European Precision: Why Maintaining Your Disc Brakes is Vital for Safety & Performance

European Precision: Why Maintaining Your Disc Brakes is Vital for Safety & Performance

All vehicles come equipped with a variety of safety features, but few have as large of an impact on your safety as the braking system. The ability to come to a swift, controlled stop is crucial for avoiding accidents and protecting the well-being of you, your passengers, and other drivers—so keeping your brakes in good shape is vital. 

There are two types of braking systems used in passenger vehicles: drum brakes and disc brakes. Disc brakes (which European automakers have long favored) have become the preferred braking system worldwide and are now found in the majority of vehicles. Although they offer many advantages over drum brakes, regular maintenance is still necessary to keep them in top condition. 

In this blog post, we’ll go over how disc brakes work, why European models need special attention, and some of the most important steps you can take to give your vehicle safe and reliable stopping power. 

How Brakes Work: Disk Brakes vs. Drum Brakes

Drum brakes (which consist of a brake drum, brake shoes, and a wheel cylinder) operate within the wheel assembly. When the driver presses the brake pedal, hydraulic pressure is applied to the cylinder, causing the brake shoes to press against the inner surface of the brake drum. This friction generates heat and slows down the rotation of the wheel, bringing the vehicle to a stop.

Disc brakes (which consist of the rotor, caliper, and brake pad) also use hydraulic pressure to engage the brakes. When the driver presses the pedal, hydraulic pressure activates the brake caliper, causing brake pads to squeeze against the rotor. The friction this generates slows down the wheel’s rotation and brings the vehicle to a stop. 

Disc brakes are known for having better heat dissipation, reduced fade, and improved overall performance compared to drum brakes. While they were both patented in the same year (1902) it took half a century before the disc brakes became cost-effective and practical to use in passenger vehicles. Jaguar was among the first automakers to recognize the superiority of disc brakes and led the way in making them the standard for modern-day vehicles. 

Why European Vehicles Need Specialized Brake Care

It’s no secret that European makes are known for delivering top-notc performance, and their brake systems play a crucial role in this. Brands like Audi, Porsche, BMW, and Volkswagen have more intricate and high-performing brake systems that demand more care. In addition, European regulations are stricter when it comes to brake components, which is partly due to the challenging conditions drivers face on European roads. 

So, the brakes are built to handle these extremes—and European manufacturers also like to stay ahead when it comes to technology. From ABS to Electronic Fuel Injection, European automakers adopt new tech early, and that extends to their braking systems. 

Some European models come equipped with high-performance brake systems that include materials requiring specialized care during maintenance, such as carbon ceramic. Additionally, brake rotors in European high-performance vehicles are often larger compared to domestic models, and they may have distinctive features like being drilled, slotted, and coated. These characteristics mean that special attention is necessary when performing maintenance on these brake systems.

Disc Brake Maintenance 

Every time you brake, it wears away a small amount of the friction material—a lot like how a pencil eraser wears down with each use. When this material gets too low, it reduces the effectiveness of braking. If you wait too long to replace the brake pads, it can eventually cause the metal part of the pad to rub against the rotors. This metal-on-metal contact not only compromises your ability to stop effectively, but can also lead to significant rotor damage. 

If you hear squealing or grinding when you use the brakes, schedule an appointment to have them inspected. Our technicians will check all the brake components to make sure they’re working properly, and let you know if anything needs to be repaired or replaced. Rotors can be warped and cracked, and the calipers can wear out over time as well, so regular inspections are essential to ensure all the components are in good condition. 

Here are some typical replacement intervals; keep in mind that this can vary depending on your make, model, and typical driving conditions:

  • Brake pads: Every 10,000 to 20,000 miles 
  • Rotors: Every 50,000 to 70,000 miles
  • Calipers: Every 100,000 miles or 10 years

Your brakes rely on brake fluid to create the hydraulic pressure needed to squeeze the brake pads against the rotors. Like engine oil, brake fluid breaks down over time; it also absorbs moisture from the air, which causes further degradation and lowers its efficacy. This is why it’s important to change the brake fluid at the intervals recommended in your owner’s manual. Although it can vary depending on your make and model, brake fluid replacements are typically recommended every one to two years. 

If you notice any other signs of brake problems, such as: 

  • Difficulty coming to a complete stop
  • An illuminated brake service light on the dashboard
  • Odd pulsations or vibrations in the brake pedal 
  • A spongey brake pedal

Don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment. Ignoring a brake issue for too long not only puts your safety at risk—it can also lead to more expensive repairs. 

Visit Your Local European Auto Care Experts

If you need brake inspections, repairs, or maintenance, turn to the experts at EuroCar Service. We specialize in complete care for European makes, including AudiBMWMercedesLand RoverMini-CooperFiatVolvoVolkswagenSaabJaguar, and Smart Car. Schedule an appointment today at (206) 527-8828, or request an appointment through our online form.