One of the worst possible experiences you could have when driving is hitting the vehicle’s brakes and realizing they don’t work. We don’t wish it on anyone, not even our worst enemies.
It’s beyond terrifying, but luckily, it doesn’t happen all that often.
With that being said, you should do everything you can to make sure your brake pads are working just fine for adequate stopping power before you get behind that steering wheel, and the first step is to know how long brake pads and brake rotors last.
We want to make sure you never find yourself in such a situation.
There are a few components of your car’s braking system you need to be aware of, and brake pads are a very important part of this system.
First things first, let’s look at what they are.
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What Are Brake Pads? And What Do They Do?
Brake pads are a component of disc brakes. Their job is to create the friction that causes the tires to come to a stop.
Each tire has a set of two, one on each side. This is to ensure smooth braking.
So, how exactly do they work? When you hit the brake pedal to decelerate, the pads make contact and apply friction and pressure on the rotors (these are the shiny metal discs you can see behind your car tires). It is this pressure and friction that cause your tires to stop.
It is very important for brake pads to be in optimal working conditions before you ever take your car for a drive.
They basically need to slow down the tires every time you want to decelerate or stop your car, or else your life (and that of others) will be in great danger.
Just think about how often they’re engaged and how much stress they’re under. This is why it is vital that you get them checked, and replace them as often as needed.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s have a look at how long brake pads last, and all the different factors that might come into play and influence their duration.
How Long do Brake Pads Last? What Influencing Factors Are There?
Most mechanics agree that brake pads can last anywhere from 30,000 to 70,000 miles. This is quite varied, so you should consult your car owner’s manual to see exact specifications for your car.
There are also specific factors to consider that can influence their lifespan, so it’s worth getting the best brake pads you can, to enjoy reliability and longevity. The most important factors to consider are are:
- Driving style.
- Where you drive.
- Distances covered.
- Materials used.
- Weight factor.
Let’s take a closer look at these factors in more detail:
The main factor influencing how long your pads last is the way you drive.
If you are gentle when decelerating, slowly halting your car, they will last longer. This is because the pressure and stress they will undergo will be less than that you subject them to if you always stop abruptly.
Now, don’t get us wrong – if you’re ever in a situation that requires coming to a full stop immediately, you should do so. It’s what your car braking system is designed for, after all.
However, generally speaking, the smoother you decelerate, the longer the system will last.
So, whenever you’re able to decelerate slowly and don’t absolutely have to bring your vehicle to a halt abruptly, please do that.
Where You Drive
It’s not only the way you drive that plays a big role in this, but also where you drive is an important deciding factor.
If you drive on highways where you tend to cruise along at the same speed, you will not stress your car’s system.
On the other hand, if you drive in city traffic a lot, you’ll need to stop and go constantly. This means that you’ll be stressing your car’s system quite a lot. Red lights, intersections, roundabouts and stop signs will all wear out your brake pads at a faster rate.
Mountain roads with steep uphills and downhills will also cause a lot of stress on your braking system. This especially applies when you have to control car speed on the downhill portions often.
The more miles you drive, the more times you’ll need to decelerate and stop.
If you drive long hours, covering great distances, you’ll need to check your brake pads and rotors, and will likely need to replace your front brake pads and rear brake pads more often.
The front ones will usually wear out faster, since that’s where the pressure load is heavier.
Overall, the brake pad wear and tear action will be greater the more miles you cover. This is true for all the components of your car, and not just the brakes.
They can be made of different materials. Some are harder and some softer, to accommodate different driving needs.
There are four main kinds:
- Semimetallic pads or synthetic pads.
- Ceramic pads.
Semi-Metallic or Synthetic
These are the most common type. They are tough since they are made of metal shavings from copper, steel, graphite and brass, held together by resin.
They tend to be the most affordable, which makes them so popular.
Semi-metallic or synthetic variations work better when warm, so they may take a little more time to reach full efficiency in colder climates.
Since they’re heavy, they might make you use a little more gas in the long run. However, they last longer than other types, with the exception being ceramic.
The noise output on these can be rather loud, but if you’re already used to driving around for long hours or in heavy city traffic, chances are you’re used to this.
Organic versions do not harm the environment, which is a definite plus.
On the other hand, they are made of a compound of rubber, glass and Kevlar, held together by resin. These pad materials are very cheap, and will not last all that long.
Old models contained asbestos, and drivers were exposed to breathing asbestos powder, which is very dangerous. New organic ones are asbestos-free.
These are much lighter than other variations, but are generally advised only for lightweight vehicles and normal traffic conditions. They are not suited for extreme driving nor extreme weather conditions.
Due to their material combination, they do not produce a lot of noise.
Ceramic versions are often used in racing cars or high-performance vehicles that produce a lot of heat when stopping.
The downside is that they tend to be the most expensive, and thus are not well-suited for normal driving conditions.
They are extremely lightweight and durable. Replacing brake pads of this type doesn’t need to be carried out as often as other models, and they also produce less dust when in use. They are also very quiet, which is excellent if you’re fed up from having your brakes squeal.
These are made from a combination of organic compounds and a small percentage of metal shavings, around 10–30 percent.
These brakes perform very well for performance and high-speed driving.
They do make a lot of noise, but tend to produce greater amounts of dust.
A car’s carrying load has a great impact on the braking system. The difference between you traveling alone and having a car full of passengers and luggage is massive.
The brake pads will undergo much greater stress by having to apply huge pressure to stop the vehicle. In these cases, brake pads won’t last all that long.
Similar to covering long distances, putting a lot of weight on your vehicle will also stress your braking system and create more brakes wear and tear.
So, what can you do to increase the lifespan of your brake pads?
Ways to Improve the Lifespan of Your Brake Pads
Now that we’ve seen the various options available for you to choose from, the following is a list of some of the most useful tips to increase your brake pad’s life.
Keep in mind one very important rule of thumb, though: Basically, the less you use them, the longer they will last.
Keep your car in the flow of traffic. This will help you decelerate and stop less often.
Leave a greater distance with the car ahead of you.
If the car ahead slows down, you’ll have enough time to gently halt your car behind them instead of applying the brakes with heavy pressure to stop abruptly.
Keep your vehicle light. Only keep necessary items in your trunk, and get rid of heavy and useless stuff that tends to accumulate.
Drive slowly and in a constant manner in heavy traffic. By doing this, you’ll avoid unnecessary use of the braking system.
When you wash your car, don’t neglect your brakes. The dust that collects on them decreases the friction needed for brake pads to work properly.
Try to decelerate gently whenever possible, putting less stress on the braking system.
Why Is It Important to Change Brake Pads in Due Time?
The most important reason you’ll want to change your car’s brake pads on time is that worn out ones will cause damage to other parts of the braking system.
Brake pads protect the rotors. If these do not work properly, they will cause damage to the brake calipers.
The entire braking system may have to be serviced and the damaged parts replaced. You may have to pay an amount as much as $1,000 for repairs and replacements, not to mention the additional danger that comes with driving an unsafe car.
That’s definitely not something you’ll want to expose yourself to, subject your passengers to, or risk other people’s lives just because they happen to be on the road near you at the time.
So, you now know all about what brake pads are and how important they are, and – most importantly – how long brake pads last.
If they are worn out, the entire braking system of your car may become damaged.
It’s good practice to check them often and replace them whenever needed. You really need to make this a routine part of your driving habits. If not, the repairs can be expensive and the car will become unsafe.
Don’t take any risks – your life and other people’s lives are worth much more than regrettable procrastination!