When should i change my car’s brakes?

Brake pads are important elements of the braking system, on which the safety of all traffic participants depends. The brake pads are present in the disc brake system.

When the car wheels rotate, the brake discs also rotate. Each time you press the brake pedal, the pads wear out. Eventually, the brake pads become so worn out that their friction material no longer exists, and this can damage the brake discs.

There are a lot of factors that determine the life span of the brake pads. For example, if you drive a lot in crowded places and often press the brake pedal, this can lead to premature wear of the brake pads.

Types of brake pads:

  • Semi-metallic;
  • From weak steel alloys;
  • Organic;
  • Ceramic.

The brake pads consist of a support plate and a friction gasket, for the production of which can be used over ten components. The composition of the semi-metallic brake pads includes at least 65% metal.

The remaining 35% is a mixture of graphite and inorganic materials. The advantage of this type of pads is the ability to efficiently absorb heat, the disadvantage is its excessive hardness, which leads to premature wear of the brake disc.

Brake pads made of weak alloy steel are made of organic materials, with the addition of metals (no more than 30%). They have good thermal conductivity and provide more efficient braking. They cost almost double compared to the semi-metallic ones.

Kevlar, glass, and carbon are the basic materials for the manufacture of organic brake pads. The composition of these components does not include more than 15% metal.

They are soft and quiet, but they are more worn than other types of pads, therefore they are not suitable for aggressive driving enthusiasts.

The composition of ceramic brake pads includes ceramic fibers, synthetic rubber, and non-ferrous metals. Such plates provide a constant coefficient of friction, being less abrasive.

They are the best choice for aggressive driving amateurs. They are more expensive than other types of brake pads.

Categories of brake pads. All pads can be in two categories:

  • original;
  • analogs.

The advantages of the original brake pads are obvious, but they cost twice as much as the analog ones. They are sold in the original packaging, made by a reliable manufacturer.

The quality analogs are, by their characteristics, only slightly inferior to the original spare parts. These pads are cheaper while offering quite a good braking performance. However, there are analogs made of materials that do not meet the standards. 

Usually, these brake pads are not properly tested and do not meet generally accepted standards. It is important to avoid a mistake when choosing the parts: cheaper pads should make you ask questions.

The main parameters of the brake pads

1. Operating temperature. Brake pads with a temperature range of 300-350 ° C should be sufficient for city driving and moderate speed travel. Sports cars are equipped with brake pads that operate at a temperature of 900 ° C, but they provide effective braking only when heated to over 100 ° C.

2. The coefficient of friction. The plates with a friction coefficient of 0.25-0.35 are sufficient to stop the vehicle at a moderate speed. These are the values that the non-original components usually have.

The coefficient of friction of the original brake pads is slightly higher, about 0.3-0.5. The sports brake pads, at the operating temperature of 150 ° C, have a low coefficient of friction of 0.2. When heated, it can increase to 0.5.

3. Lifespan. The wear resistance of the part depends on the material from which it is made. A soft rubbing material wears off faster, but one too strong leads to premature abrasion of the brake disc.

When to change the brake pads?

Those who drive longer distances will have more durable brake pads. On average, the brakes should be changed between 22,000 and 85,000 miles.

This range is relative because the number of miles is influenced by how often you press the brake pedal. When using the brake pads, you will notice, because the braking performance will no longer be as good.

It is not good to postpone the replacement of the brake pads, as you will be prone to accidents, so replace the pads in time because they are not expensive, otherwise, the consequences of not replacing them could be much more serious and costly. 

22,000 miles are recommended for those driving on short distances, while 85,000 miles are recommended for drivers traveling longer distances. Some brake pads are stronger than others.

On the other hand, if you drive long distances and also use the autopilot, thus forgetting to step on the brake, ok… very rarely, then the brake pads will last longer. They should be changed at about 100,000 miles. 

Apart from the driving habit, you must also consider the type of plates you have. If you have ordinary metal plates, they will not last as long as the ceramic plates. Pay attention to the hardness and thickness of the brake pads. The more it diminishes, the more often the plates must be changed.

Common types of brake pads.

