from Goss’ Garage by Pat Goss

The days are getting noticeably shorter, the nights cooler, and there’s that cold winter feel to the air and it’s time for a winter safety inspection. Although most inspections cover the strictly winter items there are some obscure things that are routinely overlooked. Among those overlooked pieces-parts are brakes. Oh I know most technicians check the amount of friction material remaining and do the basics but winter requires a bit more.

Most important is performing the yearly brake service. Didn’t know there was a yearly service? Yes there is and the best time to service brakes is in the fall. So if you haven’t had your brakes serviced yet this year you’re due. A yearly brake service and inspection requires checking the physical condition of all the brake parts plus a thorough cleaning and lubrication of moving parts. Here in Goss’ Garage we see far too many cars with binding brake calipers, worn drum-brake backing plates and a host of other maladies caused by nothing more than the absence of a couple dabs of brake grease. For winter safety the caliper slides should be cleaned, inspected and properly lubricated with synthetic brake lube.

But don’t try to cut corners by using wheel bearing grease or chassis lube which can actually make matters worse. How’s that possible? Easy, most of those lubes are designed to be used in sealed relatively dirt-free cavities. Brake calipers, backing plates, brake hardware and other brake parts are out in the open and exposed to road debris, sand, salt, dust and a host of other nasties.

These mostly gritty particles collect in the sticky grease and slowly work their way into the caliper slides and other moving parts. Once there the contamination does one of two things; causes the moving parts to wear or causes them to stick and bind. Neither is desirable and both lead to questionable brake performance. Brake grease on the other hand has a very high resistance to collecting road grit and therefore keeps the nasties out of moving parts.

Bottom line make sure every moving part in the brake system moves like it should and has a liberal coating of the proper type of grease for the part being lubricated. I say this because some brake lube suppliers make one grease for metal to metal contact points and another for rubber to metal contact and they shouldn’t be interchanged.

Finally there is a relatively new but very dangerous problem that we’re seeing much more frequently these days; rusted brake lines (pipes). These are the steel tubes that carry the highly pressurized hydraulic fluid from the master cylinder to the four corners of the car to operate the brakes. In the last two years we have had to replace more brake lines due to rust than in the previous twenty five years combined. I’m not 100% sure what’s causing this but the one thing that has changed is pretreating roads when snow or ice is expected. The pretreatment chemical is highly aggressive and eats steel tubing like candy. The snow or ice event may never happen but your car is still subjected to the pretreatment chemicals.

It’s an incredibly dangerous problem because rusted brake lines fail when you really can’t afford a failure, that’s during the extreme stresses of a panic stop. Brake line failure means loss of braking and you hit what you’re trying to avoid. I have found a way to prevent this through coating the brake lines with either white lithium grease or far better, one of the new corrosion preventing chemicals. This will keep the rust at bay and help prevent premature brake line failure. Yearly brake service and rust prevention will reduce repair costs and keep brakes working better, longer, and safer.