A vehicle's braking system consists of many different parts, and each part should be checked when performing a brake inspection. After all, a critical failure in any one part could have devastating consequences. Here are the various components that should be checked during a brake inspection.
The brake light located on a vehicle's dashboard provides alerts to critical issues within the system.
The brake light itself may indicate that the brake fluid is low, the emergency brake is activated, the antilock brake system (ABS) is malfunctioning, or something else is wrong. Seeing the light doesn't narrow down which of these problems the vehicle has, but you can be sure something is wrong if the brake light is on.
The braking system is a hydraulic system that's closed. Brake fluid pumps through the system multiple times, much like how blood recirculates through the body multiple times.
A reservoir of brake fluid is located beneath the hood, and there should be sufficient fluid in this reservoir. Low brake fluid indicates a small leak somewhere in the system, and the leak should be located and fixed. Extremely low brake fluid can cause the hydraulic system to lose pressure and fail. The reservoir should always be filled to the maximum level when inspecting brakes.
The emergency brake isn't often used, but it must be ready for use when it's needed. An emergency isn't the time to find out that this brake has a broken cable or is stuck.
When checking the brake light on the dash, the emergency brake should also be activated and then deactivated. It only takes a minute to test the emergency brake during a brake inspection. As long as the mechanism functions smoothly, the emergency brake should be in working order.
Brake lines transport fluid from the brake fluid reservoir to the brakes, and back. A line will run to each of the brakes.
All of a vehicle's brake lines should be checked for cracks and leaks. Visible cracks are a sure sign that lines need to be replaced, but liquid on the line can indicate a leak even if the leak isn't visible. Any leaky lines should be replaced, regardless of how small the leak is.
Brake pads are the actual pieces that create friction to slow and stop the vehicle. Pads should be sufficiently thick and need to be replaced if they appear too thin.