Replacing your brake pads is something that you’re probably going to need to do at some point in your vehicle’s lifetime. But how do you know when the best time to change them is?
Your vehicles braking system is a complex thing. Typically, it will consist of a brake disc, a brake calliper and a pair of brake pads for each wheel. These pads are fitted into the calliper so that they are almost touching the two sides of the brake disc.
When you press down on the brake pedal, hydraulic fluid in the calliper pushes each brake pad against the sides of the brake disc, slowing the rotating of the brake disc through friction and stopping the vehicle.
So, what factors affect your brake pad lifespan?
There are a range of factors that affect the lifespan of your brake pads, and these all revolve around the way the vehicle is used and driven. Brake pads can last anywhere between 20,000 and 70,000 miles so it’s hard to say how long the typical brake pad will last.
However, we CAN take into account the following factors to get an idea of how long your brake pads might last:
- Where you drive - Are your brakes in constant use navigating towns/cities or do you spend a lot of time on motorways?
- The weight you are carrying - Are you rocking a huge people carrier or 4x4, or a diminutive smart car?
- Mileage - Do you spend half of your life on the road or is your car just for general day to day errands?
- Type of brake pads - Are they cheaper ‘organic’ pads, expensive ‘ceramic’ pads, or somewhere in between?
Top tips for longer lasting brake pads
All the above factors will eventually wear your brake pads out, but there are ways to help mitigate the daily damage done to them:
- Apply your brakes steadily and gradually instead of suddenly slamming on them
- Avoid high speed driving that results in needing to brake swiftly and heavily
- Frantic acceleration and braking can drastically increase the wear and tear to your brake pads – be mindful and careful when controlling your vehicle
- Drive light. Avoid carrying any unnecessary weight in or on your vehicle when driving. If you have heavy items in the boot, back or on the roof of your vehicle that aren't needed, take them out.
When do you know it's time to replace your brake pads?
Most vehicles these days are fitted with wear sensors to detect when front or rear brake pads are getting critically low. However, there are other signs to look out for too and if your sensors don’t work properly for some reason, you’re in a lot of trouble!
Keep an eye out for your sensor light
As we said, your vehicle should have a brake pad wear warning light on the dashboard display. This usually indicates that at least one set of pads is almost worn out and needs replacing immediately.
If your car doesn't have sensors, make sure your brake pads are inspected and checked regularly at an approved garage.
Do a visual check
It's sometimes possible to look at the brake pads for wear and tear. Depending on the vehicle model, you may be able to see the outer brake pad. There should be at least three millimetres of the pad visible. If you see anything less, get those brake pads inspected.
Don’t ignore any screeching
If you hear a loud screeching when braking, that is a huge warning sign that your brake pads require inspection by a trained professional.
If you hear a grinding noise, it's likely the brake pads have been worn down completely! Do not drive the vehicle in this state and arrange for the brakes to be checked and replaced as soon as possible.
Replacing your brake pads
DO NOT try to replace your brake pads yourself. A high level of mechanical knowledge is required and the brakes on your car are the last thing you want to fail when you need them.
If you're unsure about the state of, or performance of your vehicles brakes, or you suspect they may need checking and replacing, make sure you book an appointment with an approved garage before it’s too late.