There is no doubt that the braking system of a vehicle is one of the most critical parts of its safe operation. Without properly operating brakes, it may be impossible to avoid an accident or drive the car safely. If the vehicle's brakes fail, your life, those of your passengers, those of other drivers and those of pedestrians, can be at serious peril.
In order to avoid such a dangerous situation, it is important to have your vehicle's braking system thoroughly inspected at least once a year. Most states that require an annual or semiannual vehicle inspection will include an examination of the braking system, but it is still a good idea to have the brakes and their various components checked out at least once a year.
Exactly how often those brakes are examined will depend on a number of factors, most notably how much you drive and what type of driving you do. If you do lots of city driving, with lots of hard stops, it may be a good idea to have the brakes checked out twice a year or even more often. Those who do little city driving may be able to get away with a once a year examination. No matter how much or how little you drive, however, it is important to be vigilant and on the lookout for any early warning signs of brake problems.
For instance, a check of the brake fluid level should be part of every oil change. Every time the oil is changed, all the fluid levels, including the brake fluid level, should be checked, and the fluids topped off as needed. If your brake fluid always seems to need topping off, or if it drops significantly between oil changes, it could indicate a leak in the braking system.
Other signs of braking problems will make themselves apparent as you drive every day. If the brake pedal vibrates or pulsates as it is depressed, this could be an indication that the rotors or drums need to be resurfaced or replaced, or that the brake pads or brake shoes are worn out.
The sounds the brakes make when they are applied is an important indication as well. When the car is cold, you may hear a light squealing sound. This is normal, but if you hear a sound like metal on metal, the brakes should be examined right away. Checking your vehicle's brakes is a vital part of its safe operation.