How Brakes Work—and How to Tell When Yours Need Service

Learn what makes your car stop, and what should make you stop for them

Brakes don’t attract much attention—until you need them. If they’re working correctly, your car will screech to a halt in a shorter distance than you would ever have thought possible. If not, you could be in trouble.

A little knowledge about how brakes work can help prevent this kind of emergency, so read on.

Braking is all about friction: the business of pressing a stationary material against a moving surface and converting kinetic energy into heat. This is the principle used by the brakes of a bicycle, and a car isn’t much different.

Unlike a bike, though, the brake material is not pressed directly against the wheel but against a second surface that rotates with the wheel. This second surface can take one of two forms. In older and less expensive vehicles, there’s a brake drum behind each of the rear wheels. Although it’s called a drum, it can be pictured as a top hat, with the wheel mounted on the closed end.

Inside the drum are two curved “shoes” lined with friction material. When the wheel is turning, the shoes are held just off the surface of the drum. But when you press on the brake pedal, hydraulic fluid transfers that force to the shoes, pushing them outwards so that the friction material presses against the rotating drum. The harder the pedal is pressed, the more force the shoes apply and the quicker the wheel stops turning.

At one time, all brakes were of this drum design, but today almost every vehicle uses disc brakes at the front wheels. More expensive cars, especially high-performance models, use disc brakes all around. In a disc system, a rotor is mounted behind and turns with the wheel. A caliper holding two pads of friction material–the brake pads—is mounted over the rotor so that when the brakes are applied, the pads pinch the disc. As with the shoes, in normal conditions the pads are held just off the surface. During braking, hydraulic pressure pushes them together, slowing the rotation.

So how do you know when the brakes need servicing? This can usually be judged by how the brake pedal feels under your foot.

A pulsing feel usually suggests a warped rotor that should be replaced at the dealership.

If the pedal feels soft or spongy rather than becoming hard when pushed, it’s likely that air has gotten into the hydraulic system. This reduces the braking power, and the vehicle should be taken to the dealership immediately.

Should the pedal go all the way to the floor with no resistance, stop immediately (foot off the gas, transmission into neutral, turn off the engine if necessary, and pull on the emergency brake), then call for help.

Fortunately, brake failure is very rare. What’s more common is worn-away friction material. One sign of this is increased brake pedal travel, but that can go unnoticed until the friction material is gone completely, resulting in a loud screeching when the brakes are applied and possibly a rather large repair bill. This can be avoided by having pads and shoes inspected regularly at the dealership and replaced as necessary.

People tend not to think about brakes until an emergency arises. Don’t leave it until then to find out if yours are in good shape—ask Crown BMW about a brake inspection today. Give us a call at (888) 232-6983!

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Staff Spotlight: Bryan Williams





Crown BMW is proud to recognize this month’s featured employee, Bryan Matthews! Bryan is a Carolina native and a graduate of N.C. A&T with a Bachelor in Arts in History. He started with Crown Automotive in 2009 and has since received multiple Salesmen of the Month awards and the Crown Masters Sales Guild award in 2010 and 2011. Bryan currently drives a BMW 335is convertible but also loves the M6 coupe. Bryan said he enjoys the look on a client’s face when a complicated deal is completed and they are driving off in their new car. Be sure to say hello the next time you visit us!

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Join Us At The Triad Dinner for Cancer Research on September 23rd

Triad Golfers Against Cancer has funded almost $2 million in grants

Please consider joining us on Sunday, September 23, 2012 for the 8th Annual Triad Dinner for Cancer Research, co-sponsored by Crown BMW and hosted by the Triad Chapter of Golfers Against Cancer. The Triad GAC “has funded almost $2 million in grants for projects developed at the three NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in NC (UNC, Duke, Wake Forest), along with ECU (a major research facility) over the past seven years,” according to its website. The event will include dinner, a live and silent auction, and special honored guests. Please e-mail to reserve your spot or make a donation. Thank you for helping us support this important cause.

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Congratulations to John Isner For Advancing to the Olympic Men’s Tennis Quarterfinals

Page High graduate is currently ranked No. 11 in the world

Crown BMW would like to congratulate Greensboro native John Isner for advancing to the quarterfinals of the 2012 Olympic Games in London! Isner, who also competed in doubles alongside Andy Roddick and is currently ranked No. 11 in the world, won three matches before falling to eventual silver medalist Roger Federer. Watch highlights from his third round victory here. Isner was also featured in a recent Coca-Cola commercial with fellow U.S. Olympians Henry Cejudo and Alex Morgan. Keep making us proud, John!

