Brakes and low mileage

The brakes don’t seem to be working well on my very low mileage 1999 chevy cavalier. It seems like I have to press down the pedal farther than before in order to stop the car. When I took the car to the dealership, they told me that the front rotors and pads are badly worn and need to be replaced. They said that the problem was caused by the car being driven so little. Does this make sense to you?

Barbara, It Could Be A Big Part Of The Problem.

Driving infrequently allows the car to sit for periods of time and corrosion sets in and keeps the brake calipers from “floating” or “sliding” the way they were designed to do. This wears out the inside brake pads rapidly and does cause more pedal pressure to be applied and more pedal travel.

You’ve seen a bicycle brake on the wheel of a bicycle? You know how when you activate the brake, the little friction pads are pulled toward each other, squeezing the wheel rim in between. Your car brakes are similar, but the caliper must be free to move in order to squeeze the brake rotor. When the caliper is not free then it’s like trying to stop by just pushing against one side.


Could this also cause the breaks to not release? My Subaru has disks front and rear, emergency brakes are in front, and the rear disks don’t ever seem to fully quit breaking. It did sit for 6 months. How do I get them to float where they are supposed to?

“emergency brakes are in front”

This is not correct. How did you get this idea?

In the way past Subaru has put the e brake on front. Not sure what vintage but they did if I recall in the 80’s possibly into the early 90’s.

I had a mid 90s Cavalier that I maintained myself including replacing front pads once at around 70,000 miles. The car is close to being ready for a second set of front pads at 130,000 miles. I don’t agree that worn pads cause the pedal to move more, at least that did not happen to my car. I stored the car many times over the years in a humid location with resulting rotor rust that needed to be polished off which required only several normal stops and did not result in undue brake pad wear. 60k to 70k miles front pad life is satisfactory in my view.

I agree that caliper slider surfaces may be a little sticky resulting in more wear on the pad on one side of each rotor but when the brake pedal is released there is nothing to force the pads very far from the rotor other than the spring action of the caliper piston rubber seal unless a rotor has a gross wobble and that would show up as a pulsating brake pedal and uneven stops which the OP did not mention.

Pads too far from the rotor will result in more pedal movement to brake.

There may be something else happening with your car, possibly a little air in the brake lines, a master cylinder with a problem or possibly a stuck rear brake shoe adjusting mechanism.

You can continue to drive your car little but it’s better to store it in a dry location to minimize rotor and caliper slider surface rust.

It is an '88. There are cables running to the front not the rear and the manual says so. But thanks for asking.