A Quarter Of The Cars In The UK Could Suffer Brake Failure

According to a new study highlighted by British Times, more than a quarter of cars in the UK have brakes that could fail at anytime due to defective brake fluid.

Research conducted for Cosan Lubricants’ Mobil Car Care range at copious independent service garages across the UK found that 26.5% of UK motorists had defective brake fluid, with nearly ten percent even risking their lives every time they drove.

The research tested the quality of brake fluid and results found that overall across Europe, an ominous 41% of vehicles are operating with sub-standard brake fluid.

In case you didn’t know, brake fluid absorbs moisture from the atmosphere, which reduces its effectiveness by lowering the boiling point. Once the boiling point dips beneath 180 degrees Celsius, brake fluid becomes all but useful, potentially causing sudden and inexplicable brake failure.

The research also determined that the age and mileage of a vehicle is not necessarily correlated to the quality of its brake fluid. One in seven vehicles with less than 80,000 miles on the clock had fluid showing a boiling point of less than 200 degrees, with more than a third admitting to not changing their fluid in over two years!

If you live in the U.K. or even Europe, this journalist strongly suggests you visit your local mechanic and see for yourself if your brake fluid is defective. With over a quarter of all cars being affected, it is imperative to your safety that you do so. When it comes to brakes, it can sometimes be a matter of life and death. Don’t let defective brake fluid ruin your car and your life!



AEB: Future of Braking?

With research indicating that a significant percentage of road accidents are attributable to distracted or inattentive drivers, the push is on to develop and refine systems that minimize the risks. At the helm of this push is Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB).

AEB in essence, is a technological breakthrough that aimed to minimize front-to-rear collisions through its ability to step in automatically and brake the car independently of the driver if a collision was detected as imminent.

Although systems such as driver attention support, lane departure warning and blind spot alert are already working their way into onboard safety systems, it is the proactive nature of AEB that takes it all a step further.

How does it work?
AEB works by scanning the road ahead of the car, and using a radar system to detect objects being approached while in-car computers make continual calculations of the speed and distance of the approach. If AEB calculates a collision is imminent, there is at first an audible signal to alert the driver and then, if no action is taken, the car’s brakes are applied to either avoid a crash completely, or at least minimize the force of actual impact.

Today, there are essentially three levels of AEB. They are summarized below.

Low speed (City).
This is where AEB works at speeds typically below 30km/h. Although it has the potential to eliminate or reduce whiplash-style injuries, has the main benefit of minimizing vehicle damage

High speed (Inter-urban)
Where the radar scans as much as 150 feet ahead of the vehicle at higher speeds, and auto brakes the car.

Where the system uses radar and cameras to detect pedestrians, animals (and even cyclist via shape recognition) then, if after calculating differential movement and speed determines there’s a danger of impact, brakes the car.

Who’s Backing This Technology?
Volvo brought Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) to public attention when it announced its City Safety system at the launch of the XC60 SUV in 2009, but autonomous accident avoidance has really been brewing since Mercedes-Benz introduced automatic braking as part of its radar-based Distronic Plus cruise control system in 2005.

As for authorities, the National Highway Traffic Safety Institute and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have already backed the system.

Organizations such as EuroNCAP have publicly embraced AEB, quoting data that suggests that accidents can be reduced by as much as 27 percent in cars using the system.

Read the full article on AEB here. 

Can Blood & Guts Save Brake Repair?

I was recently going through 1950’s issues of Brake and Front End and was amazed how “blood and guts” was leveraged to sell the motoring public and shops the virtues of brake system inspection and repair. Mangled cars, bicycles lodged in grills and flaming visuals of vehicles that could not stop in time were the norm. It was in stark contrast with the advertising of today pushing economy, durability and quiet performance.

Has the motoring public changed so dramatically in the past 50 years that they do not want to be confronted with images of mangled people and vehicles? Or, have our roads and vehicles become safer?

Last year, 33,963 people died in traffic crashes in the U.S., the lowest total since 1954, according to the Department of Transportation. The fatality rate of 1.16 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled was the lowest since the government started tracking it in 1966.

It seems the American consciousness is more concerned with cell phones, drunks and texting instead of mechanical brake failures. But, it also seems the motoring public is more concerned with losing parts of their wallets than a limb.

Over Easter vacation I had a chance to visit with family and old friends. I have always been known as the “car guy” and consulted by people seeking advice. Typically, it is a question about a squeak, rattle or other annoying noise a vehicle is making. But, it seems lately the focus of the inquiries are more of an economic nature than about safety and performance related issues. 

A friend who leases a 2007 Dodge Caravan asked me about a brake problem he was having. He said that occasionally the pedal was going to

the floor. His first question out of his mouth was, “How much is this going to cost me?” He did not ask if it is safe for him to drive with his three small children in the back.

You have to understand my friend is one of those great parents that checks websites to find out what car seat, playpen or stroller has been recalled for maiming or killing a small child. But, this is also coupled with a streak of cheapness.

I asked him when it occurs and how long it has been happening. He said at least twice a day on his drive to work on the freeway, and for about a month.

