Brake pads are an integral part of the braking system designed to slow your car down so that it can stop safely.
Here’s everything you need to know about keeping your brake pads in good working order.
What are brake pads?
Disc brakes use calipers to squeeze a pair of brake pads against a disc or rotor which is attached to the vehicle’s axle to create friction.
This friction slows the rotation of the vehicle axle, which in turn slows the rotation of the car wheels so the driver can slow down or stop.
Brake pads are made up of steel backing plates, with a friction-generating material bonded to the surface which comes into contact with the disc brake rotor.
Every time your brakes engage they create friction, which is required to slow the vehicle, but which also causes the protective coating on the brake pad to wear away.
Over time, this deterioration adds up until the brake pads no longer work properly – so it stands to reason that they need replacing regularly. Usually, a general rule is two sets of pads to one (new) set of discs.
It’s important to keep your brake pads in good condition, otherwise, your vehicle’s braking power will be reduced (making driving more dangerous) and the actual braking system itself will suffer damage.
Keeping on top of your brake pad maintenance will save you money in the long run, and keep you safe on the road.
As we mentioned, your braking system is made up of brake pads attached to brake discs. Because brake pads are designed to create that vehicle-slowing friction, they’re made from a softer material than the metal of the disc brakes.
So brake pads often wear out faster than brake discs, and you’ll find you have to replace them more frequently.
How to check whether your brakes need repairing or replacing
Because your brakes are so essential to the safe running of your car, there are plenty of indicators when they start to wear down. Here’s what you should look (and listen) out for:
First things first, some vehicles have a brake pad indicator light on their dashboard that lets the driver know when the pads are wearing thin.
Check your owner’s manual to see if your vehicle comes with this warning system.Remember that if you do have this system, you’ll need to replace the light sensor at the same time as the brake pads to ensure you don’t miss any warning signs.
Listen for squealing or screeching
Whether you have a brake pad light or not, one of the earliest indicators that you need to replace your brake pads will be a squealing or screeching sound when you engage the brakes.
This sound is created by a small piece of metal attached in your brake pad just for this purpose. When you start hearing this horrible noise regularly, it’s time to book a replacement appointment.
It’s important to note that when brakes are exposed to wet weather then a thin layer of rust can collect on the brake pads, which will create a similar screeching sound when braking.
If you stop hearing this sound after the first few times you use your brakes, then it’s likely that rust has built up on the brake pads and the brake pad doesn’t need replacing.
You can hear grinding or growling
If you hear a deep, low sound like metal grinding or growling from your car, this is often a sign that your brake pads are worn away and the brake discs and calipers are making contact.
This is the sound of metal on metal, which can quickly cause a lot of damage to your braking system. If you hear this sound, you should bring your vehicle into a garage ASAP.
Take a look
There are also visual signs that your brake pads need replacing.
Look through the gaps in your wheels and you’ll be able to spot your brake pad compressed against your brake rotor.
If the pad is less than 3mm / ¼ inch thick, you should consider bringing your car into the garage for an inspection.
It might just be time
Most brakes are designed to be replaced at about 20,000 miles, but some need to be replaced as regularly as every 15,000 and other models will last as long as 30,000 miles.
Lots of factors affect the longevity of your brake pads, including the make and model of your car, your driving style and the type of brake pads previously fitted.
How much does it cost to replace brake pads?
Replacing brake pads usually requires an expert or may require special tools to reset the warning light, and shouldn’t be undertaken by anyone without a good standard of mechanical knowledge.
If you stick to a simple maintenance schedule, then you’ll be aware ahead of time when a replacement is due.
Brake pads are an essential part of your car’s braking system so if they’re fitted incorrectly they could make your car dangerous to drive.
The cost of brake pads replacement can vary from one car model to another.
If you’re not sure how well your brakes are performing or think you’re due a replacement, you can book an appointment with a Fixter-approved garage quickly and easily.
Your front brakes do most of the work, as the vehicle’s weight pushes forward when stopping, so they tend to need replacing more frequently.
If you find your car pulls to one side when braking, its possibly because one brake caliper has become seized on it’s mounting – you’ll need to book the car for inspection as again it’s potentially dangerous but may require just dismantling and the brake caliper slide mounting cleaning and greasing to correct the fault.