How Often Should You Change Your Brake Pads?

How Often Should You Change Your Brake Pads?

Brakes are a vital function for the driver that need to be well maintained to perform at their best. The brake caliper, brake pads, and brake rotor are the primary components of your car’s disc brake system. Your brake pads and rotors on all your cars can wear out eventually. 

When you press down on the brake pedal, the pressure is amplified by the hydraulic fluid to create friction at the wheels making the vehicle stop. Many vehicles are equipped with anti-lock braking systems that include a valve that regulates this pressure created to help prevent the brakes from locking up or forcing the car to spin out. 

Your driving habits, road conditions, and the types of brake pads your vehicle has can determine the life of your brake pads and rotors and how often you should replace them. 


What Makes Brakes Wear Down Faster?

1. Driving Habits

When drivers push their brakes hard, it can greatly affect how long the brake pads last. Some drivers ride the brakes and stop abruptly, while others gently come to a stop. Smooth, gradual braking increases the brake pad’s lifespan, but it’s important to brake abruptly in certain situations. 

2. Environment

Due to traffic and traffic lights, driving in the city is harder on brakes than driving in the country or on long straight roads because braking is required less frequently. Taking drives in mountainous areas with steep elevation changes can also wear brakes out quickly because it’s often necessary to ride the brakes to control downhill speed. 

3. Brake Pads Hardness

There are different types of brake pads to suit different driving needs. Hard compound brake pads last the longest but need to be warm before they perform well. Soft compound brake pads perform better at low speeds in urban areas. Brake pads can melt onto the brake rotor and reduce brake performance if driving produces too much heat.

4. Materials 

The materials used to make the brake rotor and brake pads will factor into the brake’s durability. Carbon-ceramic brakes last longer than standard metal brakes, but they need to be warmer than others to be effective. They are also extremely expensive and found almost exclusively on high-performance sports cars. Common brakes include steel or metal brakes that will suit a variety of driving conditions. 

How To Tell if Your Brakes Need Replacing

The longevity of brakes can depend on several variables such as city traffic with frequent stop and go conditions, worn-out suspension system components, vehicle weight, driving habits, steep inclines, and the brake pad’s friction material quality. Depending on these variables, most brake pads last anywhere between 30,000 and 70,000 miles. To get a more accurate number for your car’s specific needs, consult the owner’s manual. Other warning signs communicate that the brake pads are wearing out include:

1. Brake Pad Thickness

Inspect your brake pad thickness regularly to ensure they are not worn down. Whenever you get your tires rotated or oil changed, have a mechanic take a look at the brake pads too.

2. Squealing or Scraping Noise

Brake pads will alert the driver by producing a squealing noise when they are about to run out of grippy material. If you heard this noise, replace your brakes immediately.

3. Jittery Braking

If braking becomes jittery, then the rotors may be warped. There are treatments that can clean or grind down the surface of the rotor in order to make it flat again. Most of the time, it’s easier, less expensive, and safer to just replace the brake rotor. 

Brake rotors have the potential to last beyond the life of many brake pads, depending on the driver and brake maintenance. As long as brake rotors have no sign of warping or cracking, a technician can resurface the top layer down to a smooth and flat surface, giving it a like-new look. Depending on the thickness of the material and how much material has to be removed, a rotor can be resurfaced more than once. A technician will be able to remove your rotors and determine whether they can be machined and reused or replace them all together.

The Cost of Replacing Brakes

Brake repair costs vary depending on what is needed to repair them properly. Vehicle needs vary based on make and model and the condition of other brake components. A professional will be able to inspect the system and determine each vehicle’s needs and provide an estimate to repair the braking system. 

Read more about this and other maintenance musts in our article, 9 Factory Scheduled Maintenance Musts. 

Jody’s Automotive Repair and Lube Shop can help keep you safe on the road. Contact us today to set up an appointment for a brake inspection.