Brake pads are an essential component of your car’s braking system, and they play a crucial role in keeping you safe on the road. Worn-out brake pads can cause your car to skid or slide, and they can even cause accidents. That’s why it’s important to keep an eye on your brake pads and replace them when necessary.
But how long to change brake pads?
It is generally recommended that you change your brake pads every 25,000 to 65,000 miles. However, this number will vary depending on the type of vehicle you drive and how often you use your brakes. If you do a lot of city driving or drive in stop-and-go traffic, you may need to replace your brake pads more frequently. You should also have your brakes inspected regularly to ensure they are in good working condition.
Disc Brakes vs. Drum Brakes
Disc brakes use calipers to force two pads against a disc which in turn creates friction that slows the rotation of a wheel, which can eventually bring a vehicle to a stop. Disc brakes are the most common type of brake used on modern cars and trucks.
These brakes have many advantages over older drum brakes, including better stopping power, less fade during repeated heavy braking, and reduced susceptibility to “brake squeak”. Some newer vehicles even have discs at all four wheels for optimal performance.
A drum brake consists of a metal drum that houses a set of shoes that press against the drum to create friction. When the driver steps on the brake pedal, the shoes are forced outwards against the drum, slowing or stopping the vehicle.
They are don’t often overheat like in the case with disc brakes, making them ideal for heavy-duty use. Additionally, drum brakes are cheaper to manufacture than disc brakes, so they are often used on budget-priced vehicles. However, drum brakes tend to wear out faster than disc brakes and are not as effective in wet or icy conditions.
How long should brake pads last
The true answer to the question of how long brake pads should last varies from car to car and driver to driver. If you routinely drive in urban centers or highly congested places, for instance, you will use your brakes far more often than someone who travels in rural areas or on highways.
Some people also have a tendency to “ride the brake,” which means they push and depress the brakes more frequently than other drivers, resulting in accelerated brake pad wear.
It is often believed that brake shoes and pads are good for between 30,000 and 35,000 miles of city driving. In less demanding scenarios, such as highway travel with little traffic, brakes can last up to 80,000 miles.
Knowing when to change the brake pads on your car may be simple with a little attention and foresight.
Factors that Affect Brake Pads Life Span?
Note: If you own a vehicle with an automatic transmission, it is not recommended to use engine braking since you may end up destroying the transmission system.
Several factors can affect the lifespan of brake pads. Here are some key factors to consider:
- Driving Habits: Aggressive driving, such as frequent hard braking, can wear down brake pads more quickly. Smooth and controlled braking helps extend their lifespan.
- Pad Material: Different brake pad materials have varying durability. Organic pads are generally softer and wear out faster, while semi-metallic and ceramic pads tend to last longer.
- Quality of Brake Pads: The quality and composition of the brake pads can influence their lifespan. Higher-quality pads often last longer than cheaper, lower-quality alternatives.
- Driving Conditions: Driving in heavy traffic or urban areas with frequent stop-and-go traffic can accelerate brake pad wear. Similarly, driving in hilly or mountainous regions where braking is more frequent can decrease their lifespan.
- Vehicle Weight: Heavier vehicles exert more force on the brake pads, causing them to wear out faster compared to lighter vehicles.
- Maintenance: Proper maintenance, including regular inspection and servicing of the braking system, can help identify issues early on and prevent accelerated wear of the brake pads.
- Environmental Factors: Exposure to extreme temperatures, such as excessive heat or cold, can affect brake pad longevity. Additionally, driving in areas with high levels of dust, dirt, or moisture may lead to accelerated pad wear.
- Brake Pad Design: The design of the brake pad can also influence its lifespan. Some pads have wear indicators that provide an indication when they need to be replaced, while others may have designs that promote better heat dissipation and reduce wear.
How to Change Brake Pads
Changing brake pads is an important maintenance task for ensuring your vehicle’s braking system works properly and safely. Here’s a general step-by-step guide on how to change brake pads:
Note: This guide assumes you have basic knowledge of automotive maintenance and have the necessary tools. If you’re unsure or uncomfortable performing this task, it’s always best to consult a professional mechanic.
Tools and Materials Needed:
- New brake pads (specific to your vehicle’s make and model)
- Lug wrench
- Jack and jack stands
- C-clamp or brake caliper tool
- Socket and ratchet set
- Brake cleaner
- Brake lubricant
- Torque wrench
- Gloves and safety glasses
Step 1: Prepare your vehicle
- Park your vehicle on a flat, level surface and engage the parking brake.
- Loosen the lug nuts on the wheels (but don’t remove them yet).
Step 2: Lift the vehicle
- Locate the appropriate jack points on your vehicle, usually indicated in the owner’s manual.
- Safely lift the vehicle using a jack and support it with jack stands.
- Remove the lug nuts and take off the wheels.
Step 3: Remove the old brake pads
- Locate the brake caliper assembly behind the brake rotor.
- Use a socket and ratchet to remove the bolts holding the caliper in place. They’re usually located on the backside of the caliper.
- Once the bolts are removed, carefully lift the caliper off the rotor. You may need to use a pry tool or screwdriver to help loosen it.
- Hang the caliper using a wire or bungee cord, ensuring it doesn’t hang by the brake line and cause damage.
- Remove the old brake pads from the caliper bracket. They may simply slide out or be held in place by retaining clips or springs.