There are several types of brake pads on the market. The two most common types of brake pads are metallic and ceramic. Each of them has pros and cons, depending on the model of the vehicle you drive and other factors. To get a favorable result for you, study each one and see which ones are better.

Ceramic brake pads

You may have noticed that ceramic material is used to produce ceramic plates. It is the same material used to make pots, plates, and other ceramic objects.

The only difference is that the ceramic brake pads are much more durable than the other ceramic objects, this is due to the fine copper fibers that were incorporated into the ceramic brake pads.

These wires extend the life of the brake pads because they are heat resistant. Thus, they can create friction without the pads becoming overheated or damaged. We will present below the advantages and disadvantages of ceramic brake pads.

Benefits

Ceramic brake pads cause much less noise compared to metal brake pads because they are not as abrasive. Because of this, there is not much pressure on the brake discs, so the brake discs will last longer.

 The most important thing is that the ceramic brake pads are much more heat resistant, which means that the ceramic brake pads will last longer.

Disadvantages

Ceramic brake pads cost more money than metal brake pads. Because it does not cause too much friction on the brake discs, stopping or slowing the vehicle will be done a little later compared to the metal brake pads. If you drive a large vehicle, such as a truck or SUV, then ceramic brake pads would not be indicated, stopping them will be more difficult.

Metal brake pads

The metal brake pads are not made of 100% metal but are mostly made of metal materials. There is a variation of models that can have only 30% metals or up to 70% metals.

The types of metal you find in these include composite alloys, steel, copper, and/or iron. The filler materials, such as graphite lubricant, are also used to form the brake pad in its final form.

We will present below the advantages and disadvantages of the metal brake pads.

Benefits

Metal brake pads are cheaper and more affordable than ceramic brake pads. The metal brake pads do a much better job of slowing down the vehicle because they are more aggressive on the brake discs.

If you are driving a truck or SUV, the metal brake pads are the best.

Disadvantages

Due to the metal materials, the brake pads create more noise while pressing the brake pedal. Although their abrasiveness does a much better job and brakes much faster, they will need to be changed much more often compared to ceramic brake pads. Some people claim that the black dust in the braking system is also generated by the metal brake pads. Some drivers claim that the black dust in the braking system is generated by the metal brake pads.

The minimum thickness of the brake pads.

When the brake pads are rubbed on discs, they consume friction material. When measuring the thickness of the brake pad, we measure the thickness of this material.

If the friction material becomes too thin, then it will not be able to slow down the vehicle in a short time. If the material is completely dissipated, then the brakes will have big problems.

Therefore, the brake pads need a minimum thickness of 6.4 millimeters or more. You can use plates with a smaller thickness, but remember that they should not be less than 3.2 millimeters.

Between 3.2 and 6.4 millimeters, you should replace the brake pads. The cost of replacing the brake pads varies depending on the type and material of the pads.

Recommended thickness of brake pads.

If you are buying new brake pads, then make sure the friction material is about 12 millimeters. This is the standard thickness of the new brake pads. It should reach about 65,000 miles for the thickness to fall below 6.4 millimeters. It all depends on how often and aggressively you use brakes.

Symptoms of worn and bad brake pads.

worn brake pads

Sooner or later, due to the rubbing with the brake discs, the brake pads wear out, even though they are made of rubber of the highest quality. Due to the friction design, the service life of the brake pads is not a great one, and we can say that friction is the number one enemy of the pads.

Noise when rubbing brake disc like squeak or rattle.

When the brake pads show a high degree of wear, they will create a noise when they will rub the discs to slow down or stop the car.

This noise appears because the worn pads are no longer so rigid, and for this reason, in the space between the brake pads and calipers, different contaminants appear, including dirt.

For this reason, when you want to brake the car and when the pads are rubbed on the brake discs, there is a loud noise. In this case, it is necessary to replace the plates as quickly as possible.

The car needs more time to stop.

When the brake pads of the car show a high degree of wear, things are as clear as possible, that is, it takes more time to stop the car. In these conditions, it is necessary to urgently replace the brake pads, because there are very high chances that, because it lasts some time until the car is stopped, traffic accidents can occur.

Brake vibration.

