“How long will my brake pads last?”
That’s a question every car owner has asked themselves at least once in their life!
Brake pads are an essential part of your vehicle. Without a functioning braking system, your car wouldn’t be safe to drive; and without brake pads, you wouldn’t have a functional brake system.
So, how long do brake pads last?
Do they last thousands of miles or just a couple of years?
In this article, we’ll help you determine the lifespan of your brake pads. We’ll explain why a braking pad wears down and what you can do to extend its life. We’ll also show you how to easily keep your brake pads in perfect condition.
This Article Contains:
(Click on a link below to jump to a specific section)
- What Are Brake Pads?
- Why Do Brake Pads Wear?
- How Long Do Brake Pads Last?
- How To Know When Your Brake Pads Are Worn Out
- How To Make Your Brake Pads Last Longer
- How To Keep Your Brake Pads In Perfect Condition
Let’s get started.
What Are Brake Pads?
Brake pads are an integral part of your vehicle’s braking system and are located between the brake shoe and the brake drum.
Brake pads sit inside the brake caliper, and when you press down on your brake pedal, the caliper exerts pressure on the brake pads, which clamp onto the brake disc (brake rotor) to slow down your tires.
Without functioning brake pads, the other elements of your braking system, like your brake discs, calipers, and rotors can quickly start to wear out.
Unfortunately, over time, every braking pad begins to wear out and will need to be periodically replaced to ensure that your brake system functions well.
Why Do Brake Pads Wear Down?
The answer’s simple:
Remember, it’s the friction caused by the braking pad and the brake rotor that slows down your vehicle. And when the brake pads constantly rub against your rotors over time, they slowly start to wear away.
Note: Rotor wear happens a lot slower than brake pad wear. If you’ve noticed black dust on the wheels of your car, it’s most probably brake dust residue from your braking pad – not your rotors.
How Long Do Brake Pads Last?
There’s actually no standard answer to this question.
Many car manufacturers estimate that a braking pad can last anywhere from 20,000 to 70,000 miles. However, on average, most car owners replace their brake pads after about 40,000 miles.
We know what you’re thinking…
That’s a lot of variance!
After all, there are a lot of miles between 20,000 and 70,000…
So, why does one braking pad wear out at just 20,000 miles, while another one goes up to 70,000?
The longevity of your brake pads can depend on several factors:
Factors That Affect The Lifespan of Your Brake Pads
Here are the most significant factors that affect pad life:
1. Driving Habits
Let’s say that you’re on the highway driving at 70 mph when suddenly, the car in front of you slows down.
You’re probably going to immediately press down hard on your brake pedal to bring yourself to a halt quickly, right?
Encounters like this can take a serious toll on your brake pads.
When you drive fast and suddenly hit the brakes, your vehicle needs a lot of stopping power to come to a halt. This can easily cause increased brake wear.
Driving your car slower means your brake pads won’t have to exert much force to get your vehicle to stop – and you can expect your brake pads to last longer due to this reduced brake wear.
2. The Type Of Brake Pads
The type of brake pads you use also plays a significant role in how long they’ll last. There are three main types of brake pads that use different kinds of brake pad material. For example, your car may use an organic brake pad, a semi metallic brake pad, or even ceramic brake pads.
Organic brake pads are made of brake material like glass, fiber, carbon, rubber, and kevlar mixed with resins. They have the lowest lifespan of all three types of brake pads and are easily subject to brake fade.
Semi metallic pads (metallic brake pads) are made for performance with extended durability and a much better braking response than organic pads. You can expect a semi metallic pad to last for about 50,000 miles.
Ceramic pad car brake systems are found on luxury cars and are meant for comfortable braking. Carbon ceramic brakes aren’t meant for use in high-performance conditions but have a long lifespan of about 70,000 miles.
For a detailed look at the different types of brake pads available and how they compare, you can look at our article on ceramic vs. semi-metallic brake pads.
3. The Type of Transmission
What does your car’s transmission have to do with the brake pads?
If you have the right kind of transmission, you could probably extend your brake pad life.
Car owners with manual transmission systems don’t have to only rely on brake pads when slowing down. A process called engine braking allows them to slow down by downshifting gears – instead of activating their brake pads and wearing them down.
Note: If you own a car that uses an automatic transmission system, using engine braking is not recommended as you can end up damaging the transmission system.
4. Your Driving Environment
You might not notice it at first, but where you live (and more importantly, where you drive) can significantly impact your brake pad life.
Think about it.
If you live in a hilly area, all the climbs and drops you face will force you to use your brakes more often than you would in relatively flat terrain. Even regular heavy traffic situations can take a toll on your brake pads as you have to keep starting and stopping frequently.
5. The Condition Of The Brake Rotors And Calipers
Your brake pads are designed to work in tandem with other brake components like rotors and calipers.
