Brake Pads: What You Need to Know

Subject to tremendous friction and heat, brake pads wear down and must be replaced as part of a car’s regular maintenance. In disc-brake systems, the brake pads are the friction material the caliper squeezes against the rotating disc, or rotor, to slow the wheel’s rotation and stop the car. In drum brakes, the pads are called shoes.

Signs Your Brake Pads/Rotors Need To Be Replaced

An easy way to tell if your brake pads or rotors need to be changed is when you hear a high pitched screeching whenever you apply your breaks. This happens because the metal shim, called an indicator, is giving you a loud warning that it is time to replace your pads. If you hear it regularly, it is time to make an appointment. Another way to check is by looking at your brake pads through the spaces between the wheel’s spokes. If you see less than 1/4 inch of pad, you may want to have your brake pads inspected or replaced.

Other signs include:

  • Reduced responsiveness
  • Pulling to one side
  • Grinding of your breaks
  • Vibration during breaking

How Often Should I Replace Them?

Your brake life depends on the amount and what kind of driving you do. Some drivers use their brakes more than others, so it is hard to recommend time or mileage guidelines. As a guideline, brakes wear out faster if most of your driving is in an urban area where stop-and-go traffic prevails. If you do more stopping than going, you may need new breaks every 15,000 miles. This is opposed to those who spend most of their time on open road and may not touch their brake pedal for an hour or more. Their brake pads may last for three or four times as long. This goes for if you apply your brakes when it isn’t necessary. Your brakes will wear out sooner or later no matter where you live.

If it has been more than two years since your brake parts were replaced, have your brakes checked at every oil change or every six months. As brakes wear gradually, it can be hard to tell by feel or sound if it is time for new pads or rotors. Repair shops can measure pad thickness, check the condition of the rotors, calipers and other hardware, and estimate how much brake life remains.

Why Do I Need to Change My Pads and Rotors?

For most owners, maintaining their brakes can be an overlooked detail. Brake pads and rotors are “wear” items that require periodic replacement. If they are neglected, they will wear down to the metal backing plates that they are mounted to. Your rotors can wear unevenly or be damaged beyond repair if your pads are worn down to the backing plate. They won’t last forever. Keeping your brakes in good working order can prevent costly repairs down the line and help you avoid collisions.

Need your brakes checked? Bring your vehicle to the Auto Clinic of Stuart. We will find the cause of your vehicle’s problems and get you on the way in no time!