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In the State of Great Lakes, Take Care of Your Brakes!

Another cold and snowy Ann Arbor winter is approaching. Why should you consider how your brakes will work in the winter? And why should you prep for road-worthy travel? Here are some reasons.

Michigan Winter

You may already have experience with Ann Arbor winters. Still, it’s always a good idea to understand why having a fully functioning set of brakes on your vehicle is so important. Ann Arbor winters are snowy and cold.

  • Ann Arbor has a cold season that lasts for 3.2 months, from December 1 to March 8, with average daily high temperatures below 41°F. The coldest month of the year is January, which averages between 19°F and 31°F. The high temperatures in Ann Arbor are usually in the thirties for three months (December-February).
  • We get our first snow in late October or November and the last in April. From November 16 to April 11, Ann Arbor has 4.8 months of snow, with at least 1.0 inches of snowfall every 31 days. The snowiest month is February, with an average of 6.0 inches.  

“For over half of winter days, Ann Arbor has at least an inch of snow on the ground. Snow mostly accumulates during January and February, building up to ten or more inches deep on average seven days a year.”

That information makes Ann Arbor sound like a winter wonderland—lots of snow, little sun, cold weather, and a ton of fun if you’re into slipping and sliding on a snowboard. 

If you’re driving during this period, though, you and your vehicle should be ready to stop and go in less-than-ideal conditions.  

Winter Weather Impacts on Your Brakes

  • Salt. Even if the state uses an anti-corrosion additive, salt used on private roads and parking lots and its runoff can get into your brake system and damage everything from brake shoes to hydraulic lines. Use the car washes that advertise they thoroughly clean your wheels and undercarriage, because that small extra cost can save you hundreds later. 
  • Debris. Snow and ice can hide everything from junk to potholes that can tear up your wheels and brakes. Those clumps of frozen slush that drop out of wheel wells can also cause damage.
  • Hot or cold brakes. You’ll probably use your brakes more in the few months of winter weather than all the other months combined. Hot brakes can fade. Take your time, use lower gears, and inspect your brakes frequently. On the other hand, water, slush, and snow can get into your brakes, usually as liquid because your brakes are warm. After you reach your destination and turn off the vehicle, all that can freeze. Frozen brakes don’t work – and may not even allow you to move.

Brake Service: Preparing Your Brakes for Winter

In prepping your vehicle for winter driving, you may concentrate most on getting going. Your tires have good tread; you put weight (like cat litter) over the driving wheels and learn to start driving slowly. However, you need to pay even more attention to stopping. Again, good tire traction is a must, but having excellent brakes is also vital.  

Inspect your brakes so that you can diagnose problems before they cause trouble. Problems can include everything from a squishy or vibrating brake pedal to wheel brakes that grind or pull to one side.  

Brake Problems to Solve Before the Snow Falls

  • Do you hear grinding, squealing, or screeching? You may have worn brake pads or shoes. If so, you need to have them checked because this wear can cause damage to other parts of the braking system. Some brake pads have sensors that will squeal when you wear them to the point that they need to be replaced. If you wear down the brake pads, the rotors can become damaged – when that happens, you will hear grinding sounds, which means more expensive repairs.
  • Do you feel vibrations? Does your steering wheel, brake pedal, or car shake? Something could be warped.
  • Do you have to press down farther on the brake pedal to stop?
  • Imagine what would happen if you had to stomp on your brakes. Where would you end up? Would you end up in the ditch? Would you end up in the median?
  • Look in your mirror – do you see any smoke coming from a wheel? When you’ve been using your brakes a lot at the bottom of a hill, it’s not good! 
  • Also, keep in mind this is a hydraulic system. Fluid moves through tubes at high pressure. The tubes can rust from corrosion or become bent if you drive over rocks a lot.  
  • Did you see your ABS light come on and stay on? When this light comes on and stays on, the system that prevents you from skidding during a panicked stop or on slippery roads isn’t working. Please don’t ignore it if it comes on and stays on while you’re driving!

Brake Service at Complete Auto Service of Ann Arbor

As with most complex systems, there are two ways to find out that your brakes need work: get them inspected or wait for them to break. 

The choice is obvious. Take your vehicle to an auto service you trust. Complete Auto Service of Ann Arbor employs skilled, certified mechanics who specialize in getting your car road-ready for Michigan winter, including your brakes.

When it comes to your brakes, our business is putting the brakes on bad brakes! That’s a mouthful, but it’s true. When you’re out there on a frozen road, there’s only you, your vehicle, and the Michigan weather. Let’s get you there safely.