Ask a driver which part of the car is the most crucial to keep in good working order and most will say the engine. It’s true that a car will not run without an engine, but it will not stop without brakes! Keeping the brakes in good condition is essential. To make sure they work as they should, it is important to replace the brake pads when they become worn.

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There are no specific guidelines for how often brake pads should be replaced. It depends on how many miles you drive, the way you drive, your car’s weight, the condition of your rotors, and the quality of the brake pads themselves.

Aggressive drivers who tend to tailgate and slam on the brakes will wear their brake pads out quicker than less aggressive drivers. Drivers who live in hilly or mountainous areas, or who do a lot of stop-and-go driving will also tend to wear out their brake pads faster. Even if you do not fall into those categories, other factors may affect how fast your brake pads wear down. So, how are you going to know when it’s time to replace them?

Pay Attention to Padding

Brake pads are an integral part of the braking system, sitting between the brake shoe and brake drum. Brake pads keep the other parts of the brake from wearing down. Car owners can visually inspect their brake pads by looking between the spokes of their front tires to find the rotors, which are the round, metal pieces that your tire rubber fits over. Next, find the caliper, which is the long, metal piece that presses up against the rotor. The rubber lining inside the caliper is the brake pad. You can estimate the width of the brake pad or measure it with a tool called a vernier caliper. When the brake pad appears to be, or measures 1/4 inch or less, it’s time to have the brakes pads replaced.

The Lights are On

Some vehicles have a built-in electronic monitor with an indicator that lights up on your dashboard when your brake pads are worn down. This is found on many German-made automobiles, such as BMWs. Your owner’s manual will tell you if your automobile is equipped with this type of warning system. If you notice the brake light on, take your car to the shop to have your brakes inspected and replace both the brake pads and light sensor.

That Certain Squeal

If your car does not have an electronic monitor, it may have another built-in way to alert you when your brake pads need to be replaced. This is normally a metal tab attached to the brake pads. When the brake pads wear down, the metal tab comes in contact with the rotors which produces a squealing or screeching sound. If you do not replace the brake pads soon after you notice the squealing, you will begin to hear a grinding sound when you press the brakes. This is a signal that you need to change the brake pads immediately or you risk damaging the rotors, turning your brake repair into a much more costly issue. If left unchecked, you may begin to notice that your steering wheel shakes and you may feel a pulsing sensation when pressing the brakes. These are signs that you have probably waited too long and that your rotors, as well as your brake pads, have worn down.

And How Much Will This Cost

Cost of new brake pads can vary significantly depending on the quality and type of brake pad that you choose. Brake pads can be organic, semi-metallic or ceramic. The cost of brake pads ranges from $20-$50 per axle on the lower end all the way up to $200-$300 per axle on the high end.

Organic pads are the cheapest way to go. They are made of glass, fiber, rubber, and other materials. The majority of new cars manufactured today still have organic brake pads installed at the factory. Organic brakes are suitable for average, everyday driving and commuting in climates that are not extremely hot in the summer or extremely cold in the winter.

Semi-metallic brake pads generally contain 30-65% metal by weight. Metals used in brake pads include steel, iron, and copper. Semi-metallic brake pads can significantly increase the performance of your brakes over organic brake pads. They also wear much better, provide a firmer brake feel and withstand extreme hot and cold temperatures. They are suitable for anything from everyday driving to racetrack driving.

Ceramic brake pads are the newest type of brake pad available. They are made of a dense, ceramic material, like pottery. Ceramics are the longest lasting brake pad material but are also the most expensive. The higher cost is offset by their longer wear. Ceramic brake pads are quieter and have a higher heat stability than other brake pads. They are not the best brake pad to use in cold weather because the ceramic material takes longer to warm up to the optimal braking temperature. They are suitable for the typical driver in most conditions but are not recommended for racing or heavy- duty driving.

Make sure to have your brake pads replaced before your brake parts start to wear down. One way to ensure that you replace your brake pads on time is to have them inspected whenever you have an oil change. Be sure to search to find a trusted, local mechanic or auto shop near you.

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