How to Check Disc Brakes

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Disc Brakes

Brakes are arguably one of the most important parts of a vehicle, making maintenance of a car's brake systems of the utmost importance. Any motorist who has had the unfortunate luck of being in a vehicle when the brakes have failed or have nearly failed knows just how essential the brake system can be. Without them, irrevocable damage can be caused to not just to the driver and to their car, but to other people, whether they are passengers in the car or fellow motorists on the road. They are certainly the most important safety device in a vehicle, and as such, drivers should make sure that they inspect their disc brakes and brake linings for wear and damage two times a year, or every 10,000 miles that the car is driven. Doing so will not only keep drivers safe, but it can also save them money. Brake parts can be found at local auto parts stores, at larger superstores, or at online retailers like eBay. The process of checking disc brakes is easy after gaining a little knowledge of the parts and by following the six easy steps for checking disc brakes that are presented in this guide.

The Anatomy of a Brake System

Disc brakes are comprised of a small number of parts, including a disc, brake pads, and a caliper, which features an inspection hole. Brake pads are attached on either side of the circular disc, and the caliper wraps around the both the disc and the brake pads. In essence, the caliper envelopes the brake pads and disc, and the brake pads act as cushion between the disc and the caliper. The caliper extends about a quarter of the length of the disc, and the brake pads are only present between the caliper and the disc. The inspection hole is located on the top of the caliper and allows the owner to view the brake pads and disc through it. Brake lines are attached to the machine and are encased in a rubber lining. By having an understanding of the various parts that comprise a disc brake system, motorists will be better prepared to check the system when it is time for maintenance.

6 Simple Steps for Checking Disc Brakes

The following six simple steps for checking a car's disc brakes allows even the most novice auto owner to gain an understanding of the mechanics of the system.

Step 1: Remove the Front Wheel

The first step in the process of checking a car's disc brakes is using a jack to lift the vehicle in order to remove the front wheel. Motorists should always remember to use wheel blocks when jacking a car up in order to assure safety. Sometimes, removing the front wheel is not always necessary, as it is sometimes possible for the driver to view the disc brakes without removing the wheel itself. Before attempting to remove the wheel, car owners should see if it is possible to get a good view of the disc brakes without the need to remove it.

Step 2: Examine the Disc Brakes

Since the goal of the process is to examine the disc brakes, there is no need to disassemble them. Motorists should make sure that they have the appropriate lighting, and they should look for visible signs of rust, scoring, or uneven wear, as these are signs that the discs may need to be replaced. Rust is most often harmless, unless it is heavy due to lack of maintenance and neglect. If the car has not been driven in a long time, the chances are high that heavy rust will be present on the disc brakes. When examining them, the discs themselves should be shiny, and they should not have any major grooves or be misshapen in any way. If there are noticeable heavy grooves or blemishes, the disc should be replaced. Slight lines are to be expected. If drivers are unsure about whether the blemishes are severe, they should consult a professional.

Step 3: Examine the Caliper

The next step in the process is for motorists to take a look at the caliper. Drivers should remember that the caliper is the device that is hugging the brake pads and the disc. It actually blocks part of the view of the brake pads and the disc, as it is the outermost component. Before touching the caliper, car owners will need to make sure that it is not hot. If the car has been running for any period of time, the caliper can be too hot to the touch. They should then take hold of the caliper, applying pressure from side to side to gauge if the part is secure. Any sort of shifts can be a result of it being too loosely mounted or of the mounting hardware being compromised. If the caliper is loose, consult a professional and refrain from driving the vehicle until it has been examined by a mechanic.

Step 4: Examine the Brake Pads

After examining the calipers, motorists should look through the inspection hole in the caliper to examine the brake pads. Brake pads that are 1/8 of an inch or less thick, which is the thickness of two stacked pennies, should be replaced. Replacing brake pads is a proactive approach to vehicle maintenance. If flaws are ignored for too long, larger and more costly issues can emerge. For example, if brake pads are worn too thin, the discs most often must be reground and replaced as well, which can result in a more costly experience.

Step 5: Examine the Brake Lines

Brake lines, which are rubber-coated and pliable, are another essential component of disc brakes that cannot be ignored. If these wires have become rigid or cracked, they must be replaced before further (and more costly) issues arise. Car owners should make sure that they do not ignore any corrosion, as that should be addressed as soon as possible as well.

Step 6: Replace the Wheel

After motorists have examined all of the components of disc brakes, they are ready to replace the wheel, along with the lug nuts and the hubcap. Using the jack, the vehicle can then be lowered to the ground. Car owners should take the condition of the brake pads and the disc into account. For example, the caliper should be sturdy. If the brake pedal flutters after taking the car for a test drive, the driver should consult a professional immediately as this could be indicative of a larger issue.

Safety Tip: Know Limitations

Many aspects of vehicle maintenance should be left to a trained professional. Realigning, caliper maintenance, and disc grinding are all advanced techniques that require more training that the average motorist likely possesses. A professional either should perform these duties, or they should at the very least supervise them in a safe environment.

How to Buy Disc Brake Parts on eBay

While disc brakes can be purchased at many brick and mortar automotive supply stores or even at large superstores, eBay is able to offer a wide range of disc brake part selections at often bargain prices.

Searching for Disc Brake Parts on eBay

When searching for parts or tools to check disc brakes on eBay, make sure to take care to specify that the parts are designed for a vehicle, as many of these parts can apply to other machines, like bicycles. eBay's main page contains a search bar that allows you to search for terms like "automotive equipment." For vehicle parts, it is important that you select the correct part to fit your vehicle. Many customers opt to select the same make of products that they are replacing, since replacement is not often indicative of a product being poor because replacement is expected with use. If you are unsure about what specification to choose, consult a professional. Many people who work at auto parts stores can easily distinguish the characteristics that are most important to a product.

Communicating with Sellers

When examining listings that you may be interested in, do not hesitate to ask the seller any questions. Most sellers of car parts are likely very knowledgeable on the subject of car maintenance and on the product that they are selling, and they may able to act as a consultant. Sellers can be contacted either through the Contact Member link on their seller page or through the Ask a Question link on the item listing page. Be sure to also consider cost of delivery, as well as the estimated delivery time.


Knowing the anatomy of disc brakes can aid in the understanding of automotive maintenance. It is so much easier to know how and why something works when the driver can envision the parts and how they work together. Motorists also need to make sure to remember that if a concept is beyond their ability, they should always take care to consult a professional. Taking a step-by-step approach to checking disc brakes can be a helpful way for novice automotive owners to learn how to better maintain their vehicles. Dividing instructions into steps also leaves less room for error, as motorists are less likely to gloss over an entire step by accident. Remember that auto parts can be purchased from a variety of retailers, so car owners should make sure to shop around for the best deal. They should not be afraid to ask questions, as many involved in the auto industry are more than willing to share their expertise. Checking a car's disc brakes can be a great learning experience, and it can serve as a fantastic introduction to automotive culture.

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