How Long Do Brake Pads Last

How long do brake pads last? Brake pads stop your car by applying friction to the wheel rotor. Stopping your car produces enormous heat and pressure on your brake pads. Luckily, they're designed to take the abuse-but only for so long.

Your Brake Pads' Lifespan

How long your brake pads last can be influenced by a number of factors. While some of these factors are under your control, others are out of your hands. Here are some of the issues that can affect the lifespan of your brake pads:

  • Composition. There are three types of brake pad material: organic, semi-metallic and ceramic. Organic brake pads are quiet and don't create as much wear on the rotor disk. Semi-metallic brake pads can stand up to the heat generated by heavy trucks and SUVs. Ceramic brake pads have the longest lifespan, but can be noisy in some applications.
  • Standards. Manufacturers recommend that brake pads be changed every 60,000 miles under conservative driving conditions. Few cars, however, experience these magical conditions and can need new brake pads sooner. Checking the thickness of your pads with a caliper is the best way to monitor wear.
  • Terrain. When it comes to braking your car, gravity is the enemy. Hilly roads or those with lots of curves will take their toll and reduce the lifespan of your brake pads. Not much you can do about this factor, but it helps to be aware that you could be looking at a brake job sooner than the average driver.
  • Habits. Sharp braking or braking frequently at high speeds will quickly wear down brake pads. You can change this factor, by increasing your following distance, anticipating stops sooner and braking gradually.
  • What's that sound? Noises from your brakes are a cry for help. If your brakes squeal or chirp while driving but not while braking, the noise could be from wear sensors in the brake pads that let you know when it's time to replace the pads. Squealing or grinding while breaking is an indicator that your brake pads have worn through to the metal backing-what's left of your brake pads should be replaced immediately.
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