As you drive, someone swerves in front of you. You jam on your brakes, and your car lurches to one side; with a sinking feeling, you realize that your brakes need repairing. But, as you sit there contemplating the cost of new brakes, you wonder, have you also just ruined tires.
Bad brakes can ruin your tires. Brakes that are damaged or poorly aligned may cause the wheel to turn out of the path of travel, causing a “dragging” effect that scrapes off the tire’s surface, compromising the tire. Bad brakes cause unbalanced wheel rotation resulting in uneven tire wear.
Whether your car is an old beater held together by chewing gum and string or a modern state-of-the-art machine designed for high-speed performance operations, bad brakes can ruin your tires.
What Type Of Tire Damage Do Brakes Cause?
Bad brakes can damage tires in several ways:
- Uneven wear
- High spots can develop
- Weakened tire carcass
How Do Brakes Work?
To understand how brakes can ruin your tires, it is essential that you first understand what makes a cars’ braking system work.
Depressing the brake pedal results in the car slowing down or stopping.
There are two braking systems: disc brakes and drum brakes. However, modern technology has made drum brakes obsolete, and therefore, you only need to understand how disc brakes work.
The braking system consists of several critical parts.
- A brake disc. The disc is attached to the inside of the wheel and rotates with the wheel.
- Each set of brake pads consists of two brake pad components. The pads fit, on each wheel, on either side of the brake disc.
- A brake caliper is a device that holds the brake pads in place.
- Brake Rotors are fitted in the calipers and are the part that compresses the pads against the discs.
- A hydraulic line which connects a master hydraulic cylinder to the brake caliper
- A linkage or an electrical mechanism connects the brake caliper to the pedal.
- The tires connect to the road’s surface and slow when the brakes are activated.
Pushing the brake pedal causes a high-pressure fluid (brake fluid) to compress in the master cylinder to move to the brake caliper; this squeezes the brake pads on each side of the brake disc.
The two pads squeeze the brake disc, which causes friction, and the wheel starts slowing.
The car’s kinetic energy (energy that the vehicle possesses with its forward motion) converts into heat energy.
The more the brakes are activated, the greater the heat in the brakes; this reduces the potential capacity to convert more energy. A more straightforward way to explain this concept is the hotter they become; the less effective the brakes are; this condition is called brake fade.
How Do Bad Brakes Damage Tires?
The type of tire damage that occurs depends on the reason for bad brakes.
Damaged Or Worn Brake Discs Can Cause Uneven Tire Wear
If the brake disc moves out of alignment or develops hard spots, it will cause the brake pedal to pulsate when it is depressed.
The pulsating is not to be confused with the anti-skid braking system. When the vehicle needs to stop urgently, anti-skid systems pulsate, which reduces the stopping distance by preventing the tires from skidding.
A damaged or worn brake disc will compromise tire life by causing uneven wear spots on the tire, making it unbalanced.
Damaged Callipers Cause Tire Misalignment
Calipers are the part that fits over the discs and hold the pads and rotors in position. If the calipers are worn, damaged, or incorrectly fitted, they may cause the pressure on the disc to be uneven. The result will be that discs wear unevenly, and in extreme cases, can even affect the wheel’s alignment.
The misalignment may damage the tire by causing uneven wear.
Damaged Brake Pads Cause Excessive Tire Wear
There are two types of brake pads.
The first, used in most vehicles, are carbon pads. These consist of a shaped steel backing plate fused with a braking compound consisting of metal shavings: copper, steel, brass, and graphite bonded with resin.
The second type is ceramic brake pads. Again, hard ceramic materials are used in these brake pads construction. They last longer, are quieter, and have the best stopping power with minimal fade (they take longer to heat up).
Due to the significantly higher cost, ceramic brake pads tend only to be fitted to premium vehicles – very often only as an optional extra.
If the brake pads are damaged or worn, they will start to scrape against and deform the brake disc.
Not only does this cause a spine-chilling screeching sound, but it also reduces the effectiveness of the brakes and can cause considerable tire wear.
Damaged Rotors Can Cause Complete Tire Failure
If a rotor sticks or becomes damaged on any wheel, it will reduce the braking action. As a result, the vehicle will pull to one side once the brakes are activated. This pulling motion will result in uneven wear patterns to the tires, and if not attended to, will ultimately result in the tire’s failure.
Squealing brakes could mean that the rotor is not connecting the pad to the disc but is touching the disc directly. Eliminating this noise is often as simple as having the brakes serviced and new pads installed.
Damaged rotors can cause the disc to move out of alignment, which in turn can cause the tires to become unbalanced, resulting in another potential cause of tire damage.
Damaged Hydraulic Lines Cause Uneven Tire Wear
Hydraulic lines connect the brake master cylinder to the brake rotors.
If a hydraulic line is damaged, it may prevent the brake fluid from reaching a single – or even all – the wheels. A complete brake failure could be catastrophic, damaging the vehicle; and potentially injuring its occupants and third parties.
If only one wheel is affected, this will cause the vehicle to pull to one side when braking. In addition, excessive and uneven wear on all the vehicle tires will result.
What Are The Signs Of Bad Brakes?
Vehicle brakes need to be kept in good condition. Therefore, they must be serviced often, certainly no later than dictated in the manufacturer’s guidelines.
If driving conditions involve more stop starting, like town driving, you should service them more often.
Most modern cars come equipped with a brake condition warning device. If this activates, do not wait. Send your car in for a service at a reputable center to have this safety-critical equipment serviced,
Signs of bad brakes include:
- The brake pedal pulsates
- There is a scraping sound
- The vehicle pulls to one side
- The brake pedal feels spongy
- The brakes need more pressure to be effective.
Urgently book your car in for a brake service; This may save your tires. But, more importantly, this may help prevent you from being in an accident.
Brakes interact with the car’s wheels and tires, and thus bad brakes will impact the longevity of your car’s tires. In extreme cases, bad brakes can lead to catastrophic tire failure.