respond to emergency braking and slippery conditions. Traditional brakes may lock up the wheels during hard braking or when braking on slick surfaces, resulting in skidding and a potential loss of control. ABS, on the other hand, prevents wheel lock-up by automatically and rapidly pumping the brakes, maintaining traction and steering control.
How do I know if my vehicle has ABS?
To determine if your vehicle is equipped with ABS, you can refer to your owner's manual or look for an ABS warning light on your dashboard. When you start your vehicle, the ABS light should briefly illuminate as part of a routine system check. If your vehicle doesn't have an ABS light, it is likely not equipped with an ABS system.
Is ABS maintenance required?
Like any other component of your vehicle, the ABS system requires regular maintenance and inspection to ensure proper functioning. While the ABS system is designed to be reliable, sensors and other components may eventually wear out or become damaged. Regular brake inspections can help identify any ABS-related issues and ensure that the system is working as intended. Always consult your vehicle owner's manual for recommended maintenance intervals and procedures.
Can I retrofit my vehicle with ABS?
Retrofitting a vehicle with ABS can be a complex and costly process. In most cases, it is not practical or cost-effective to retrofit a non-ABS vehicle with an ABS system. If you're looking to upgrade to a vehicle with better braking capabilities, it may be more sensible to consider purchasing a vehicle that comes equipped with ABS from the factory.
To sum it up, ABS brakes provide enhanced safety and control during emergency braking and challenging driving conditions. It is essential to maintain your vehicle's ABS system and address any warning lights or unusual brake pedal sensations promptly. Regular brake inspections and maintenance can help ensure your ABS system remains in optimal working condition, contributing to a safer driving experience.
Pressing the brake pedal forces the fluid in your master cylinder through the brake lines, exerting hydraulic pressure on the brakes. This pressure brings the brake pads or shoes into contact with the rotors and/or drums, generating friction that slows down and stops your vehicle.
Have your brakes inspected as soon as you notice any of these symptoms that might suggest a faulty master cylinder (as well as other serious car issues):
Brakes play a crucial role in the efficient and safe operation of your vehicle's braking system. Ensuring that all components, including the brake disc, pads, calipers, and ABS, are in optimal working condition is essential for your safety on the road.
Our expert technicians at Kunes Chevrolet Buick GMC of Lake Geneva Service Center are dedicated to conducting thorough inspections and providing top-quality repair services to keep your vehicle's braking system functioning at its best. We prioritize transparency and clear communication, so you can trust that our recommendations are always in your best interest.
Schedule a brake system inspection with us today and experience the peace of mind that comes from knowing your vehicle is in capable hands.