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Ohio Road Conditions and Your Brakes: How Weather Impacts Brake Health

Fall road

Whether it’s extreme heat and humidity in the summer or freezing temperatures and corrosive road salts in the winter, each of Ohio’s seasons presents some major challenges to your vehicle’s brakes.

You might be concerned that your brakes will freeze in cold weather or whether extreme cold can affect brake fluid. Or perhaps you’re worried your car’s brakes won’t be able to stand up to the heat on your summer weekend getaway when temperatures and humidity are soaring.

In Ohio, the weather from season to season can shift drastically, and every type of weather we see here in Northfield can have an impact on your brake health. Learn more about how weather impacts brakes and how to maintain your brakes year-round with this guide.

Can Cold Weather Affect Brakes?

Snowy conditions, road salts and freezing temperatures can do a number on your vehicle, from weakening the battery to causing the tire pressure to decrease. But as it turns out, these same winter weather conditions can also negatively impact your brakes.

For instance, the trucks that salt our roads here in Northfield help de-ice slick roads to keep drivers safe, but all of that road salt can corrode the metal parts of your brakes. A small amount of corrosion may not make much of an impact, but over time, corrosion will make the brakes work less efficiently. You may also notice that your brakes are noisier and vibrate more when stopping. 

When roads are wet from rain, sleet or snow, the moisture can get into the brakes and cause more friction, which will wear down your brake pads faster. Brake pads usually last about 50,000 miles or three to five years, but wet conditions can mean you’ll be paying for replacements more frequently.

Winter often brings below-freezing temperatures. When the temperature drops, it can cause shrinkage, which makes your brakes work less efficiently. Further, freezing temperatures can cause ice in the brakes, which is why you may hear your brakes squeaking in cold weather.

How to Improve Brake Safety in Winter

When your vehicle isn’t in use, consider covering it with a weatherproof car cover or park it in a covered space, like a garage. This can help provide more protection from rain, snow and cold temperatures.

While you may not be able to avoid salted roads or driving in wet conditions, you can improve safety by leaving a greater distance between your vehicle and other vehicles and stopping points. The moisture and cold temperatures may cause brakes to take longer to slow down, so give yourself plenty of space to brake.

How Spring Weather Impacts Brakes

Here in Northfield, we can see some pretty rainy springs. All this rainy weather may be great for your flower garden and lawn, but it’s not ideal for good brake health.

The moisture will get into the brakes, and just like in the winter, this can cause more friction between the brake pads and rotors. This leads your pads and rotors to wear down faster, so you’ll need to visit a shop sooner for replacements.

The moisture can also cause rust to form on the brakes if your brakes aren’t properly lubricated. Over time, the rust can worsen, compromising not just the rotors but other parts of the brakes. This will be a more expensive fix than just replacing the pads and rotors.

How to Improve Brake Safety in Spring

Drivers should have their brakes inspected about once or twice per year, and spring is a smart time to have the brakes checked. Your local auto shop can check that the brake pads and rotors are in good condition. Typically, you’ll need to replace the brake pads when they are worn down to about three millimeters. Rotors need to be replaced about every 30,000 to 70,000 miles, depending on your driving and braking habits.

You can also inquire with your mechanic about lubricating the brakes to better protect against rust and corrosion. It’s best to leave this job to a professional who knows the correct type of lubricant that can withstand the heat and general wear and tear in your vehicle’s braking system.

When you park your car, try keeping it in a dry space, such as a parking garage, residential garage or other covered space to protect it from rainy spring weather.

Does Hot, Summer Weather Affect Brakes?

With temperatures that climb in the high 80s or more, Northfield has its fair share of hot and humid days during the summer

We’ve already learned how rain and humidity can impact brake health, but did you know that high heat can also weaken your brakes? Although the weather may be in the 80s in the summertime, the inside of your car will get much hotter. If it reaches over 80 degrees Fahrenheit outside, the rising heat can cause deformation in the brakes and warping on the rotors. This can lead to faster wear and tear on brakes and rotors or cause brakes to fail prematurely.

Additionally, brake fluid can actually boil when the brakes heat up. This causes rotors to overheat and become disfigured, which wears down the brake pads. 

While we may not have a coastal sea breeze in Northfield, if your family takes a beach vacation in the summer, the coastal air and sand may lead to corrosion on the brakes. This may not be an issue in the short term, but unchecked corrosion can compromise your brakes over time.

How to Improve Brake Safety in Summer

Don’t let the risk of a little corrosion keep you from setting out on the beach vacation you’ve waited all year for. Just take your vehicle to a local auto repair shop to have the brakes inspected and lubricated before you hit the road, or have a mechanic check for and clean off any corrosion after you’ve returned from your trip.

To better protect your brake fluid from boiling, use a brake fluid with a higher boiling point. Typically, brake fluids with a Department of Transportation (DOT) rating of three or four will better withstand boiling in the summer temperatures common in Northfield.

Try parking your car out of the sunlight to minimize overheating in the brakes when you start the car.

How Brake Health Changes in the Fall

When fall comes around, it can bring a range of weather that affects brakes in different ways. Early fall may still have high heat that can deform brakes and rotors or cause brake fluid to boil. Later in the season, rain and even early snowfall can cause moisture to accumulate in the brakes, creating more friction that reduces the lifespan of the brake pads.

Falling leaves may not directly impact your brakes, but they can damage the paint on your car, and if the leaf debris builds up, it may also lead to corrosive damage to the vehicle’s underside. Also, driving over leaves can be slick, causing you to brake more frequently or even slam on the brakes.

How to Improve Brake Safety in Fall

Slow down when driving over slick, leafy streets. If you need to brake, do so slowly to avoid skidding or causing the brakes to lock up. 

Regular car washes are especially helpful this time of year, when leaf debris, residue from rain or snow and even road salts may find their way onto your vehicle. Taking the car to a car wash about every two weeks in the fall can help avoid any damage from fall leaves and weather.

Fall is another good time of year for a brake inspection. Make sure a mechanic checks the brake pads, rotors and brake fluid to ensure your brakes are working well before winter weather hits.

Stay Safe Year-Round With Regular Brake Maintenance

Maintaining your brakes is a year-round job, and it’s not one you want to neglect. Well-maintained brakes will perform better on slick, wet roads and scorching hot or freezing cold days. To keep your brakes in tip-top shape, no matter the season, bring your vehicle into Boyce Auto Repair at least once or twice per year for an inspection and brake and rotor services. We’ll have you back on the roads safely and confidently, rain or shine.

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