Most people know that tell-tale grinding noise that signals your vehicle's brakes will soon need to be replaced. However, fewer people pay attention to the things that they can do ahead of time to extend the lifespan of their car, van or truck's braking system. Just a few easy steps can save you the money you'd spend on new brakes, as well as the time you'd be without a vehicle while your car is being repaired.

Ways to help your brakes last longer

1. Slow down. Your brakes have to work harder to stop your vehicle when you are going faster. Even a small reduction in speed can make a big difference. Just slowing down from 65 mph to 55 mph can save a third of the energy necessary to stop your vehicle.

2. Don't ride the brake. Tapping the brake pedal even a little when you don't need to shortens the life of your braking system. If you're prone to "riding the brake," get in the habit of braking with your left foot. You'll be less likely to accidentally tap the pedal.

3. Coast to a stop. Rather than hurrying up, only to stop at the next light, keep an even speed and coast to the lights. You'll lose little time if there are cars ahead of you, and you'd have to brake anyway. Also, keep in mind that some areas still set their stop lights so that you'll be able to go through on green if you keep to the speed limit rather than racing ahead. 

4. Lessen the load. If you're one of those drivers whose car or truck is always laden with things, clean out your vehicle and save wear and tear on your braking system. Excess weight not only forces your brakes to work harder, but also costs you more at the gas pump and shortens the life of your tires, too.

5. Give your brakes a periodic check-up. Periodic preventative maintenance can also dramatically extend the lifespan of your brakes and end up saving you money in the long run. Have your brake system flushed and the fluid replaced during this check-up. Over time, brake fluid can get contaminated with debris, and moisture can leak into the system, compromising its effectiveness.

While no set of brakes is going to last forever, you can extend the life of your car's braking system by slowing down, using your left foot for braking and taking those heavy, unnecessary items out of your vehicle.