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Brake pads are a part of the disc brakes. They are positioned between the caliper assembly and the brake rotor disc.
Brake pads play a critical role in the braking system and are essential to slowing down the car.
Unlike a brake shoe (which is a part of drum brakes and lasts longer), brake pads wear out more often, affecting the braking performance.
So here’s how you can identify old or faulty brake pads:
If a vehicle has worn brake pads, you’ll notice excessive noises coming from the braking system.
These can include:
Both of these indicate that the brake pads have worn out thin. As a result, the wear indicators or backing plates are in direct contact with the brake disc.
It could also be the case that you have damaged rotors or other brake parts that need replacing. In this case, you’ll need to get a brake inspection done to identify the necessary auto repair required.
Old, worn brake pads are always visibly tattered when it’s time to change them.
Since you can’t really see the brake pads without removing the wheels, your mechanic will only be able to check the brake pads’ actual condition during a brake inspection.
Generally, if the thickness of the friction material on a brake pad is less than ¼ inch thick (about seven millimeters), you’ll have to get new pads.
If your steering wheel feels loose or shaky when braking, it could be reflecting uneven wear on your brake pads.
Sometimes the friction material transfers unevenly to the rotor surface, which is why you may experience vibrations while braking.
If left untreated, the brake pads will develop more uneven spots — ultimately worsening the vibrations when handling the steering wheel and the ‘wobbly’ feeling on the brake pedal.
Most modern vehicles are equipped with a brake pad sensor and a brake warning light on their dashboard that notify the driver of an issue with the brakes.
You can check your manufacturer’s manual to see if this light has a ‘low-pad’ warning system. If it does, you’ll easily know when it’s time to reach out for brake service repairs.
The cost of your brake pad replacement is determined by two factors — labor charges and the price of your car parts. In this case, the quality of your brake pads plays a major role in how costly the replacement will be.
Generally, you can expect to pay about $100-$150 in labor costs.
To that, add the cost of your new pads. This can range anywhere from $50 per axle (on the low end) to $100 per axle (on the higher end).
So, in total, you’ll be paying anywhere from $150-$300 per axle (parts+labor).
That means an estimated overall cost of $300-$600 for your car. This doesn’t cover additional repairs that may be needed, like a rotor replacement which often comes together with brake pad replacements.
Because worn-out brake pads will directly affect your car’s braking power, we’d say getting a brake repair is pretty urgent.
Driving with bad brake pads can be quite dangerous. Your car may take longer to halt, or altogether lose its braking ability. Worn brake pads will also damage the other parts of the brake system, resulting in further costly repairs.
While you can’t really avoid getting a brake pad replacement, proper driving habits and a few car care tips should help delay brake pad wear.
However, if you do notice symptoms pointing to bad brake pads, get a brake service ASAP and new pads installed on your ride.
Let’s take a look at some common queries about brake pads and their answers:
Brake pads are an important part of the disc brakes system. Basically, their job is to apply the necessary pressure and friction that slows down the wheels and then stops the car.
They are typically available as metallic, semi-metallic, and ceramic brake pads.
Here’s how they work:
How long your brake pads last will depend on several factors, including your vehicle type, driving habits, climate, etc.
For example, if you drive in traffic-prone areas, you’ll engage your brakes more often. This will accelerate your brake pad wear. The potential for a brake problem can be higher if you don’t maintain your brake pads.
That said, in general, brake pads can last for anywhere from 15,000 to 70,000 miles.
However, it’s a good idea to perform a brake inspection every 20,000 or so miles to ensure that they’re functioning well.
Moreover, front brake pads tend to wear out faster than rear brake pads. So you might need to change out the front brake pads before a rear brake pad replacement.
Brake pad replacement can be a pretty tricky process. So unless you’re someone with good mechanical knowledge, it’s best to let an auto services professional handle the brake repair.
That being said, here’s a general walk-through for a brake pad replacement:
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