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Car care for teens - brakes


Car care consists of many systems
Photo: AP/Rich Pedroncelli
Parents, if you'd like to teach your teen driver about how to understand and navigate well on Nashville's sometimes complex roads, part of that education begins with car care. Here is some advice to pass on to your teen.
The most important thing for a new driver to remember is to make sure all the major systems in your car are functioning and maintained. They consist of the brake, steering, suspension, transmission, cooling, ignition and fuel systems. This article discusses your car’s braking system.
The brake system starts with the brake pedal. This system utilizes brake fluid in the reservoir using a distribution system of lines to each wheel where when pressure is applied via the brake pedal, a piston transfers this pressure to the brake pads. The brake pads “squeeze” the brake rotors which slows the car down. The brake pads and rotor are located behind the wheels. In this system, the brake pads are designed to wear down the faster and more aggressive you drive. If your brake pedal feels spongy, then you may have air in the brake line which needs to be bled.
To maintain your brake system, open the hood of the car and locate the brake reservoir. In modern cars, it is located on the driver’s side and is typically a plastic transparent container with a cap. There are marked levels to indicate if the brake fluid is low or optimum. If it is at the correct level then you are safe. Bear in mind that the level will begin to drop over several months of driving. As the brake pads wear down the brake fluid level will lower accordingly. You can keep topping off the brake fluid; however, remember that the pads are wearing away and eventually they will begin to squeak when the brakes are applied. This is an audible indicator that the brake pad manufactures have engineered into the pads to tell you that they are close to the point of needing to be replaced. Should you ignore the warning, the pads will wear past the point where they can effectively stop the car. You can take the car to your local Midas, Brake Stop or Firestone and have them change the pads for you.
You can save some money by purchasing replacement pads from your neighborhood O’Reilly’s, AutoZone or Advance Auto parts center. You will need a set of wrenches and a pair of 10” – 12” adjustable pliers. The wrench is to get the brake pads off the car and the pliers are to compress the brake pistons so you can fit the replacement pads on the car. Don’t forget you can also take your car to your high school or community college auto mechanics department and have them change the brake pads for you.

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