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How Long Should Brake Pads Last? Types And When To Replace Them

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Brake pads don't have an infinite lifespan. Replacing them at the correct time improves driving performance and safety. So, how long should brake pads last?

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Brake pads don't last forever. Because of how they function, these pads wear down and become thin over time. Fitted in the caliper, they are pushed into the sides of the brake disc when you press the brake pedal, and the resulting friction allows you to bring the car to a stop. This friction, however, sands off layers of the pads over time.

Driving on an old set can limit how effective your brakes are. However, swapping them out too soon can be unnecessary and costly. How long are brake pads meant to last, and when do you know they need replacements?

The majority of manufacturers claim that their pads last somewhere between 30,000-70,000 miles. This is affected by many factors, however. Let's explore them below.

What Impacts Brake Bad Lifespan?

Your brake pads may have a longer or shorter lifespan than normal, depending on:

  • The type of brake pads they are
  • Your driving style
  • Road conditions
  • The load your vehicle carries
  • How frequently they (and the vehicle as a whole) are maintained

The Type of Brake Pads

Some brake pads are designed to handle wear, tear, and aging better than others. In light of that, cheaper brake pads with simpler materials often need changed out frequently, while more expensive or complex designs last longer.

Organic Brake Pads

Organic brake pads use materials containing non-metallic fibres (mostly fibreglass, rubber, and Kevlar). They are quiet when the brakes are applied and low-cost to purchase, but they're only suitable for normal daily driving. Excessive use wears them out quickly, and their average lifespan is closer to 30,000 miles.

Metallic Brake Pads

Metallic brake pads have the advantage of durability and survive upwards of 50,000 miles. These come in two forms:

  • Low-metallic
  • Semi metallic

Low metallic brake pads are composed of about 10-30% copper or steel, improving their overall lifespan. The downside is they are noisy, as the friction they cause is metal-against-metal.

Likewise, semi-metallic brake pads are made from fused metal particles. They offer very efficient braking performance, but their build can wear down brake discs faster than other kinds.

Ceramic Brake Pads

These are the longest-lasting of all types. Ceramic brake pads are far more wear-resistant, because ceramic is both robust and tolerant of a wide range of temperatures.

Ceramic brake pads are ideal for those looking for supreme braking performance and durability, but they do come with a high price tag. Depending on where they're purchased and who installs them, this can begin at £650.

Driving Style

Aside from their base design, brake pads can have a fluctuating lifespan depending on how you drive. The more miles you clock behind the wheel, the faster you can expect the brake pads to deteriorate.

Each time you put your foot down to slow the vehicle, you're shaving off a thin layer. As such, if you're heavy-footed on the pedals and tend to stop abruptly, there will be additional wear on the brakes. In contrast, if you're cautious, anticipate the traffic ahead, and lower your speed gradually, the pads will endure for longer periods.

Road Conditions

The road conditions will also impact your brake pads' longevity. If you primarily drive on motorways, they will survive for longer than if you spend ample time driving around cities and making shorter trips. That's because there's less stopping and starting on motorways.

While a set may last you upwards of 60,000 miles if you stick to motorways and drive sensibly, you may need to replace the pads after just 25,000 miles (or even less) for in-town travel or aggressive, erratic driving.

Carrying Load

The number of passengers and the loads you carry will impact how well you can brake (and how hard you need to press the pedal to do so). Because of this, heavier vehicles place greater strain on the braking system. Additional layers will be shaved off the brake pads to compensate for this, which thins them out and requires a new set earlier than normal.

Brake Pad Maintenance

To get the most out of your brake pads, it's important to maintain them. Having the pads checked once a year and replacing them if necessary will ensure they're cleaned, the area around them is kept in good repair, and they're swapped out before faulty brake pads can result in damage to the surrounding area.

That not only saves you money, but improves the car's overall lifespan. Make sure you check your brake fluid regularly and listen out for warning signs, such as:

Do I Need Replacement Brake Pads?

If your brake pads need a check-up or replacement, then visit your local Autofusion centre. Our brake specialists can ensure this safety system is well maintained and equipped with the best pad design for your needs.