If your brake rotors and calipers aren’t in good condition, they can easily affect your braking pad. A stuck brake caliper or a warped rotor can cause your brake pads to wear out sooner than usual.
Why does this happen?
When you have a stuck brake caliper, your brake pad won’t completely disengage from the brake rotor – so you’ll always be driving with the brake pads slightly engaged.
How do you know that you have a stuck caliper?
If you notice a burning smell coming from your wheels, it could be an indication of a stuck brake caliper.
On the other hand, a warped rotor can cause your brakes to feel jittery and less effective, which can eventually cause your braking system to fail.
How To Know When Your Brake Pads Are Worn Out
You now know how long you can expect your brake pads to last.
But how do you know when a braking pad has actually worn out?
Here are a few things to look out for:
1. Squealing Brake Pads
Ever hear a squealing or screeching noise when you push down on your brake pedal?
That’s actually a safety feature on modern brake pads!
Almost every brake pad manufacturer includes a brake wear indicator in the pads. When these wear indicators rub against the brake rotor, you start to hear the squeal.
If you hear these squeals regularly when you brake, it’s time to take your brake pads in for an inspection.
2. Metallic Grinding
If you hear metallic grinding or screeching instead of a squeal when you brake, consider slowing down your car to a halt immediately.
A metallic grinding sound indicates that your brake pads are completely worn away and that your brake discs are making contact with the brake calipers. This can cause severe damage to your brake system, so you’ll have to get your car inspected as soon as possible.
3. Thin Brake Pads
You don’t have to wait for any squealing or grinding to happen to determine if your brake pads need replacing. You can always observe and measure your braking pad to see if it’s become too thin.
New brake pads are usually 8-12mm thick, and your brake pads should be above 6.4mm (¼ inch) to function correctly. If your brake pads are thinner than 3.2mm (⅛ inch), your brakes are at serious risk of failing.
4. Indicator Lights
Some modern vehicles also have an indicator light that flashes when it’s time to change your brake pads.
However, remember that if you change your brake pads after the indicator lights up, you’ll also have to replace the indicator’s sensor.
How To Make Your Brake Pads Last Longer
It’s safe to say that nobody wants their brake pads to wear off quickly.
So, what can you do to extend your brake pad life?
Try out these methods to prevent you from having to replace your brake pads too quickly:
1. Slower Driving
When you drive slower, your brakes will have to exert a smaller amount of force to bring your car to a halt. And, lower force = lower pressure on your brake pads, which results in them wearing out slower.
Of course, you should always be aware of your surroundings and stay within the proper speed limit. So please don’t try driving under 20mph on the highway!
2. Reducing The Weight Of Your Car
Check your cargo carrier, backseat, and trunk to see if there’s any unnecessary weight you’re carrying.
The heavier your car, the greater the force required to stop it.
Shedding such unnecessary weight is one of the easiest ways to lengthen pad life.
3. Engine Braking
Engine braking involves taking your foot off the accelerator pedal and downshifting through the gears to slow your car down without relying on your brakes.
This way, you’ll only need to use the brakes during an emergency or when the car is moving in first gear (which anyways only requires a small amount of braking force).
Note: Even though you can technically engine brake in an automatic vehicle, it’s not advised since you can end up damaging the transmission.
How To Keep Your Brake Pads In Perfect Condition
Keeping your brake pads in perfect condition isn’t easy.
After all, most people don’t have the time to manually check their brake pad thickness for signs of wear. And even if you can inspect your brake pads yourself, it’s recommended that you have a qualified technician replace them.
While exact costs can depend on your car’s make and model, brake pad replacement costs can range anywhere from $100-$300 per axle.
You can always take your car to a service center, but always ensure that your mechanic:
- Is experienced in brake service,
- Uses high-quality replacement parts,
- And offers a comprehensive service warranty.
But why go through the trouble of driving to a brake repair shop when mechanics can come to you to take care of your brake service needs, instead?
AutoNation Mobile Service is a convenient automotive repair and maintenance solution.
- Your brake pad replacements can be easily performed in your driveway – you won’t need to bring your car into a shop
- Expert mobile technicians service your car
- High-quality parts, tools, and equipment are used for all repairs
- All repairs come with a 12-month/12,000-mile warranty
- You can benefit from affordable and upfront pricing with no hidden costs
- You can easily book service appointments online
- Services are available seven days a week
If you want to know how much your brake replacement will cost, simply fill out this online form.
There are a ton of factors that can affect brake pad life.
And luckily, some elements, like your driving style, are ones you can control.
With that being said, remember to check your brake pads regularly and invest in a good set of brake pads whenever you do replace them.
And if you want to get your brake pads replaced easily from the comfort of your home, simply contact AutoNation Mobile Service!