How To Test your brakes in a safe environment

Your car's brakes are one of its most important safety features. Choosing the correct car servicing intervals will help, but there are also steps you can take yourself.


Whilst a successful MOT offers reassurance that those brakes are functioning as expected, it is crucial to keep an eye on their performance throughout the year. Choosing the correct car servicing intervals will help, but there are also steps you can take yourself.

Even with little or no mechanical knowledge, you can check the performance of your brakes. To begin with, find a safe place to conduct the test. Making sure there is no-one behind you, accelerate to around 30mph and then brake to a stop. The brake pedal should depress smoothly, without pulsing or juddering. If it is safe to do so, you can also conduct this test at higher speeds. If your brakes do judder or pulsate, the problem may lie with the rotors. 


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Obviously, you can take the car to a garage and ask a technician to examine the rotors, but if you're feeling confident, you might want to check for yourself. To do so, wait until the car's engine is cold and remove one of the front wheels. Use a compass and a tape measure to assess the thickness of the brake pad. When new, the pad should be around a half inch in thickness. Obviously, this measurement decreases with use, and it is not until the pad reaches around 1/8 inch in thickness that it needs replacing. It is sensible to take a number of measurements down the length of the pad. These different measurements ought not to vary by more than 1/16 inch. More significant variation indicates that the calliper requires servicing. The last step in this process is to examine the rotor disc for any grooves that could affect its functioning. 

A common brake safety issue of which to be aware is the effect of driving through floodwaters. As a general rule, do not attempt to drive through water you could not comfortably walk through. Only six inches of water is sufficient to reach the bottom of many cars. Once you're out of the water, test your brakes while driving slowly. They may need drying off by further light braking whilst driving slowly.

If you're unsure about anything, or are asking yourself the question when should my car be serviced, why not pop along to your local Protyre garage for a free vehicle check from our technicians? With a national network of over 100 garages, you're sure to be close to your nearest Protyre garage. If your vehicle fails an MOT, we're also happy to conduct free MOT retests.

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About the author

Dean Richardson

Dean is a Regional Director for Protyre who is also responsible for the running of our Protech Academy. The Protech Academy is a centre of excellence where the Protyre team learn the latest mechanical knowledge and skills, gain qualifications and develop their expertise to share with our customers at their local garage. The Academy is also designed to help us stay ahead of the ever changing automotive market by ensuring we have the best skills available to deal with advanced driver assist systems, hybrid/ electric vehicles in addition to all the new technology finding their way into our vehicles. During Dean's career he has worked for some of the biggest names in the fast-fit and mechanical aftermarket and as the man responsible for developing our people and their mechanical skills he is ideally suited to help provide advice in the latest in car technology and ongoing maintenance of your vehicle no matter how new or old it maybe.

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