Having a car that moves is great. Having a car that can stop after moving is much better. A common question we hear is “how long do brakes last?”. What they are typically asking is “how long do brake pads last”. That is because brake pads do not last nearly as long as brake rotors. Unfortunately, answering how long do car brakes usually last is not an easy answer. The short answer for how long should brakes last is somewhere between 25,000 – 65,000 miles. That’s a huge range! There are many factors impacting the life of your brake pads. In today’s post, we look to better answer how long do brake pads last by looking at why brake pads wear down, how to know if your brakes have worn out, and provide some tips to help your brake pads last longer.
Why do Brake Pads Wear Down?
The braking system in your car or truck most likely uses a disc brake system or drum braking system. In the disc brake system, when you push your foot down on the brake pedal, the brake calipers work like a clamp to lower brake pads onto the brake rotors. The harder you push on the brake pedal, the harder the clamp pushes the brake pads on the brake rotor. The friction between the rotor and pads is what causes a car to slow down. It is a simple system that is quite effective in adjusting the speed of your vehicle. A drum braking system is a little different but the concept is the same where there is a relationship between pressure on the brake pedal and pressure put on the brake pads.
Over time, like the sole of your shoe, the friction wears away at the brake pad. As mentioned, there are factors that influence how many miles brakes last. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) estimates the average lifespan for brakes is 50,047 miles. How long that takes depends on the driver. Included in the FHWA report this chart to help you visual for yourself:
How to Know if Your Brakes Are Worn Out
Now you have an idea how long brake pads last. Next is learning how to know if your brake pads are worn out. Fortunately, you will have a good idea if your pads are worn out before they stop working. A clear sign your brakes have worn out can be heard. That is because brake pads are designed so that once worn down, a thin metal strip will become exposed. Once exposed, the metal will grind on the rotors making a very audible screeching noise when you brake. The noise should be loud enough to hear with your windows up. If you hear this sound, you should really consider taking your car in for an inspection. Not only is it dangerous to delay the repair, but it can also ruin your brake rotors.
How to Help Your Brake Pads Last Longer
Earlier it was mentioned there are factors that influence how long car brakes should last. Now we get to review these factors and ways you can improve the life of your brakes.
- Slow Down – Fast driving leads to fast braking. The more frequently you have to brake will cause more friction on your brakes. So if you want your brakes to last longer, slow down, lead foot.
- Don’t Ride Your Brakes – Some drivers treat their brake pedal as a footrest. Even the slightest pressure will cause friction in the braking system. This lowers your fuel efficiency and can be confusing to drivers behind you when the brake lights flash.
- Lower Car Weight – Driving around with extra weight in your car or truck means your brakes have to work harder to slow the vehicle down. Sometimes it is unavoidable when driving with friends or moving heavy items. But if you carry unnecessary items in your trunk, consider moving them out to save your brakes.
Engine Braking – Let your engine do some of the braking work. If you can see you will need to soon brake, take your foot off the engine and coast. If in an automatic, your car will shift to a lower gear and help slow the car down without using brakes. The same can be achieved with a manual transmission. If you drive an automatic, consider driving in Low (or 4-3-2 or 1) vs Drive depending on your speed requirements. These lower gear settings use more engine braking. Just keep an eye on RPMs so you don’t put too much stress on the engine
So How Long Do Brake Pads Last?
Depending on the factors described above, it really can vary how long brakes last. Understanding why brakes wear down and driving factors that can accelerate the use of brakes is great. By understanding how to alter your driving habits, you can extend the life of your brakes. And knowing the sounds to listen for can help keep you safe and know when a replacement is needed. If you are in the Golden, CO area and need brake or transmission repair, let us know! We would love to help keep you and your car happy.