You may be the most responsible car owner ever and still be completely wrong about how brakes work. Even with a routine where you frequently drive it, bring in for regular repairs, and make sure you never push it over 80, there is a chance you may be entertaining at least one of the following brake myths.
Brake Pads Cannot Work Effectively without First Warming Up
This is obviously untrue. The average streetcar's standard brakes can produce sufficient stopping friction even when its brake pads are cold, and the vehicle slows or stops either way. Performance brakes, however, are designed to function a lot better at higher speeds and temperatures. At any rate, standard performance is a given.
Either Soft Pads or Hard Pads are Superior
There is no proper soft/hard differentiation among brake pads. While some are slightly more compressible than others are, a complete distinction is pointless. As part of quality control, every brake pad gets tested at the factory while it is being manufactured, and one of the things they check is its compressibility. While this property can affect how your brakes feel, its affect is merely negligible when it comes to braking ability.
"Soft" and "hard" may also be used to colloquially refer to the kind of friction generated when the pads touch the rotor – "hard" pads grind, and "soft" ones stick on. The latter can extend rotor life, but usually not by much. "Soft" or "spongy" can also mean your vehicle is not slowing rapidly when you hit the brakes, which can be dangerous. In such cases, your master cylinder may have developed a defect, or it could be that the hard line has twisted up, or the rear calipers are maladjusted. Even a brake fluid leak can make the brakes seem "soft" or "spongy".
Braking Noise Comes from the Pads
This is sometimes true, but not always. Each brake pad has an indicator that eventually touches the rotor after the pad has worn down enough to let it. The resulting high-pitched sound should tell the driver that a replacement is due, but he or she may mistake it for the tires squealing. Other braking parts too can make noises when you try slowing or stopping the car. The higher the frequency, the likelier these sounds are coming from one of the thinner parts, such as the caliper or the rotor.
Low-frequency noises generally arise from the thicker parts like struts, or even the exterior body. Whichever it is, the smart approach involves bringing the car in for a brake inspection right away.
Wet Rotors Mean Longer Braking Time
Everyone knows that it is much harder braking on wet roads than dry ones, and that a vehicle takes noticeably longer to slow down under wet driving conditions. This, however, does not mean something in the brake system is damp. Any water on the rotor would get quickly thrown off, as a result of the immense centrifugal force from the spinning wheels. What really happens when it rains, is that the water mixes with grime and oil. That, wet tires, and a slick road, often make for pretty lousy braking performance, so there is no need to go blaming the brakes.
Good sense dictates slowing down when you know the road is slippery, so that your car's tires have more traction available for use. This also gives you plenty of notice when an obstacle or hazard appears in your path.
Damage in the Brake Hose Can Result in the Brakes Dragging
This is not entirely wrong, but definitely not a "fact" to lean on. Where it does apply is in situations where the brakes get stuck on just one wheel. A technician checking this out would exhaust most other possibilities then decide the problem was hose restriction as a last prognosis. Brake hoses actually have multiple layers for toughness, and in addition to their rigidity, a restriction of this sort would break the outer lining and cause a fluid leak as well. The real issue probably stems from a caliper slide, a stuck emergency brake, or a combination valve problem.