How Long Do Car Brakes Last?
Brakes are one of the most needed components of a car. They stop your car or let you slow down when you need to obey traffic lights, avoid obstacles, and make turns. Knowing how long brakes usually last and replacing them when needed will help you and your passengers stay safe and comfortable. Keep reading to learn more about how long brakes last and when they need service.
How Do Brakes Work?
Image via Flickr by AJ_Hobbs
The disc brakes on most vehicles slow and stop your car by using brake calipers to squeezes brake pads against brake discs. Brake calipers work like adjustable clamps, and brake discs or rotors are large metal discs that hold brake pads. When you activate your brakes, they transfer the kinetic energy moving your vehicle forward into thermal or heat energy through friction. As the brake pads touch the moving rotors, they both wear down over time.
How Long Do Brake Pads Last?
Most brake pads last for between 25,000 and 65,000 miles, and you can check your vehicle owners’ manual to find out how long your brake pads will normally work. Many factors can influence the life of your brake pads, including your driving habits, where you travel, and the materials your brakes are made from.
If you brake hard often or tend to ride the brakes instead of coasting to a stop, your brake pads could need replacing sooner. When possible, use smooth, gradual braking to make your brake pads last longer and improve the comfort and safety of your ride.
Driving in urban areas is usually harder on your brakes than driving in the country or on long, straight roads. Drivers in cities need to brake more often because of traffic lights, stop signs, and traffic jams. If you drive in places with steep hills, you could also wear out your brakes more quickly by using them to control your downhill speed.
Brake pads can be made from many different compounds to suit a variety of driving needs. Harder brake pads last longer, but they usually need to be warm before they perform well. They’re also more costly. They’re common on performance cars, and they’re made from carbon and ceramic compounds. Softer brake pads perform better at low speeds and in urban areas, and they’re normally steel or metal. However, too much heat can melt the brake pad onto the brake rotor and reduce brake performance. That means people with these brake pads should avoid lots of hard braking or extreme maneuvers.
Signs Your Brake Pads Need Replacing
If you don’t replace your vehicle’s brake pads when needed, friction will eventually wear them down. The brake calipers will contact the rotors directly, leading to excess heat and damage. Instead of replacing only the brake calipers, you’ll have to get new rotors as well. Pay attention to these signs that your brake pads need replacing to prevent additional expenses and keep yourself and your passengers safe.
A Screeching or Squealing Noise
A screeching or squealing noise when you apply your brakes is the most common sign that you need new brake pads. Most manufacturers include thin metal strips in their brake pads. When the pads wear down and the strips are exposed, you’ll start hearing a loud squeaking sound when you stop. This noise is usually audible even when the windows are up, but it could be masked by loud music or other noises nearby. Also, not all cars have brake pads designed to make this noise. You could need replacement brake pads even if you don’t hear anything out of the ordinary.
Scraping or Grinding
If screeching or squealing turns into a deep scraping or grinding sound, the metal plates on the backs of your brake pads could already be contacting your brake rotors or discs. When you use your brakes, you may not be able to slow your vehicle down in time to avoid an accident. If you let the problem become even worse, your brakes could stop working completely. If you hear this noise, get your car checked by an experienced mechanic immediately.
Thin Brake Pads
With many vehicles, you can look through the spokes on the wheels and see where the brake pad touches the disc or rotor. There should be at least one-fourth of an inch of material between the rotor and the caliper. If your brake pads are thinner, you should replace them soon. In some cars, you’ll need to remove the hubcap or the wheel to see the brake pads clearly. Fortunately, a professional can check them quickly and easily.
If you have trouble stopping and the brake pedal feels mushy instead of firm, you could have water or air in your brake fluid, a fluid leak, or another problem. A brake pedal that slowly sinks toward the floor could indicate one of these issues as well. If your car tends to pull to one side when you use your brakes, they could be wearing unevenly. You might also have an issue with your vehicle’s steering or front suspension that’s unrelated to the brakes.
Lots of Vibrations
If braking makes your car vibrate, pulsate, or feel jittery, your rotors could be warped. Have them replaced as quickly as you can to reduce your chances of an accident. If you’ve been driving aggressively or using your brakes hard while going down a steep hill or a mountain road, your brakes could start working normally again when they cool down. However, you should still get them inspected if these issues continue.
Visit Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC to have your brakes and the rest of your vehicle inspected thoroughly by a professional. We offer a wide variety of service specials to help you save money and keep your car in great condition. We have more than a century of experience, and our experts are dedicated to serving our customers. Our service department is open to customers on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.