Because they are used so often, the pads wear out quickly, sometimes unevenly or abnormally, so when you press the brake pedal, the car feels a pulsating sensation, if that’s the case, then you need to replace the brake pads that are already overused.

This symptom does not appear in other situations.

The appearance of the traces on the brake discs.

Concerning worn brake pads, most likely the last symptom you will encounter is related to the appearance of traces on the brake discs.

Only in extreme cases, there are traces of the pads on the brake discs, and in such a situation, the chances of the brake disc being destroyed are very high. This is why it is necessary to replace the brake pads in time.

How to test the brake pads? Can they be repaired?

Certainly, when you encounter at least one of the symptoms I mentioned earlier in the article, you should perform some checks to make sure that your car has the brake pads in very good condition.

The brake pads of the car can be checked in several ways, but the most suitable is to carry out easy tests, and one of these refers to the easy driving of the car, normally, but on a not very busy road, for it to be able to press the brake pedal as often as possible.

If, while driving, when the brake pedal is pressed, you hear or feel one of the symptoms mentioned in the first part of the article, then most likely the brake pads of the car are worn out and it is necessary to replace them.

However, it is important to note that the brake pads work in tandem with the discs but also with the caliper, so it is quite difficult to determine which components make the ugly sound that is heard when braking.

If, however, after the test, you conclude that the problem is represented by the brake pads of the car, you must go to the “next level”, which includes the solution of the problem.

If when we talk about different car parts, they can be repaired. On the other hand, brake pads can no longer be repaired, since they are built automatically and are forged to result in only one unit.

Most of all, the brake pads cannot be repaired and cannot reach their original state again, so in this case, it is necessary to replace the used brake pads with other new brake pads.

Replacing the brake pads is not a hard job at all, so if you are mechanically aware you can personally change the brake pads at home if you have the tools you need.

Otherwise, you will need to go to an authorized service, and a mechanic will be able to handle the brake pads quickly.

How much does it cost to replace the brake pads?

Surely all those who own a car are wondering how much it costs to replace the brake pads when they have to change their used pads with other new brake pads.

Well, first of all, it should be mentioned that the brake pads are easily found in all auto parts stores, so from this point of view, you have no cause for concern.

As for the price of the brake pads, they can be cheaper or more expensive, depending on the make and model of the car you own. 

When it is necessary to replace the brake pads, you must know that the total price depends a lot on the cost of the work.

If you replace the pads yourself, you will come out much cheaper than if you take the car to an authorized service, so that the specialists will deal with the replacement of the used brake pads in the shortest time.

If the extremely worn brake pads have also affected the brake discs, then the brake discs will have to be replaced and the costs will be higher.

So the estimated price for the brake pads is between $40 and $500

Below are a few factors that you should consider if you want the brake pads to last longer.

  • Excessive use of the brake pedal. Lots of drivers abuse the brake pedal. They accelerate very quickly and then press the brake pedal to maintain a steady speed. This can wear the brake pads much faster. You should use the engine brake more often to save as much brake pad wear as possible.
  • The overloaded vehicle.  The heavier the car, the more the brake pads are prone to wear out, as more force is needed to slow down a heavier vehicle. Thus, the brake pads work harder to slow down the vehicle. So, free up as much space from the passenger compartment and luggage compartment for more durable brake pads.
  • Brake pedal prematurely pressed. When you see a stop lamp lit in the distance, your reaction may be to press the brake pedal. A good tip would be to take the foot off the acceleration and let the vehicle slow down on its own or have a braking mode as smooth as possible. This action is called, of course, the engine brake. The vehicle will slow down if you do not accelerate it. As you approach an obstacle or stop, you can step on the brake pedal, as needed, to stop.
  • Driving with speed. When driving at a higher speed, the brake pads will require more power to slow down or stop the vehicle. If you are the type of person who drives over legal speed limits, try for the sake of the car, but also yours, to drive within limits. The slower you drive, the easier it is for the brake pads to stop the vehicle.

How to change the brake pads?

Brake pad replacement work is one of those procedures that any driver is well aware of. The brake pads, due to the intense use will be worn, which means that at some point they will need to be changed.

Of course, you can go to a mechanic, within a specialized service to replace the brake pads. What you need to know, though, is that this work can be expensive.

