Car Care Tips

Tips to keep your car on the road.

Safety December 21, 2017

What to Expect With a Brake Inspection

Most Virginians are familiar with the annual state inspection, which we discussed recently in this post. Brakes are one of the most vital parts of a car, so in this post we’ll go deeper into what mechanics look for when they are screening your car’s brakes for wear and tear that can render your car unsafe or just less efficient.

Annual State Inspection Versus In-Depth Brake Inspection

There are 24 points that a car has to pass in order to get the state inspection sticker, and the brakes are just one of those! When your brakes are inspected as part of the annual overall car inspection, the objective is to identify any red flags for safety, but there are even more detailed brake inspections that can be conducted.

Brake inspection in Virginia.

Click to learn about changes to the annual state inspection sticker in 2018

Causes for Brake Failure During the State Inspection

Many ask: what is the minimum brake pad thickness to pass inspection? One of the requirements for the state inspection is that the brake pads must be more than 2/32 of an inch thick. In addition to the brake pad thickness, the rotor thickness is checked out. The technician will also make sure that the brakes aren’t dragging and there’s nothing else that could potentially be a safety issue. Aside from thin brake pads or rotors, another common cause for brake failure is a sticking caliper piston. Salt or sand that’s tracked into the car can get sprayed up into this part of the brake system and cause it to not work properly. Water getting inside brake slides can also cause the brakes to dysfunction.

How to brake inspections work.

Culprits of Sub-Optimal Brake Performance

Beyond the safety checks for brakes, there are also performance-related checks that a mechanic would conduct for a complete, hands-on brake inspection. Uneven brake pads or a slipping brake slide will cause premature deterioration of these parts of the brake system, so you’ll get less mileage out of these parts, but these won’t result in a failure of the state inspection for the brakes.

Virginia brake inspections.

Dale Gilbert, a technician at our One Loudoun location who’s been a mechanic for 20 years, has seen some interesting cases of brake wear and tear in his time. Occasionally, he’s seen cars come in with brake rotors that have been worn so much that they are literally paper-thin. In one strange case, the brake rotor had become completely detached! These types of extremes are unlikely to come up if you have your brakes inspected regularly.

For most, the annual state inspection is thorough enough, but if you ever notice strange noises coming from your brakes, or if they seem like they aren’t working quite right, it’s a good idea to have them checked out by a professional. It’s not worth the risk of driving without functional brakes.

Safe brakes are part of passing your Virginia state inspection — but more importantly, safe brakes keep you and your family out of harm’s way. If you think you might need brake repairs, or if you’d like a diagnostic inspection, you can make an appointment at one of our 14 convenient Northern Virginia locations. You can learn more about our brake services and pricing here.

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