The brakes are undoubtedly one of the most important parts of a vehicle, as they are really the last line of defense between a driver and a crash. Thus, it's important that these critical components are in top condition. Unfortunately, some drivers can be a bit overzealous when it comes to their brakes, and this has led to a number of different myths being propagated about the brake system.
One potentially dangerous myth has to do with the brake fluid. Some people think that brake fluid should be treated like the various other liquids used in a car. Something like coolant is usually just filled up again when it begins to run low. Thus, when many drivers see low brake fluid, they simply top it off again.
That's a major mistake, as brake fluid works differently from other liquids in the car. Over time, the fluid levels slowly get lower and lower, like other parts of the vehicle. However, this is because low fluid levels actually indicate worn brakes. Topping the fluid off will not fix any problems, because the fluid is actually indicating that your brakes need to be serviced. Not only do you need to refill the fluid, but you also need to examine your brakes and possibly replace them.
If you notice that your fluid has dropped very quickly, then it's possible that you have a leak. Again, this is something that filling up the reservoir with more brake fluid will not fix - you'll need to repair the leak first.
The temperature has dropped recently and some states are experiencing their first snowfall of the season, so winter driving is on everyone's mind. Obviously, brakes play an important role in winter driving, as it's not uncommon for cars to hit a patch of ice and require brakes to prevent an accident.
One myth surrounding the brakes system in relation to winter driving has to do with anti-lock braking systems (ABS). Some people claim that ABS is actually bad for winter driving. This is more of a half-truth than completely false, but it requires explanation. If you compared an ABS car and a non-ABS car side-by-side under winter conditions, you'd likely notice that the ABS car has a slightly longer stopping distance, meaning it takes more space for a driver to bring their car to a stop.
However, there is a trade-off here. ABS prevents wheel lock-up, which is potentially the most dangerous thing that can happen in winter conditions. Yes, it may take you slightly longer to stop, but you'll actually be able to control and steer the vehicle in an emergency situation. If the wheels lock up in a non-ABS car, it can be extremely dangerous, as the driver essentially loses all control of the vehicle.
In a similar vein, some people have heard about pumping the brakes when they're in an emergency stopping situation. Sometimes called "cadence braking," this process is supposed to help bring the car to a full stop more quickly. The technique involves pumping the brakes slowly rather than pressing down hard.
The difference here is again between non-ABS and ABS vehicles. In older cars, "cadence braking" is absolutely necessary for bringing the car to a stop. However, this idea has carried over to modern cars where it's no longer needed. Any model outfitted with anti-lock brakes does this automatically, and the car's own system is much faster and more accurate than anything the driver could do. In reality, it's a better idea to apply firm and direct pressure to the brakes until it comes to a full stop in an ABS car.