How Often to Replace Brake Pads? (3 Signs to Look For)

(Updated on October 18, 2019)

Brake pads are used in disc braking systems. These pads are basically steel backing plates which face their corresponding brake discs. Attached to the front of the plates is friction material which gets pushed against the rotors as they’re spinning.

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Once friction is created between the discs and brake pads, it causes the spinning wheels and discs of the vehicle to slow down. This is the gist of how braking works when you step on the brake pedal.

Every time you apply the brakes, it wears down the brake pads just a little bit. Eventually, it will get to a point where the brake pads are too worn down and need to be replaced.

You will likely know when that is happening because the braking performance won’t be as good as it was before and you may experience squealing or grinding noises.

If you wait too long to replace your brake pads, it could increase your chances of getting into an accident. Don’t take this chance because it is so easy and affordable to replace brake pads. But the consequences of not replacing them could be much costlier.

How Long Do Brake Pads Last?

You can expect to replace your brake pads every 50,000 miles or so. But there is no real way to provide an accurate estimate because it depends on the driving habits of the driver as well as the quality of the brake pads themselves.

For example, if you regularly drive around town in stop-and-go traffic, this means you’re applying your brakes quite frequently. In fact, may even be riding the brakes for most of the time during your trip and not know it.

As a result, your brake pads will wear out a lot faster if you regularly drive like this. Then you can expect to replace your brake pads every 20,000 miles instead of every 50,000 miles.

On the other hand, if you do a lot of highway driving where you activate cruise control and keep your foot off the brake pedal for most of the trip, then your brake pads will last a lot longer. You may be able to wait for 75,000 miles before you need to replace your brake pads.

Aside from your driving habits, you must consider the type of brake pads you have as well. If you have regular metallic brake pads, then they won’t last as long as the ceramic brake pads.

Pay attention to the hardness and thickness of the pads. The more they diminish, the closer you are to needing new brake pads.

3 Signs of Bad Brake Pads

If you get regular maintenance inspections and tune-ups at your local auto repair shop, then your auto technician is likely inspecting your brake pads as well. However, don’t wait for them to tell you whether your brake pads are going bad.

Look out for the signs of brake pads that need replacement, so you can have them inspected immediately afterward. Here are three common signs:

1. Squealing Noises

The first sign of trouble with your brake pads is squealing or screeching noises being made each time you step on the brake pedal. There is a tiny metallic shim indicator within your brake pad which causes this noise to alert you that it’s time to replace brake pads.

Alternatively, the noise may also be caused by dirt or debris on the brake pad. This is common if you’ve driven through snow or rainy roads.

2. Metallic Grinding Noises

After your brake pads’ friction material has gotten too thin, it will cause metal on metal contact between the brake pad backing plate and the rotors. This will cause grinding noises to be heard as you brake.

The longer you let it go on, the more damage you do to your rotors.

3. Indicator Lights

Newer vehicles have brake indicator lights on the dashboard which let you know when your brake pads need to be replaced. Pay attention to those warnings and don’t ignore them.

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