Subject to tremendous friction and heat, brake pads wear down and must be replaced as part of a car’s regular maintenance. In disc-brake systems, the brake pads are the friction material the caliper squeezes against the rotating disc, or rotor, to slow the wheel’s rotation and stop the car. In drum brakes, the pads are called shoes.
How Do I Know When to Change My Brake Pads and Rotors?
Squeaks, squeals and metal-to-metal grinding noises are typical signs you’re past due for new brake pads and/or rotors. Other signs include longer stopping distances and more pedal travel before you feel significant braking force. If it’s been more than two years since your brake parts were replaced, it’s a good idea to have the brakes checked at every oil change or every six months. Brakes wear gradually, so it can be hard to tell by feel or sound when it’s time for new pads or rotors.
How Often Should I Replace Them?
Brake life depends mainly on the amount and kind of driving you do, such as city versus highway, and your driving style. Some drivers just use the brakes more than others. For that reason, it’s hard to recommend time or mileage guidelines. On any car more than 2 years old, it’s a good idea to have a mechanic inspect the brakes at every oil change, or twice a year. Repair shops can measure pad thickness, check the condition of the rotors, calipers and other hardware, and estimate how much brake life remains.
Why Do I Need to Change My Pads and Rotors?
Brake pads and rotors are “wear” items that require periodic replacement. If they aren’t replaced, they’ll eventually wear down to the metal backing plates to which they’re mounted. Rotors can warp, wear unevenly or be damaged beyond repair if the pads are worn down to the backing plate. How long pads and rotors last depends on how many miles you drive and how often you use the brakes. The only guarantee is that they won’t last forever.