Reliable brakes are an essential part of vehicle safety and often can get complaints of excessive dust, noise, vibration, lacking power, sensitivity, or rapid wearing. It's important to determine if these problems are because of improper installation or incorrect choice of friction materials. With a little extra time spent at installation you can ensure that your brake pads meet your expectations. Most brake performance complaints can be traced to one of these five basic installation errors.

Error #1: Not matching original equipment

Most brake pad performance complaints are caused by not matching the original equipment or the requirements of the vehicle. If the old pads were ceramic, then your replacement brake pads should also be ceramic to match your previous brake sensitivity. If a truck is used for heavy-duty towing then your brake friction should be semi-metallic to match those needs.

Error #2: Neglecting the hardware

The most common cause of noise complaints is from replacing the brake pad without also replacing the shims, anti-rattle clips and insulation parts needed to suppress noise. Premium brake pads have shims attached and also usually include brake caliper hardware. Lubricant can also be used to help inhibit noise and vibration. Less expensive pads don't include these additional pieces and so they are more likely to experience noise. Taking the extra few minutes to install new mounting hardware as well as cleaning and lubricating the brake calipers, you can prevent many brake pad complaints including pad glazing, excess wear, and pulling brakes.

Error #3: Ignoring the Rotors

Some auto manufacturers recommend that their brake rotors do not need be resurfaced unless it no longer meets thickness requirements. That recommendation has been controversial because many mechanics have experienced increased complaints when brake rotors aren't resurfaced or replaced. Rotors can also develop a wobble from incorrectly tightened lug nuts or from friction material transfer from the pad to the rotor. Most reputable dealers recommend that the brake rotors be resurfaced or replaced when changing the brake pads.

Error #4: Not Flushing Brake Hydraulics

Old brake fluid should be flushed out of the system when the brake pads are replaced. Brake fluid can actually draw moisture through a brake hose into the hydraulic system. Once inside, the moisture can cause damage, seizing anti-lock braking system valves and corroding the sensitive interior surfaces of brake calipers and wheel cylinders. Brake fluid can contain enough moisture to cause it to boil under severe conditions. Badly deteriorated brake fluid will also contain air which will make the brake pedal feel spongy or lack sensitivity.

Error #5: Skipping the Brake-In Procedure

The friction between brake pads and brake rotors is harsh on new brake pad installations. The contact surfaces between the brake pads and rotors must be smoothed by gently applying the brake 10-20 times to slow the vehicle from moderate speeds. The goal is to gently seat and conform the pad to the rotor to prevent uneven braking and hot spots during a real panic stop.
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