Brake pads are one of the most critical pieces of equipment built into your car. If your brake pads aren’t working, you won’t be able to slow the car to a stop, or keep it under control as you drive.
Worn brake pads won’t handle the way new brake pads do. That’s why manufacturers build in warning signals to alert you to the fact that your brake pads are failing. There’s no mistaking the high pitched squeal brake pads make at the end-of-life when you press down on the brake pedal and the metal of the brake pad connects with the metal of the brake rotor.
You’ll notice it. And so will everyone else around you.
Brake pads last somewhere between 30,000 and 70,000 miles. Check with your owner’s manual for specifics.
But even with those general guidelines in place, brake pad life changes based on your driving patterns. There are many things you do that will ultimately determine how long your brake pads will last.
What effects brake pad wear
Your daily commute is the biggest indicator of how well your brake pads will handle over time. Are you an aggressive driver? Do you ride the brakes? Do you pounce on the brake pedal reacting to the drivers around you? Is your terrain flat, or do you drive over a variety of steep grades? Do you coast to a stop, or slam on the brakes? Brake pads will wear differently depending on your approach. Brake pads are all about safety – abrupt stops are sometimes necessary. But smoothing out your normal driving patterns will ensure a long life for your brake pads.
Cars are different from trucks. A heavier vehicle will require more braking action to come to a complete stop. It also depends on how loaded your vehicle is. Many drivers across Colorado keep items from their active lifestyle inside their vehicles at all times. Bike racks. Cargo toppers. Sports equipment in the back. All of that requires more action to bring the car to a stop. Your brakes will also have more stress if you regularly pull campers or trailers, especially going up and down the mountain. The more stress your brake pads endure, the shorter lifespan they will have.
We have a variety of driving conditions here along the Front Range. Is your driving primarily urban, or do you regularly take dirt roads? Do you live in the city, or high up in the mountains? Steep elevations impact driving differently than living out on the plains. Your brakes will also endure changing weather conditions, sometimes all in the same day. Temperatures rising into the three digits. Ice and snow making hazardous driving conditions. All of that impacts how often you rely on your brakes for slowing and stopping.
Not all brake pads are alike. Brake pads are created from several different compounds to match different driving needs. Harder materials work better when performance is required. Softer materials work better at lower speeds, such as when you primarily drive in city conditions. Steel or metal brake pads are the most common materials, and work well in average driving conditions. Carbon-ceramic brakes last longer than their metal counterparts, but are more expensive and are primarily for better performance. Your vehicle’s manufacturer has recommendations for which brake pads are best for your driving conditions. Or talk with one of our technicians for more information.
What happens if you keep driving on worn brake pads?
Have you reached a point where you know you’ll have to replace your brake pads soon, but you’re trying to get the most life out of them? Several things can happen if you keep driving on worn brake pads.
Your car will need more space to slow and stop
Worn down brake pads won’t be as functional as new brake pads. That means your vehicle will require more surface area to slow and come to a stop. Response time can change rapidly as your brake pads wear, especially if they wear unevenly. If it feels like it takes more force from you stepping on the brake pedal, it’s a good indicator there are problems with your brake pads.
Your car vibrates as you brake
When brake pads work well, you’ll come to a smooth stop. As they wear down, it adds pressure to their ability to slow and stop. Especially if they wear unevenly, you’ll start to notice this in the stopping action. You’ll be able to feel the vibrations throughout the car.
Other parts can be impacted
It’s not just your brake pads that are at risk. The more worn they become, the more at-risk other parts on your vehicle are too. Brake pads are part of an intricate system where if one component is damaged, it can impact many others too. If brake pads wear past the wear mark, they can damage the brake rotors. The metal of the brake pad grinds into the rotors every time you push down on the brake pedal. The heat from this pressure squeezes against the rotor and can warp or crack it over time. If your car needs greater force to come to a stop, this will also impact your tires. Constant slamming on the brakes causes your tires to wear unevenly, wearing down before their estimated lifespan. All of this can add up to more component replacement, making your repair costs rise.
How long can you drive on worn brake pads?
Brake pads are designed to last anywhere from 30,000 to 70,000 miles. How many your car gets will be determined by your day to day driving conditions.
But once you detect your brake pads are no longer working as designed, what happens to the rest of your vehicle largely depends on your actions.
Can you drive on worn brake pads? Sure. For a while. But it will quickly materialize into many other problems, require more repair work, and potentially put you and those around you at risk.
Is it time for new brake pads for your vehicle?