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Advice: Brake Pad Replacement 101


If you’ve ever heard a loud squeaking or squealing noise when stepping on your brake pedal, you know that is one of the worst sounds you can listen to when driving. Not only is this sound annoying, but it also sounds expensive. That squeaking is probably your brake pads, and they’re telling you it’s time to replace them. 

Brake pads are arguably one of the most critical parts of your car, and when you start hearing noises, you need to take action. However, your brake pads might need replacing even if you don’t hear the telltale squeak, squeal, or grind.

Having brake pads in good condition is necessary for the safety of drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and other motorists. Keep reading to learn about brake pads, including how much replacement pads cost and when to replace them.

What Are Brake Pads?

Brake pads are an essential component in your car’s disc brake system. These semi-metallic or ceramic blocks are mounted on callipers  behind the wheel. The callipers clamp the brake pads against the rotor when you step on the brake pedal.

That friction then causes the car to slow down and eventually come to a stop quickly and safely. The pads release their grip on the rotors and eliminate the friction when you take your foot off the brake.

Installed brake pads aren’t visible because their surfaces face the rotor, but you can see the callipers through spoked wheels. Some luxury or sporty vehicles come with calliper covers in bold colours. Driving enthusiasts can customize their ride with popular aftermarket calliper colours such as red.

When Should You Replace Brake Pads?

The brake pad lifespan varies significantly depending on many factors, including the quality and material composition, your driving style, and where you drive. Typical brake pads will last 40,000 kilometres and up to 80,000  or more.

Your pads will wear down faster if you’re in a densely populated area with persistent stop-and-start traffic. Brake pads will have less daily wear and tear if your commute is uninterrupted stretches of open highway.

Unlike some maintenance, such as an oil change, it’s hard to know how many kilometres you have until you need to replace the pads. Luckily, your brake pads will often tell you when it’s time. Here are a few ways to know it’s time for new brake pads.

My Brakes are Making a Loud Squeaking Noise

The last thing any driver wants to hear when coming to a stop is a loud squeal or squeak. However, your car’s manufacturer intends for them to sound like that when your pads start to wear. The terrible sound is your first and most obvious sign that it’s time for new brake pads. 

In most new cars, a small pad attachment acts as a wear indicator, similar to what tires have to indicate a low tread level. When exposed due to wear, it drags against the rotor to make a screeching noise. This is your signal to take the car to get service. Most cars will make this sound, but only some do, so be aware of other key indicators. 

My Dashboard Brake Indicator Lights Keep Flashing

An indicator light may be the easiest way to know your brake pads need replacing. Some cars have pads with sensors that trigger a dashboard warning light when the remaining pad material is thin, signalling it’s time for a replacement.

Note: You should distinguish this feature from the anti-lock brake system (ABS) light. Check the car’s owner’s manual to know if your vehicle has a brake pad replacement indicator.

If your indicator light comes on, take your car to get inspected by a trusted mechanic. The pads may not need an immediate replacement, but you should follow the service technician’s advice on when to replace them. Go ahead and schedule the appointment.

The Brake Pedal Vibrates

Your car will usually give you signs that something is wrong with it. If you notice your brake pedal pulsates when pressing down on it, it’s a telltale sign something is wrong with your brake pads. There are many reasons why this could happen.

Whatever it may be, driving on vibrating brakes is never safe. If you feel your brake pedal is vibrating, take your car to get inspected as soon as possible.

There’s a Grinding Sound Coming from My Brakes

If you hear a loud grinding sound like metal rubbing together, that’s likely what it is. Similar to the squeaking noise, some cars have metal indicators that cause this grinding sound.

Ignoring other indications can lead to severe problems with the brake system. Since brake pad mounts, rotors, and other braking equipment are metal, wearing away all the brake pad material ends with metal rubbing on metal. This situation is never good and can cause damage beyond brake pad replacement.

My Car Takes Longer to Stop

Unlike many other signs that indicate that you need a brake pad replacement, you need to pay a little more attention to your car to notice this one. 

When stepping on the brake pedal, if it takes longer than usual to come to a complete stop, that is a problem. Taking longer to stop can be the result of driving in a hilly area. When holding the brakes for a long time without releasing the pedal, contact with the rotors for an extended period can cause excessive wear.

If you sense your car is taking longer than it should stop, take your vehicle to a trained mechanic to get an assessment on the brake pads.

How Much Does Brake Pad Replacement Cost?

Despite being a vital safety component of your car, replacing the brake pads isn’t the most expensive car maintenance. 

For most cars, it will cost around $150 to $400 per axle for disc brake pad replacements. Ceramic brake pads are suitable for most cars. Heavier vehicles should use brake pads with semi-metallic friction material.


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