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Brake Pads: when and why to replace them

Brake pads play a crucial role in a vehicle’s braking system. They create the friction needed by the brake discs, leading the car to stop whenever you press the brake pedal.

It’s a minimal component but visible to the naked eye. Regardless of their size, these pads have a huge responsibility when it comes to your and your passengers’ safety.

Remember: we’re talking about safety and the actions you can take to protect yourself, your passengers, and the people on the road.

When you finish this article, you’ll know what brake pads are, what they’re used for, and when to replace them.

Close up on the brake pads of a car

What are brake pads for?

Before you better understand brake pads, it’s essential to know how the braking system in your vehicle works — yes, because there is more than one (brake pads aren’t the only one).

After all, what happens when you brake or stop your car?

The vast majority of cars you see on the road consist of two types of brakes:

  • Hub brakes: less effective than disc brakes; they’re mainly applied to the vehicle’s rear axle.
  • Disc brakes: used on the car’s front axle, as they are more efficient at braking.

Vehicles with disc brakes consist of the disc itself, the brake calipers, and the brake pads. This is an easy idea to understand if you have (or have had) a bicycle. Now is an excellent time to think about this mode of transportation.

Bicycles are equipped with disc braking systems. Whenever the wheel turns, the disc spins in the same way. In your vehicle, precisely the same thing happens.

The discs are iron parts that rotate, just like the wheels of a car. When you press the brake pedal, the calipers are squeezed, and in turn, press the pads against the discs.

Easy to understand, right?

As time goes by, the pressure between the brake pads and the discs causes the early to wear increasingly. This is why you should regularly monitor the condition of these components — and assess whether you need to replace them or not.

Of course, it is always best to ask a trusted mechanic for advice at such times.

Read also: How to protect the tires of your car

Curiosity: did you know that damaged brake pads affect braking distance?

Yes, it is true. And it can be very dangerous.

For a better understanding, we’ll now explain you what this braking distance phenomenon is, as well as its importance for your safety.

Well, the braking distance is influenced by two phenomena:

  • The time it takes the driver to react to something that’s happening right in front (the reaction time);
  • The distance the car travels to a complete stop (the braking distance).

All this distance also depends on the speed at which you drive — the greater it is, the greater the distance to stop. For example, those who drive under the influence of substances are guaranteed a longer reaction time. For that reason, braking is done later than it should be. Now you understand that other factors influence the braking distance.

The vehicle’s weight (especially when loaded), the weather conditions, and the state of the road are some of the many factors that influence braking distance — and can sometimes lead to possible accidents.

Do you now understand the importance of periodically checking your car’s brake pads? Don’t leave it “for next time” when you can do it today. And that’s pretty much how you know when to replace disc brake pads. Your safety always comes first.

Disc brakes from a bicycle

When to change brake pads

There isn’t a specific date or frequency for changing brake pads. Still, manufacturers (in general) suggest replacing these components every 10,000 km.

However, this isn’t an absolute rule for many reasons. Imagine that you’re driving your vehicle and, while braking, you hear a strange noise — usually very sharp. This clearly indicates that you need to replace the brake pads (even if you haven’t driven 10,000 km).

Remember that it’s always best to prevent.

How quickly your brake pads wear out depends on your driving style, whether you drive more aggressively or more gently. A more aggressive driving style, for example, leads to sharper and more sudden braking; therefore, there’s more wear.

If you drive around the city, this can also influence the pads’ wear. If you go on the road, you’ll give a longer life to the pads. This is because you don’t have to brake as often as you do in a city.

If you have any questions about this wear, please contact us.

Read also: 10 Myths about cars: Part 1

When to change the brake pads: 3 signs to watch out for

1. When the warning light comes on

Go to your local garage if you notice that the brake warning light has come on (on the instrument panel, also known as dashboard or dash). The brake pads may be worn down, so you might need to change them.

2. When you hear a squealing sound

When the brake pads are worn, you hear a squealing sound whenever you brake — we’re speaking of that clarion, usually making all the pedestrians look at you (yes, that one). This sound is caused by the integral parts coming into contact with the disc when worn.

3. When pedal pressure changes

You certainly know your vehicle like no other. So, you know what kind of pressure you should apply to the brake pedal. If you do, and if you feel a change in the force you need to apply to the brake, this could mean that your brake pads are worn.

If you don’t change the pads when you need to or allow them to wear out completely, you’ll end up damaging the discs. If one breaks, the vehicle loses its braking ability. As a result, you can cause severe accidents.

Read also: Engine Control Unit: what is, the features, and possible failures

How much you’ll pay to change your brake pads

Usually, both the parts’ cost and the replacement aren’t high. The prices charged vary according to each vehicle’s type of braking system. Therefore, you should understand which pads your vehicle’s manufacturer recommends.

So, be careful. Defensive driving is always the most recommended advice we can give. Not only to reduce brake pad wear but, in general, to prevent damage to other parts.

Remember: secure driving is your primary goal. Therefore, you want to arrive at your destination safely, without rushing.