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Bring Canned Goods To Crown Acura And Support Gillespie Park Elementary

Gillespie Park ElementaryJoin our “Cans for Kids” drive at every Crown dealership in Greensboro

We are proud to be part of the Greensboro community at Crown BMW, and we take our responsibility as citizens helping other citizens seriously. Please consider joining us in our “Cans for Kids” collection drive, which allows you to bring new, non-perishable food items here or to any other Crown Auto dealership in Greensboro to benefit the families of children at Gillespie Park Elementary School. We will also be sponsoring cookouts and other community events in that neighborhood throughout the year. Thanks from the Gators!

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How Does Donating Your Car To A Charity For A Tax Break Work?

calculatorA little planning will ensure you get the most mileage from your generosity

Donating your car to your favorite charity is a great way to get a tax break, but it’s not as simple as it used to be. The IRS has added several rules in the last few years, so be sure you’re prepared before making such a big commitment.

Make sure your charity qualifies

Before you get started, you need to find out if the charity you want to donate your car to even qualifies. Most 501 (c)(3) organizations do, but you want to be sure before you donate.

Make sure you qualify

There are a few qualifications taxpayers must meet in order to be able to qualify for the tax break. You must itemize your deductions on Schedule A of Form 1040. Also, the value of deduction must not exceed 50 percent of your gross adjusted income. You can see all of the qualification rules in Publication 526.

Retail vs. fair market value

Next, you need to find out the value of your donation (car). It’s not like it used to be. Gone are the days when you could get away with using the retail value. What a dealer would get for your car is no longer permissible as a valuation.

Even using a guide like Kelley Blue Book doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story. If your car has a book value of $1,100 but needs $300 worth of work, the value (what a real-life buyer would pay) is more like $800.

Money matters

How much your car is worth will determine what sort of paperwork you need to complete in order to get your tax break.

  • $250-500: If your car falls into this range, you only need to have a written acknowledgment from the charity. This has to include the name of the charity, a description of the car (the value is not required) and either a description of any good or service you received in return or a statement that no goods or services were received in return for your donation. Keep this for your records.
  • $500-5,000: This is where things get a little more complicated. You need to fill out Form 1098-C and Section A of Form 8283. Most important to note is that, if the charity sells your car, you can only deduct the actual selling price of the car.
  • $5,000 or more: In addition to all of the above, you have to get a written appraisal from a qualified appraiser and fill out section B of Form 8283, which requires a signature from the charity.

Using a car donation service

Car donations have become a booming business. Some services are for-profit organizations. If you want your car to do the most for you and for charity, consider using a service like Charity Cars. They’re a non-profit that tries to match cars to needy families. If your car qualifies, you will receive the fair market value of the car as a deduction.

For a complete rundown of the IRS’ policies about car donation, read their Donor’s Guide to Vehicle Donation (pdf).

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Ways To Get Your Neighborhood Involved In Community Service

volunteersA small group of very passionate individuals can accomplish great things

Community service has many potential benefits. Not only can it improve your community and your environment, but it also helps forge bonds between community members and rewards volunteers with a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

The term “community service” suggests starting small, within your own town or even your own neighborhood, and letting those ripples of change spread out to the larger community, or even your state or nation. If you’re interested in making a difference in your community, consider the following ways to get your neighborhood involved in community service.


Before you call a neighborhood meeting or organize a block party, you should take a little time to get yourself organized. The first thing you need to do is develop a clear sense of your goals. Think of community service projects like you would work projects—if you give your boss a bunch of vague ideas about getting new business, she’s not going to be impressed. Likewise, if you bring your neighbors some vague ideas about volunteering opportunities, they might be intrigued, but you’re probably not going to get any firm commitments.

Of course, you want your neighbors to have some say in the matter, but you should be ready to present your ideas, as well as details about some of the community service opportunities in your area. These could be programs that are already up and running, like your local food pantry or animal shelter. You can also search for local community service programs on the Corporation for National & Community Service website. On the other hand, you might have observed practices or places within your own neighborhood that leave room for improvement, such as the lack of a recycling program or a neighborhood park that could use some serious beautification. Projects like these are a good place to start because they’ll have an immediate impact on your own neighborhood.


