Wed10222014

On The Road

Make sure the brakes are the real problem - and not the shocks

Q: I’ve been having problems with my front brakes wearing out approximately every 20,000 miles, but my rear brakes are fine. I also feel as though I have to press harder on my brake pedal to get the car to stop compared to the other cars I drive. This last time I took my car in for a brake inspection, they told me the probable cause of my brake problem is worn-out shock absorbers. Does that make sense?

A: This absolutely can be true, assuming that a complete and thorough brake inspection has been done and everything checks out OK. Your vehicle’s shock absorbers or shock struts are the second most important part of your car, next to the brakes. When worn, they need to be replaced.

Shock absorbers/struts keep your car stable and help maintain control while you are driving. As they wear, your car begins to dip, sway, bounce and overreact. This results in reduced braking ability, tire and component wear and the need to work harder to maintain control of the vehicle.

Vehicle stability means being able to stop, turn or swerve at exactly the moment and in the amount needed. Your shocks/struts react to every wheel and body movement, every bump and every corner. Any shock or strut with 50,000 miles or more is worn to the point that it can no longer provide the handling and control your vehicle should be capable of.

During braking, a worn shock or strut will allow your vehicle to nose dive, causing the rear of the vehicle to rise and preventing the tires from keeping a grip on the road. The result: poor traction and loss of control, which lengthens the stopping distance up to 23 percent. Also, more weight is transferred forward, causing the front brakes to wear faster and increasing the need for more pressure on the pedal to stop the vehicle.

This could be the difference between involvement in a serious accident and avoiding an accident.

Warren McCord is an ASE certified master technician and owner of Dean’s Automotive Inc., 2037 Old Middlefield Way, Mountain View. For more information, call 961-0302 or e-mail McCord at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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