Experts estimate that the average set of car brake pads will last between 30,000 and 60,000 miles, depending on the car itself and the braking habits of the driver. Brake rotors should last much longer than this, possibly longer than you will own your vehicle. So, when we talk about putting new brakes on your car, we generally mean replacing the brake pads and possibly resurfacing (“turning”) the rotors to ensure even wear. Most modern cars have disc brakes on the front wheels and probably the rear, although drum brakes are used on the rear in some vehicles. Brake pads are composed of all kinds of materials, including ceramic compounds, steel, mineral fibers, and copper fibers.
When to Replace Brake Pads
Whenever you brake, the pads squeeze together against the rotor, creating friction that slows, then stops your vehicle. Each time you apply the brakes, a microscopic layer of the pad’s material wears off. Replacing brake pads becomes necessary when they wear down to a certain thickness. Most brake pads come with a built-in warning system to alert you when it’s time to change them. Yours may trip a dash warning light or they may begin to make a high-pitched chirp as you drive, or… they may give you no warning at all.
How to Check Brake Pads
Brakes are obviously critical for your safety behind the wheel, so never leave anything to chance. You should have your mechanic inspect your brake pads when having an oil change or other service, but you can also check them yourself. Check every three months if you are an active driver. Listen for the squeaking noise described above. Check your wheels for brake dust, as the level of dust will decrease as the pads begin to wear out. Depending on your wheels, you should be able to see your brake pads from outside the car. Visually check the thickness of the pads, which should be more than ¼” thick. Many brake pads have a groove running vertically down the center of the pad. As the pad wears, that grove begins to disappear. If it is mostly gone, it’s time for new pads.
Where to Get Brake Pads Replaced
Unless you really know how to replace disc brake pads, you are much better served by having a professional do the work. Look for a local auto repair shop like Emission Time that offers free inspections and that will show you your old parts as a part of the service process. Be wary of any brake repair shop that offers a lifetime warranty, as that usually signals a gimmick that can actually damage your rotors or brake system. Be wary also of shops that advertise prices for brake service, because the cost of brake pad replacement should vary literally from vehicle to vehicle.