Step 4: Install the new brake pads
- Before installing the new pads, clean the caliper, caliper bracket, and rotor using brake cleaner. This helps remove any dirt, debris, or old brake dust.
- Apply a thin layer of brake lubricant to the backside of the new brake pads where they contact the caliper bracket.
- Insert the new brake pads into the caliper bracket, making sure they are properly positioned and seated.
- Use a C-clamp or brake caliper tool to compress the piston(s) in the caliper fully. This allows enough clearance for the new, thicker brake pads.
- Make sure the piston(s) are fully compressed before proceeding.
Step 5: Reassemble the brake caliper
- Carefully lower the caliper over the new brake pads and onto the rotor. Ensure it fits correctly and aligns with the caliper bracket.
- Reinstall the caliper bolts and tighten them to the manufacturer’s recommended torque specifications.
- Give the brake caliper a gentle tug to ensure it’s securely fastened.
Step 6: Repeat for other wheels
- Follow the same process for each wheel that requires brake pad replacement.
Step 7: Reinstall the wheels
- Put the wheels back on and hand-tighten the lug nuts.
- Lower the vehicle from the jack stands until the wheels touch the ground.
- Use a torque wrench to tighten the lug nuts to the recommended torque settings specified by the vehicle manufacturer.
Congratulations! You have successfully changed the brake pads on your vehicle. Remember to pump the brake pedal a few times before driving to ensure proper contact between the new pads and the rotor. Always refer to your vehicle’s specific documentation for any additional steps or considerations related to your particular make and model.
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Signs That You Need To Replace Your Brake Pads
There are several signs that indicate it may be time to replace your brake pads. Here are some common indicators to look out for:
Squealing or squeaking noises:
Brake pads are equipped with small metal indicators called “wear indicators” that create a high-pitched noise when the pads become thin. If you hear a persistent squealing or squeaking sound when applying the brakes, it’s likely that your brake pads are worn and need replacement.
If you hear a grinding noise when you apply the brakes, it usually means that the brake pads are completely worn down and the metal backing of the brake pad is making contact with the brake rotor. This is a serious issue that needs immediate attention, as it can cause damage to the brake rotor and compromise braking performance.
Reduced brake responsiveness:
If you notice that your brake pedal feels spongy or requires more pressure than usual to engage the brakes, it could indicate worn brake pads. Decreased responsiveness or a longer braking distance than normal may suggest that your brake pads are worn out and need to be replaced.
Vibration or pulsation:
If you feel a pulsating sensation or vibration in the brake pedal when you apply the brakes, it could be a sign of unevenly worn brake pads or warped brake rotors. In either case, it’s important to have your brake system inspected and repaired promptly.
Many modern vehicles have a dashboard warning light that illuminates when the brake pads are worn down to a certain level. If you see the brake warning light on your dashboard, it’s a clear indication that you should have your brake pads checked and replaced if necessary.
You can visually inspect your brake pads through the wheels to assess their condition. If the brake pads appear to be less than a quarter of an inch thick, they are likely due for replacement. Additionally, if you notice uneven wear, such as one pad significantly thinner than the other, it’s a sign of a problem that should be addressed.
How To Make Your Brake Pads Last Longer
Your car brake pads are an essential component of your car’s braking system, and they play a vital role in keeping you safe on the road. However, brake pads can wear out over time, and when they do, it’s important to know how to replace them. Here are some tips on how to make them last longer.
Avoid aggressive driving habits such as hard braking, rapid acceleration, and excessive speeding. Gradual and smooth braking will put less stress on your brake pads.
Maintain Safe Following Distance:
Maintain a safe following distance from the vehicle in front of you. This will allow you to anticipate and gradually slow down, reducing the need for sudden and harsh braking.
When approaching a stop sign, traffic light, or any other situation where you need to slow down, apply moderate pressure to the brake pedal. This allows the brake pads to engage smoothly without excessive wear.
Do not exceed the maximum load capacity of your vehicle. Carrying excessive weight puts extra strain on the brakes, causing them to wear out faster.
Brake Fluid Maintenance:
Regularly check and maintain the brake fluid levels as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. Contaminated or low brake fluid can affect brake performance and lead to increased brake pad wear.
Avoid Unnecessary Braking
Anticipate traffic flow and road conditions to minimize unnecessary braking. Look ahead and plan your driving accordingly to reduce the need for sudden stops.
Have your brakes inspected regularly by a qualified mechanic. They can check the condition of the brake pads, brake rotors, and other components, ensuring they are in good working order.
Clean Brake Components
Keep the brake components clean and free from debris, as dirt and grime can accelerate wear. Use a brake cleaner or soapy water to clean the brake calipers, rotors, and pads.
Lubricate Brake Hardware
Apply high-temperature brake lubricant to the brake pad contact points, caliper slides, and other moving parts. This helps prevent excessive friction and ensures smooth operation.
Choose Quality Brake Pads
When replacing brake pads, opt for high-quality pads from reputable manufacturers. They may cost a bit more initially, but they tend to have better performance and durability.
Remember, maintaining your brakes is crucial for your safety and the longevity of your vehicle. If you’re unsure about any maintenance procedures, it’s always best to consult a professional mechanic or refer to your vehicle’s owner’s manual for specific recommendations.
Hi I’m Marshall based in 1478 Doctors Drive Santa Monica, CA. I’m your DIY Car Repairman with more than 5 years experience in automobile repair, a skill I learned from my old man.
I started this blog to share my experience on both simple and technical aspects of your car.