“So, how much is this going to cost me?” he repeated as if all car guys had some sort of secret price sheet in our heads. “How much is your family worth?” I asked. This is where polite conversation ended.

Instead of answering the question about the value of his family, he fired back, “I saw on the internet about other owners having the same problem.” He had to go there.

I told him that he could probably find guy who also has Chuck E. Cheese Pizza vomit in his Stow n’ Go seating well that he can’t get out no matter what he tries. The hostility was reaching DEFCON 3.

The Internet provides us with a bounty of information on how to repair today’s complex vehicles (typically requiring a user name, password and credit card number). But, we live in fear of customers thinking they can fix their vehicle with a Google search and a trip to the parts store, or the ones that search the internet for ways how to out smart shops.

The internet can be a virtual “shoulder to cry on” for drivers with similar car problems. If they search their problem they can find a forum of people who are just as confused, ignorant and scared. Some of these threads can go on for pages with little or no technical help.

With our conversation going downhill quickly, I asked him why he had not brought it to a shop or at least a dealership. He said that he did not want to get “screwed” by having to pay for something he did not need or have to pay for before his lease was up.  

It is unthinkable to me he would risk the safety of his family in order to save a few dollars. It was clear the fear of losing money has replaced the fear of losing life and limb with the driving public.

There is a solution, just like how Pepsi has brought back “Throwback” versions of their products, the aftermarket needs to do a throwback to an age when mangled cars and images of children chasing a ball into the street were featured prominently in friction material advertisements.

Forget the images of kids getting out of an SUV for soccer practice or a women in a pantsuit sitting comfortably in a waiting room while her car is fixed, I want to see gore in ads that would make any personal injury lawyer blush. Major chains should replace catchy price-based jingles with the sounds of screeching brakes and car crashes in their ads.

I know this may be going a little far, but for far too long we have been trying to create warm fuzzy feelings about brake repair, shops and parts that are not there in the first place. The industry has forgotten that we prevent people from hitting stuff that can kill them.

The Best Brake Pads In The World? What We Know And Don’t Know

There is one simple piece of advice I try to live by: “know what you know and know what you don’t know”.

It is a simple credo that can save you from making mistakes and looking like a complete jackass.

I am often asked about my opinion of a certain brand or application of brake pads, or what I prefer. I always feel awkward when answering these questions. While I have performed a large number of brake jobs and visited more brake pad engineering and manufacturing facilities than most people, it is difficult to give the person the answer they really want, or one I am completely comfortable with.

I can not be a brake pad Pope who can give a blessing to one manufacturer or another. Also, I can’t condemn an entire country’s brake pad production. I have often found blanket statements about one type of material or another can get you in a lot of trouble due to its inaccuracies and over-generalizations.

In a perfect world, I could measure Mµ levels, SAE testing number or stopping distances from 60 mph. But anybody who works in a shop, I know that this is irrelevant when a customer comes back complaining of noise or after the brakes have failed or developed a problem.

Selecting the right friction material is a difficult task. I could say that you should select the most expensive pad that your supplier offers. But, I know that the right pads for the customer are often not the ones at the top or bottom of the price column. It is a matter of looking at the engineering, reputation and appearance of the product. But, most of all it is about trust and reputation.

“If a company is willing to spend money on the foundation of their product, it does not speak well for the rest of the pad.”

One of the most under utilized resources for information about brake pads is the parts store counterman or counterwoman. While they are not an engineer or even a technician, they can tell you what gets the most returns and what sells the best.

If you are going to judge a brake pad by its appearance, there are three areas you need to look at. First, look at the material used to make the shim. If the material is not a sandwich of metal, rubber or other composite material, they could be trying to pull a fast one on you. Throw the shim on the floor. If it makes any rattles or pings, do not use that pad.

Second, if how the pad looks in the caliper is important to you, take a small propane torch or open flame and apply it to the pad. If the paint comes off quickly, that paint will not be an effective corrosion barrier. High quality coatings and even plating that can take the abuse typically cost more, but can last the lifetime of the pad.

Third, the foundation of any brake pad is the backing plate. If it takes a hammer or a great deal of force to install the pad in the caliper bracket, it could be a sign that the tooling for the backing plate is worn out. If the tooling die used to stamp the backing plate is worn out, the ears and other contact points will increase in size or become distorted. If a company is not willing to spend money on the foundation of their product, it does not speak well for the rest of the pad.

Also, look at the reputation of the company. Can you get someone on the phone from the manufacturer? Do they advertise in BRAKE & FRONT END? What are they willing to do to get your business?

Most of all, try the brake pads for yourself. If you are willing to put them on your own vehicle, you might feel better about selling them to your customers.

Original article authored by Andrew Markel for Brake And Front End


OE vs. Aftermarket: Smoke & Mirrors

I was recently doing a brake job on my 2002 Jaguar X-Type. On one of the real caliper bolts, there was a 12oz steel and rubber donut.

