There are many important components to the average vehicle, but perhaps none is as important as the braking system. The braking system is absolutely critical to the safe operation of the vehicle, and any problems that could impact this critical system should be examined and resolved at once.

It is a good idea for every driver to be aware of the condition of the braking system and to examine the brakes on at least an annual basis. A lot can be gleaned about the braking system and its condition simply by driving the car every day, and any changes in stopping ability or braking distances should be taken as a serious sign and addressed without delay. If the car begins to pull to one side, take longer than usual to stop, or if the brake pedal feels soft or squishy, the car should immediately be taken to a qualified mechanic or brake shop.

If the brakes begin to make noise, it is also a serious symptom and one that should be addressed as quickly as possible. As various parts of the braking system begin to wear, they may begin to exhibit certain noises. A good mechanic should be able to diagnose these noises and replace the parts that are worn.

If it has been some time since your brakes were last inspected, it may be a good idea to have a thorough inspection performed. If your state requires an annual or semi-annual vehicle inspection, chances are the braking system is included in that check. If not, it is important to make an appointment with a mechanic or brake shop at least once a year to have the car's braking system thoroughly assessed.

Part of any braking system examination should be a close look at the brake pads and brake shoes. These components of the braking system should be examined for signs of excessive wear, and replaced if necessary.

The braking system should also include an examination of the rotors or brake drums, and the brake calipers. If the rotors are warped or out of round they should be machined until they are functioning as designed. Often a warped rotor will make itself known through the operation of the brake pedal. If the pedal pulsates when it is depressed it may be an indication that the brake rotors need some attention.

The brake fluid should also be included in a check of the braking system. If the level of fluid in the reservoir has dropped, it could indicate a leak somewhere in the system. In fact, the level of brake fluid should be checked every time the car has its oil changed. Checking the brake fluid frequently will help to head off any problems, or spot any leaks, before they can do serious damage.

Antilock brakes may need special attention, and it is important to have the antilock braking mechanism checked at least once a year as well. It is important to ensure that the antilock brakes are in good working order, especially before winter driving season arrives.

While an annual brake system inspection is an important part of an overall system of preventive maintenance, the careful attention of the driver on a daily basis can be even more important. Some braking system problems will be subtle at first, but as time progresses they will begin to make themselves known in a variety of ways. It is important for drivers to be on the lookout for signs of trouble and prepared to address them at once. A small problem can often be fixed for just a few dollars, while a major braking system overhaul can easily run into the hundreds of dollars.