If you have some technical knowledge, you could try to change the brake pads yourself. Here are the steps you need to follow when you want to change the brake pads.

To change the brake pads, you will need some tools: flashlight, car elevator, clamps but also a brake fluid canister, a new set of pads, wire but also some consumables such as gloves, latex or nitrile, to protect you, a few clean cloths, old newspapers but also a set of tools that you can use.

What you need to do next is to park the car on a flat surface. You should not touch the brake pads if you have recently been in the car because they will have a high temperature and there is a risk of injury. 

It is best to allow the components to cool for a period to prevent an accident.

To replace the brake pads, it is necessary first and foremost to lift the car off the ground. Use auto lifters adapted to the weight of your car.

Now you have lifted the car from the ground to an appropriate height to remove the wheels, use supports to secure the car in position.

Read the technical book of the car or look for information on the internet about where it is best to place these supports. Usually, the manufacturer mentions the points of support where they can be placed safely. 

If you place supports at another level, there is a danger of deforming the body. After you have fixed the car in position and stabilized it, you must unscrew the wheel bolts, set them aside, and remove the wheel.

Usually, removing the wheel is a fairly easy task. After that, it is good to check if the car is in gear and the handbrake is pulled, especially if you find that the wheel spins when you remove the bolts.

Removal of the calipers.

When you remove the wheel, the first thing you will notice will be the brake disc. It is usually located immediately behind the wheel.

Although you may be tempted to try to remove the brake caliper and disc directly, the specialists recommend that you first touch the area behind the caliper. There you will find two screws that secure this piece in position.

Using a wrench of the right size, unscrew and remove the caliper. From the moment you remove the caliper, you can use the wire you have prepared to make sure there is no pressure at this level.

When removing the brake pads from the rear wheels, check that the handbrake is pulled. Even a very low pressure exerted on the hand brake will make the caliper removal impossible.

Removing old brake pads and replacing them with a new set.

The most advisable thing would be that before you remove them from the position, set some benchmarks regarding the position in which you will mount the new plates. Only then you can remove and replace them.

If we refer to the brake cylinder, you must know that it is located inside the brake caliper. With the clamp, you can compress the cylinder to fit it inside the caliper.

Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer regarding the technique of changing plates. Reassembling the components will seem like an extremely easy task.

Then tighten the screws on the caliper. Position the wheel and apply the bolts. Tighten them into position.

Specialists recommend that you do not try to change the brake pads when you know there is a problem with the brake discs.

A problem located at the level of the brake discs actually suggests that there is a serious problem at the level of the braking system. Also, check the surface of the disc to see the existence of accentuated holes.

Recommendations for choosing the brake pads.

Choose similar brake pads in composition with brake discs and products under the same brand name;

When buying components, guide yourself to operating conditions and driving style. Only buy brake pads from reliable manufacturers.

How to differentiate between an original and a fake piece

  • 1. Pay attention to the presence of the certified brand. If you don’t see R90 or 90R written on the label, it’s a fake.
  • 2. The package must contain a product passport, a warranty certificate, a quality certificate, as well as an installation guide.
  • 3. The surface of the original brake pads shall be smooth and uniform.
  • 4. Check the unique part number on the manufacturer’s website.

The best manufacturers of brake pads

The most important manufacturers of brake pads are:

The products of these companies vary in price and operating characteristics. Brembo and Ferodo companies produce brake pads for sports cars. The parts from ATE are also capable of withstanding temperatures up to 800 ° C.

Brake pads from TRW, Lucas, Bosch, Remsa, and STARK are better suited for everyday urban traffic. They have slightly lower parameters, but they are much cheaper. PAGID company manufactures brake pads for luxury cars.

American company Jurid produces brake pads that are used as original parts by car manufacturers but can also be supplied as analogs for vehicles from other brands. The products of this company are also known under the brands BendixR, FRAMR, and Preston.

Words written in orange color are links to recommended brake pads you should check on Amazon.

Please note: When choosing brake pads, it is important to consider not only the popularity of a brand but also the specific features, such as driving style and conditions of use of the vehicle. Only by taking into account all of these details can you choose the components that will ensure a long and reliable operation of your car.

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