Once you’ve gathered some information and perhaps a few recruits, it’s time to set up a neighborhood meeting. How you go about this depends upon how friendly you are with your neighbors. Perhaps it’s just a matter of starting up the phone tree or knocking on a few doors. You may also want to ask to present your community service idea at the next homeowners’ association meeting or place fliers around the community. However you do it, be sure to spread the word; when it comes to community service, the old adage, “the more the merrier,” definitely rings true. The larger your group, the more you’ll generally be able to accomplish and the wider the movement may spread throughout the greater community.

With that said, don’t be discouraged if initial interest is low. People are busy, and community service activities often rank low on their priority lists. However, history has shown time and again that even a small group of very passionate individuals can accomplish great things. As others see the changes you’re making and how much fun you’re likely having in the process, they’ll be inspired to come on board.


Keep in mind you might generate more interest if you keep commitment requirements low and allow your neighbors to volunteer when they have time and in ways that work for them. You can’t expect everyone to be able to put in the same amount of hours or meet for projects or volunteer opportunities at the same times. The more flexible and open you make things, the more people will likely get involved. And finally, remember that new connections and good feelings forged between volunteers stand to strengthen your community almost much as the community service projects themselves — so be sure to enjoy the time spent with your fellow neighbors and community members.

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Staff Spotlight: Dovie McBrayer

Dovie McBrayerFormer French and English antiques dealer finds cars a similar pursuit

Crown BMW is proud to recognize this month’s featured employee – our newest client advisor, Dovie McBrayer! Dovie is a native of Morganton and Linville, N.C., and a graduate of UNC- Wilmington with a degree in Communications. She formerly worked in the French and English antique business, which she says made for an easy transition to assisting clients in the luxury automobile business. “I’m still helping my clients select something beautiful of high quality that will be an integral part of their daily life,” she said. “I love the excitement clients bring to this business.  My clients work hard, and I enjoy helping them select the perfect reward for their efforts.” When she’s not at the dealership, Dovie enjoys snow skiing, walking, swimming, and spending time with her Border terrier, Grimm. We are lucky to have Dovie as part of our family and hope you’ll take the time to say hello to her the next time you’re here.

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What Are The Advantages Of Buying Tires From A Dealership Rather Than A Big Box Store?

tiresNobody knows your car better than we do

Car tires are one of the most important parts on the vehicle, so it’s important to make sure you’re paying for quality. In the interest of trying to save some money, some drivers will go to big box stores or independent workshops to buy replacement tires. However, at Crown BMW, our “meet or beat” pricing policy means that you’ll always pay the lowest price. In addition, there are many more benefits to buying your tires directly from our dealership.

When you purchase tires from Crown BMW, we can offer expertise in the specific make and model of car that you drive. That means that our service department is able to ensure that any parts ordered and fitted are exactly what your car needs. The fit and quality of a car tire has a direct impact on its performance, so you need to ensure that you have tires that are designed specifically for the model you drive. Crown BMW gives you the confidence that this is the case. A big box store simply can’t offer this service and will normally stock OEM products, which are cheaper imitations of top brand products.

A big box store may not offer any warranty at all, which means that you often need to manage any problems with the manufacturer. Our dealership, however, will nearly always offer an extended warranty on the tires and will quickly resolve any problems as soon as they arise.

At Crown BMW, we have access to all the current information and expertise related to your car. New developments are coming on to the market all the time, so there may be new, better tires available for your car that an independent mechanic wouldn’t know about. We also have a wide choice of different types of tires available, like winter tires.

Don’t pay more for tires with less information—come to Crown BMW today to find the tires that are right for your vehicle.

We guarantee you the best price on a new set! Give us a call at (888) 232-6983!

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Road and Track Chooses BMW 328i Over Mercedes-Benz c250 In Squeeze Play Comparison Test

Comparison TestThis Bimmer’s good “if you’re a fan of freakishly good handling feel and satisfying wells of fluidly delivered torque”

Why did Road and Track pick the
BMW 328i sedan
over the Mercedes-Benz c250 in its Squeeze Play comparison test?

“Sometimes you get your answer within the arc of a single corner,” they wrote. “On turn-in, the 328i’s wheel writhes as a direct conduit to the tread blocks, the chassis takes a set like Djokivic anticipating the return of serve, and the gearbox intuitively drops two cogs for a meat-of-the-powerband corner exit. It’s a fantastically precise and—with the exception of some subtle brake tugging from the Dynamic Traction Control—pure experience, but we’d expect nothing less from the automaker that cut its teeth building some of the world’s best sports sedans.”

Check out our inventory and take one for a spin!


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