Your brakes are arguably the most important component of your car. Making sure that the brakes work as they should provide safety for you and the people around you.
The brake pads will eventually need to be replaced. In this article, you will learn how to recognize when it is time to change brake pads as well as how much it costs to replace them.
Table of ContentsShow
What Are Brake Pads?
When you press the braking pedal, the hydraulic system engages as the brake fluid creates pressure, pushing the brake caliper, and in turn the brake pads against the brake rotor, which in turn slow down your wheels.
Every time you engage the brakes, the brake pads get thinner as the friction stops the car, converting the kinetic energy to heat.
Because of the friction, the brake pads deteriorate and will eventually need a replacement. Most cars use two brake pads per wheel.
Different Types Of Brake Pads
There are different types of brake pads depending on the composition. Three big distinctions exist – semi-metallic, non-asbestos organic (NAO), and ceramic.
Semi-Metallic Brake Pads
Semi-metallic brake pads, also simply called metallic brake pads, consist of metals such as copper, steel, iron, and others.
As metal is a great conductor of heat, metallic brake pads can be used in a great range of operating temperatures, making it a popular choice for performance drivers.
There are different types of semi-metallic brakes, depending on their intended use. Some are intended for the racetrack, while others are made for the day-to-day commute.
The drawback of semi-metallic brakes is that they are usually noisier than their organic or ceramic counterparts. They also tend to affect the wear and tear of the brake system more negatively.
Organic Brake Pads
Organic brake pads are the most popular choice for new cars in the United States. They are composed of different materials such as carbon compounds, fiberglass, rubber, and more.
At first, organic brake pads were made from asbestos. As time passed, it was found that asbestos was cancerogenic which led to the production of non-asbestos organic (NAO) brake pads.
The advantage of organic brake pads is that they are cheap and do not expose the brake system to accelerated wear and tear on the brake system as metallic brake pads do.
The “bad” side of organic brake pads is that they are not fit for extreme temperatures, which is something a daily driver should not be concerned about.
They also tend to wear out faster, which means that you would need to replace them more often.
Ceramic Brake Pads
As the name implies, these brakes are made of ceramic. The greatest benefit with these brake pads is that they are very quiet.
They last the longest compared to the other type of brake pads and inflict less wear and tear on the rest of the braking system.
The greatest disadvantage is the manufacturing cost, and hence the price of buying ceramic brake pads.
They tend to handle temperatures much better than organic brake pads but metallic pads do a better job at the racetrack.
When Should The Brake Pads Be Replaced?
In general, brake pads should be replaced every 50 000 miles. However, many factors play a role such as the type of braking pads, driving style, and driving conditions.
Many brake pads are fitted with a brake wear indicator which ensures that the users know that the brake pads are due for a change.
In general, four types of indicators exist:
- Position sensor
A physical indicator can be seen by inspecting the brake pad visually. There is an inspection opening that enables you to see the extent of the wear.
A cut may be placed which indicates to what level the brake pad can be used before a replacement is due.
The brake pad may have a piece of metal that will come in contact with the brake disc when it is depleted, creating a squealing sound. This type of indicator is mechanical.
An electrical indicator works similar to a mechanical indicator, except that a light will illuminate in the dashboard when touched.
Position sensors are usually used in heavy-duty vehicles and works by sensing the positions of the brake pads and other components of the braking system.
If you feel that it takes longer than usual to stop your car, it is worth inspecting your braking system. Sometimes, a phenomenon called “brake fade” may occur.
Brake fade occurs when the brake pad and brake rotor are overheated and cannot provide sufficient stopping power to stop the car.
This may occur if you, for example, roll down a mountainous hill and keep braking in order to keep appropriate speed.
It may also be worth noting that brand new pads may be prone to brake fade. This happens because the materials may need time to embed into the rotor face.
A drive of 500 miles in an urban area should be sufficient to get rid of it, make sure to be extra careful with braking during this time.
Changing The Brake Pads
When changing the brake pads, it is important to change them on both wheels located in the same axle.
The brake pads on the same axle usually get worn out to the same extent, however, the front brakes do the most work which means that the front pads are bigger and wear out faster.
When it comes to replacing the brake pads yourself, it is something that is generally discouraged. This applies to those who are not very used to working with cars.
Even though it may seem simple, you really do not want to mess up the brakes of your car. Also if your car has an electronic parking brake or automatic emergency braking, additional preparation is needed.
If you are confident with working around cars, you can check out edmunds.com’s guide on how to change brake pads.
Brake Pad Replacement Cost
Now, after you know all about brake pads you might be wondering: “How much are brake pads?”.
As with all types of automotive parts, the price differs widely depending on different factors such as brand and type of braking pads, as previously mentioned in the article.
Brake pads will set you back between $20 and $100 for one set (axle), while labor will cost you about $70 and $130.
Keep in mind that the price varies a lot by type and brand. Also, a cheaper brake pad will usually deteriorate faster, meaning that the change interval will be narrow, costing you more in the long run.
Your brake pads play a crucial role in stopping your car, making you and others safe.
The brake pads generally have to be replaced every 50 000 miles but many factors such as driving style, type of brake pads and driving conditions play a role.
In general, there are three types of braking pads – semi-metallic, organic, and ceramic. All of the mentioned types have both their pros and cons.
Most braking pads have some type of indicator. This may be mechanical, where you will hear a squeaking sound when it is due for a replacement, you can also inspect them yourself.
New braking pads may be prone to braking fade, which occurs as the new pads need time to embed into the rotors. Be extra cautious when new braking pads are installed.