When you purchased your car, a lot of expectations were attached to it. Manufacturers suggest city and highway mileage, but that depends on how and where you drive. They also give you an estimate of when to replace your brake pads. How long they will last depends on a variety of factors too.
Here in Colorado, most car owners face a variety of situations throughout the year. A lot of mileage is put onto a vehicle driving to and from work. That means a lot of stop and go, waiting for stoplights and sitting in traffic jams.
On the weekends, you might head to your favorite spot in the mountains, using your brakes repeatedly as you wind through the hills.
Some people feel like they drive for a living; they may put 20,000 miles or more onto their vehicle every year. Others barely put 10,000; everything is close to home.
All of this determines how often you’ll need to put new brake pads onto your car. Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear-cut schedule that tells you when it’s time to replace your brake pads. You can’t say “every three months” like you would an oil change.
But it is essential to have them checked regularly as they are one of the most important parts of your car. Can you imagine coming back into Denver from a weekend up in Vail without brakes?
It’s a good idea to have your tires rotated every six months. At this time, a mechanic can also check the thickness of the brake pads and the condition of the calipers to ensure they are in good working order.
Of course, watching your brake pads is difficult at best. That’s why car manufacturers have installed other indicators to help you know when it’s time to replace your brake pads.
A squealing noise coming from your brakes
It’s hard to ignore this sound. Every time you tap on the brake pedal, a high pitched squeal comes from your brakes. Your brake pads will produce some noise without it being a problem. If they get wet after a rainstorm, they may squeal when you first start out. Where you should pay attention to the noise is when it happens all the time. If you notice a consistent sound every time you press the pedal to the floor, and it gets louder over time, it’s time to see a professional.
A deep grinding sound
Have you ever heard the grinding noise two pieces of metal make? If you hear it when you press down on the brake pedal, that’s an indication that your brake pads are worn. Some brake pads have small metal ridges built into the bottom of the pad. This is a safety factor, and ensures a loud noise will begin to alert the driver of potential failure. The first time you hear it, it’s a warning signal. You have time to get safely into your local repair shop and have new brake pads installed. But don’t ignore this. If you let the metal ridges wear, they could grind into other areas of your tire. When this happens, it’s not just your brake pads that will need replacing. Your costs will go up dramatically, and you’ll have more extensive repairs.
A vibrating brake pedal
Have you ever felt your brake pedal vibrate as you push it down? It can give you an unsteady feeling, like you’re losing control over your car. A vibrating brake pedal occurs when the brake rotor unevenly wears down. When you push on the brake pedal, it pushes the calipers against the wheel to slow. The unevenness has the same impact as warping, causing the rotor to shake or vibrate. That sensation is transferred to the brake pedal; you’ll feel it more when stopping from higher speeds. The longer you leave this problem without correction, the more damage it will cause to your entire braking system. To avoid further damage, get your brakes checked as soon as you can.
An indicator light
Depending on your make and model, you might also have an indicator light show up on your driving panel. With some cars, there is a sensor on the brake pad, and it will trigger a sensor when it reaches a certain level. When an indicator light turns on, you’ll need to have a mechanic check out the system and make a recommendation for how soon you’ll have to replace them.
A brake pad less than ¼ inch thick
Depending on the wheels you have in place on your car, you might be able to look between the spokes to see the brake pad attached to the rotor of the tire. If the brake pad appears to be less than ¼ inch thick, it’s time to have new brake pads installed.
We know that it’s never fun bringing your car into the shop, the sooner you replace your brake pads, the sooner you’ll be on your way. The more wear and tear with the brake system, the more damage will be done. And that means greater cost for you, as well as more time in the shop.
Luckily, we also have a few tips for you to prolong your brake pad life. If you’re an aggressive driver, you’re going to pay the price in repair bills.
Giving your brakes extended life requires just a few things:
Brake pads work by turning energy into heat. The more energy they have to dissipate, the more wear they endure. If you find yourself consistently speeding up and slamming on the brakes, back off. Slow down so you’ll have a greater reaction time, and won’t need to apply the brakes as much.
One foot only
If you two-foot your pedals, stop. Leaving your foot on the brake pedal means the brake pad pushes up against the rotor every mile you drive. This is a bad habit, one that will wear your brake pad out in record speed.
Lighten the load
How much stuff do you carry around? Is your vehicle loaded with sports equipment, school and work supplies, and other things for the “just in case?” That weight can add up. The more weight inside your vehicle, the more energy it takes to bring your vehicle to a stop. If you don’t need it regularly, leave your stuff at home.
Become a more aware driver and leave space between you and the other drivers. If you anticipate traffic flow, you can coast more than stopping quickly. You should also learn to use your gears for traveling downhill. That way, you can rely on gears for downshifting rather than applying the brakes.
Keep those brake pads in great shape, and you’ll ensure they have a long life.
But eventually, you’ll need to replace them to keep your vehicle safe. And when you do it in a timely manner, your new brake pads can be installed quickly and at the lowest cost. This will have you on the road in no time.
Have a question about brake pad replacement? We’re here to help.