How long do brake pads last?
Ask five different gear heads, and you’ll likely get several answers — largely because there are so many factors that determine how quickly a brake pad wears down over time.
These factors include the type of driving that you do, the type of brake pad that’s installed in your vehicle, your driving behavior and more. Depending on these factors, some brake pads may only last 20,000 miles, while others last for 70,000 miles or more. However, regardless of how frequently your brake pads need to be replaced, it’s crucial to ensure this is performed when the time comes to do it. Otherwise, your braking can become significantly compromised, which can pose a safety risk not just for you and your passengers, but for those that you’re sharing the road with as well.
In this post, we’ll dive into the variables that influence how often you need to change your brake pads, how to know when your brake pads need replacement and measures you can take to extend the life of your brake pads. Here’s a closer look:
What Influences Brake Pad Life?
As we noted above, there are several factors that influence the regularity at which you’ll need to have your brake pads replaced. Here’s a brief overview:
- Your type of driving: Your brake pads wear down a little every time you apply the brakes. Hence, if the driving you do is mostly highway or in rural areas where you’re stopping less frequently, they’re likely to last longer. Conversely, if you drive in urban environments that are more stop-and-go, you’ll likely be replacing them sooner.
- Brake pad type: Brake pads come in a variety of materials and price range. While less expensive brands may offer safe operation, they may not last as long, operate as quietly, or be as dust-free as other brands.
- Driving behavior: Aggressive braking may lead to slightly more pad wear than coming to a gradual stop while braking the vehicle.
- Vehicle load: Pulling a trailer or hauling a heavy load can also lead to increased brake pad wear.
Do My Vehicle’s Brake Pads Need Replacing?
While how long your brake pads last depends largely on the factors that we discussed in the opening, there are several tell-tale signs that replacement is imminent. Here’s a look at some things to watch — and listen — for that could indicate your vehicle’s brake pads are wearing out.
Get into the habit of checking your brake pad thickness every time you change your vehicle’s oil or rotate its tires. On some cars, you may be able to visually inspect your brake pads yourself through the wheel. A good rule of thumb is to replace your vehicle’s brake pads when they reach about 1/8 of an inch or 3mm.
Listen for Abnormal Noises
It’s never a good sign if you hear a squealing or grinding sound coming from your wheel wells when you apply the brakes. Some brake pads are equipped with wear indicators to let you know when your brake pads have reached the minimum thickness. These wear indicators are small metal tabs that produce a distinct and consistent squeal to let you know it is time for new brake pads.
On a similar note, if you hear grinding when you apply the brakes, it could be the sign of more than just worn brake pads — an immediate brake inspection is required.
Watch for Braking Issues
Like we said in the opening, brake pads are designed to help your vehicle come to a swift, safe stop. If you find that it’s taking longer for your vehicle to adequately brake or if you notice your vehicle shaking or veering while the brakes are applied, you may need to do more than just change brakes, but other parts of your vehicle’s braking system too.
How to Extend the Life of Your Brake Pads
How can you get the most out of your brake pads? The good news is that there are several things that you can do, both as a driver and as a consumer, to maximize their lifetime. Here’s a look:
Practice Good Driving Habits
One of the best things that you can do to extend the life of your brake pads is to adjust your driving style. Brake pads gradually wear down over time, as they lose a small amount of material every time they come into contact with the brake rotor. By practicing defensive driving, and coming to controlled, gradual stops you can maximize the life of your brake pads.
Select the Right Type of Brake Pad
Most auto parts stores and online retailers offer a variety of different pads. Selecting the right type of brake pad plays a big role in how long it will last, and how it will perform. For older vehicles nearing the end of their life cycle, an economy pad may be a good choice. For newer vehicles, or any vehicle where maximum brake life is important, you may want to choose a premium or ultra-premium level pad. In addition to longer service life, these pads typically include abutment hardware in the box, and an upgraded shim for quiet operation. There are also options made specifically for fleets or vehicles that haul heavy loads. Whatever your budget, it is important to choose a brand that you trust.
So how often do you need to change your brake pads? As you can see, it depends on a lot of different variables. From your driving habits to the type of vehicle you drive to what type of brake pads are installed, there’s no one definitive answer, but many influencers.