The reason for the weight is to help dampen vibrations and shift the frequency. It is the same approach GM engineers used on the new Camaro when they placed what appeared to be lead wheel weights on the caliper. It works, but it is not the most attractive of solutions.

It really got thinking about how the image, reality and marketing of Original Equipment (OE) engineering, parts and service has changed in just the 10 years I have been with BRAKE & FRONT END.

Good, Better and ?

I am not making judgments on OES brake pads or other parts, or making blanket statements on what pads are better. But, what has been confusing is the marketing mes- sages used by both aftermarket and OE marketing people. This is one of the few things I can critique with some authority.

For the past 10 years, the phrase “Meets OE ______” has been used by the replacement parts industry to the point where it has lost any and all meaning. Some companies even use it to sell wiper blades. But, it is still part of the collective conscious of technicians that OE equals quality.

There was recently a false advertising lawsuit between two aftermarket manufacturers concerning OE “kiss” of quality. The the defendant printed the claim “Meets OE Requirements” in their marketing materials. The plaintiff just wanted to get the company in the courtroom so they could make them produce documents from the OEs outlining the requirements.

The plaintiff knew the defendant could not produce the documents because OEs do not make these requirements available to the general public or the automotive industry. Some even doubt they even exist.

It has become even more confus- ing because new car dealers are now selling a secondary, or less expensive line, with their OE’s name on the box for brakes and there parts.

Once, it was believed the dealer part was the direct replacement that matched what was originally on the car. The new “good” offerings has some techs questioning what they are buying and what is the real meaning of OE.


I hate to break this to a lot of shop owners and technicians, but 97% of the time (my estimate) when you are buying a brake pad set from a new car dealer, you are not getting the exact pad that was installed on the vehicle when it was assembled.

Sure, if the vehicle is a new plat- form, chances are that within the first year of production the pads setting on the dealer’s shelves might be the exact pad from the assembly line. But, after a certain period of time, those pads will be replaced by pads that are close, but not the exact pad. This is called an Original Equipment Supplier (OES) pad.

Factory installed brake pads can be very expensive because the OE is willing to spend money to have quiet brakes because brake noise complaints costs a lot of money. An OE engineer once told me that the amount of money spent on preventing brake noise makes the cost of the unintended acceleration problem look like chump change.

The most expensive part of anfactory-installed pad is the friction material. But, the testing and engineering of the pads are also very expensive. These costs can push the price of the pad well past ultra-pre-mium brake pad territory.

The Reality

When it comes to OES pads, chances are it will not be the same pad, or even manufacturer. It will be close to the OE pad because, in some cases, the OE is willing to share design and engineering specifica- tions with the OES supplier.

Most shops will tell you they buy brake pads from the dealer if the customer specifies it or if they have confidence in the dealer’s product (which is rightly deserved in some cases). Some of these OES pads are manufactured by many of the adver- tisers you see in this magazine.

But, the most irritating aspect of these second-line pads is when local dealers try to pass off $99 “pad slaps” as “approved service” with “genuine” parts.

Most of the marketing and advertising at the local level by the dealers makes it sound like the consumer will drive out of the service department with a new car for $99. It is a marketing ploy that plays on the assumptions and ignorance of the consumer. Also, it is hurting the automotive service industry as a whole.

Original article authored by Andrew Markel for Brake And Front End. 


Senators Push GM CEO For Brake Corrosion Recall

Tomorrow, July 17th, General Motors CEO Mary Barra will return to Capitol Hill to be a witness, this time before the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance.

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) have been two active role players in the ongoing press to hold GM accountable, citing specific incidents like the deadly ignition switch and infamous corroded brake line kits. 

But unfortunately for GM, that’s just the tip of the iceberg on topics to be discussed during the meeting on Thursday.

According to data by the National League and Policy Center, GM nets over 30 complaints per 100K vehicles, 6 times the average number of complaints for Chrysler. With over 25 different models recalled and over 7 million cars recalled since June 30th, the need for change is quickly becoming more conspicuous on Capitol Hill. So far, GM has already racked up a recall cost of 2.5 billion, completely obliterating their profit for the 2nd quarter and it doesn’t look like it will stop there.

GM recently forked over 35 million to NHTSA in fines, but after tomorrow who knows where that number could be. How much is enough for a settlement? 

GM has hired Kenneth Feinberg, who administered funds for victims of the 9/11 attacks and the Boston Marathon bombings, to create and manage a fund to pay settlements to people who were injured and the families of those killed in accidents related to the ignition-switch defects.

So exactly how big will that check be when all is said and done? Right now we don’t know for sure. GM has said for a while that they know of “at least” 13 cases where someone died in an accident as a result of the defect, but it’s becoming clear that the total number of victims is probably a lot higher.

GM’s pattern of concealing potentially serious safety issues from the public and circumventing the recall system is deeply troubling. From the now-infamous ignition problem, to the steering problems our earlier investigation uncovered, to this troubling brake corrosion issue, GM’s response to defect complaints has been consistent: deny, conceal, blame consumers, or claim that it’s a broader “industry-wide” problem, this must stop tomorrow.