The braking system in our vehicles is being constantly used and it continues to serve its purpose of slowing down and stopping our vehicles… However, this type of trust with our brakes comes with a responsibility; they do the work for you, as long as you maintain them! That means maintaining all of its components, specifically the brake pads and discs…
What are Brake pads?
Essentially, the braking system in a car consists of a brake disc/rotor, a brake calliper and a separate pair of brake pads for each wheel. The brake pads are situated in the calliper, where their friction material is located very close to either side of the brake disc.
In short, when you apply the brakes, hydraulic fluid in the calliper pushes the brake pads against the sides of the rotating brake disc/rotors surface. As a result, friction is produced and the vehicle slows down and stops at the required moment.
How Long Should Brake Pads Last?
As you can imagine, brake pads are in constant use. If we think about how many times we press the brakes daily when we are driving, especially if you commute long distances to and from your destinations, then it is obvious that they are susceptible to wear and tear.
Generally, brake pads can last anywhere between 25,000 – 60,000 miles, however, not everybody drives in the same conditions and there are many factors that will affect how long your brake pads will last.
Factors That Affect Brake Pad Wear
This may seem like common sense, but the more miles you do in your vehicle, the more you will use your brakes, which will result in them becoming worn sooner. Your front brake pads are the ones that usually wear out first, as they are handling more of the braking load.
If you drive long distances every day and use the motorway more, your brake pads may last longer because there is less stopping and starting than when you’re driving in a city. This is because, in a city, you’ll encounter several traffic lights and junctions.
There are different types of pads that you can have in your braking system:
- Organic car brake pads are cheap and have the shortest lifespan.
- Low metallic pads are noisy, but their lifespan is longer than the organic ones.
- Semi-metallic ones tend to last much longer than the two mentioned.
- Ceramic brake pads have the longest life expectancy, as they are more resistant to wear. However, good quality comes at a price and it happens to be quite a high one for these pads.
When your car is loaded up with a full boot or you have a car full of passengers, it is harder to slow down your vehicle and it puts a bit more pressure on your brake pads. When a car is lighter it is easier to stop or slow down, as it requires less effort from the braking system.
How To Tell Your Brake Pads Are Worn
It is always important to pay attention to your brakes and avoid delaying brake pad replacement. Some vehicles are fitted with a brake wear indicator that will tell you when they are worn out, but if your car doesn’t have a sensor, there are other signs that will warn you…
A brake pad warning light may show up on your vehicle’s dashboard. This light indicates that your brake pads are worn and that you need to change one or more of them. As mentioned already, if your car doesn’t have this light, then you regularly need to have your brake pads examined for wear and tear.
If you apply the brakes and hear a loud screeching sound, you should immediately have them checked out by a professional mechanic. The pads will need replacing as soon as possible otherwise you will be at serious risk of causing an accident if your car does not brake adequately.
Checking Your Pads
If you can see your brake pad through the spokes of the wheel, you can inspect them to see if they are worn, however, it depends on the vehicle make/model if you can actually see them or not. If you peer through, the outer pad will be pushed up against the brake disc and you should be able to observe around 3mm of the pad.
If your vehicle pulls to one side or another when you brake, then this may be a sign that you have a brake issue and the pads may be unevenly worn, due to an imbalance in the efficiency of your braking system. Once it is checked and rectified, your brakes should be in working order.
A vibrating brake pedal is an indicator of warped pads, due to excessive heat build-up. There will also be excessive wear and tear or damage to the brake disc.
Tips On How To Extend Your Brake Pad Lifespan
- Driving with care and being aware of the vehicle’s in front of you can prevent them from wearing out sooner because you can brake more gently and steadily.
- Sudden braking can put your brake pads under more pressure, so try to avoid high-speed driving or situations where you may need to slam on your brakes. Try to drive responsibly!
- Rapid acceleration and sudden braking can put your brake pads under extreme pressure, so if you drive like a Formula One driver, you’ll have to check your pads every week!
- Try to drive as light as possible. If you have a large family and it can’t be avoided, unload anything unnecessary from your vehicle.
What Is the Lifespan Of Brake Discs/Rotors?
Similar to brake pads, your discs will also suffer from wear and tear, and their lifespan will differ depending on the type of car you have. At times, both your discs and pads will need changing at the same time, however, you’ll often find that your pads will need changing before your discs. It’s important to keep an eye out for disc wear, as when they become too thin, they will overheat and lose efficiency.
How To Tell Your Brake Discs Are Worn
If you have bad brake discs, one of the most common signs is a noise. If they aren’t perfectly flat (warped) or they’re extremely worn, then you are going to get squeaky brakes. It will almost sound like a high-pitched squeal if the discs are warped, whereas, you might hear a scraping sound if they’re really worn. You should ensure that you pay close attention to your brakes, listening out for any unusual noises that may indicate they need urgent attention.
Worn or uneven brake discs may vibrate or pulse when you hit the brakes while driving because the pedal is not making contact with the surface of the disc. You may even feel this vibration through the steering wheel, therefore, ff the car shakes while braking it could mean that you need to have your braking system inspected.
Grooves or Marks
Brake discs are designed to be thick, and this thickness will wear down over time. So, when the discs have repeated contact with the pads, then your discs will get marks or grooves. When this happens, the overall safety of the vehicle is reduced. Make sure that your pads and discs are regularly checked for such marks.
Stopping Distance Increasing
When the pedal isn’t interacting with the brake disc, the pedal will vibrate and it might feel like the car won’t be able to stop! If this is occurring, please have your discs checked as this is a very dangerous situation to be in. You will also be unable to do an emergency stop and this could cause a serious accident.
Brake Pads & Discs Replacement
If you feel like your pads or discs need some attention or they may be worn, you need to get a professional to have a look at them as soon as you notice any of the symptoms listed. If you feel confident with the challenge of replacing the brake pads and discs yourself, we’ve provided a step-by-step guide for you to follow – How To: Change The Brake Pads + Discs On Your Car.
However, if you’d rather leave the job to a professional, at Sinspeed, we can perform a brake check and diagnose any issues with any of the components of the braking system. After our inspection, we will inform you of whether you need brake disc replacement or a brake pad replacement and will carry this service out for you. If you’re interested, either fill in our easy online form or contact us on 0203 815 9441.