20.10.2021

Whether you’re on the road or otherwise, you probably don’t give too much thought to your car’s brake pads. But considering they’re among the most important safety features on your car, setting aside some time to understand what they do and when you might need to replace them is vital.

Like just about everything else on your car, brake pads must be regularly maintained and inspected to ensure they’re in good working order – for the safety of you and others.

To get you up to speed on this crucial system, we’ll take a closer look at what brake pads do, how to check your brake pads, and the tell-tale signs that it might be time to replace them.

What are brake pads?

Brake pads are flat pieces of steel that have thick friction material on one side of them. When the brake pedal is pressed, the brake pads make contact with the brake discs, causing friction that prevents your car’s wheels from turning. They’re part of a highly interconnected system that relies on its parts functioning safely and successfully.

There are a few different varieties of brake pad available, including:

Non-metallic/organic

The softest kind of brake pad, they’re also prone to quickly wearing out and creating large amounts of brake dust.

Semi-metallic

When a new car is sold today, they’ll more than likely be fitted with this kind of brake pad. Their semi-metallic build means they’re more heat resistant, but that also means less efficient performance in cooler temperatures.

Ceramic 

Higher performance at a serious premium, ceramic brake pads are the priciest option. They can withstand very high temperatures and produce far less dust as they wear. However, not all vehicle makes and models are compatible with them, so be sure to do your research ahead of time if you opt for the ceramic variety. 

What do brake pads do?

A key component of your vehicle’s braking system, brake pads are responsible for some of your car’s most important functions. From allowing you to control the speed of your vehicle to bringing it safely to a halt, they’re about as critical as things get.

Since the wheels on a car rotate at such high speeds, the process of repeatedly bringing a heavy vehicle to a complete stop puts some serious stress on your brake pads. This is what causes them to eventually wear down over time.Text here ...

How often you drive – and the way in which you drive – play a role in how your brake pads fair over time. If you’re a city driver, all that frequent braking is sure to take a toll on them, for instance. Or if you’re a little heavy footed on the brake pedal, your brake pads will need replacing more frequently. 

How can I tell if my brakes need replacing?

For the most part, your vehicle’s wear sensors can detect when the front or rear brake pads are getting critically low. But there’s a few other warning signs you should watch out for and heed; you should never ignore brake pads that need replacing.

Warning light

If your brake pads are worn out, then the first thing you’ll probably notice is the brake pad wear warning light on your dashboard. This is an indication that at least one set of pads are almost worn out; you’ll need to have a replacement fitted to avoid total brake failure.

However, not all cars have these sensors. If this is the case, then you should have them inspected and checked by a professional on a regular basis.

new brake pad fitting

Loud noises

Has your car started making a loud screech when braking? You most probably need new brake pads if so. Likewise, if you hear a grinding noise, then the brake pads have been worn down completely. When this happens, you should avoid driving the vehicle and have the brakes checked and replaced as soon as you can.

Frequent vibrations

If there’s a noticeable vibrating when you push your foot down on the brake pedal, then the pads could have warped due to an excessive build-up of heat.

Pulling to one side

When the car seems to be veering to one side when braking then you’re probably dealing with a brake fault, which could cause serious problems when braking in emergency situations.

A sticking handbrake

Encountering resistance when taking the handbrake off and pulling away is another sign your pads will need replacing. Should this happen, have an expert look at them; driving with the handbrake stuck on can cause your brakes to heat up, causing extra wear and damage.

How do I check my brake pads?

Depending on the vehicle model, it’s possible to do a visual check to see what condition your pads are in. Look between the spokes of the wheel, you should be able to see outer pad pressed against the brake disc. If you see anything less than 3mm of the pad visible, you should get your brake pads inspected.

Some brake pads have a wear indicator slot down the centre of the pad. If you can’t see the slot or it’s barely visible, then you should replace your brake pads.

How much does replacing my brake pads cost?

While you can always go the DIY route when it comes to replacing your brake pads, it’s not the easiest of tasks to take on. We’d recommend having the professionals do it for you instead. In which case, you’ll probably be wondering how much brake pad replacements cost.

Prices will, of course, vary between makes and models, as well as the garage doing the repairs. But generally, you’ll be look at around £90 to £165 for two wheels.

Keep in mind that changing the front pads doesn’t mean you also have to change the rear pads at the same time. Since the brake load of each axle is different, the wear and tear will differ too. The front brake pads usually wear out faster and need to be changed more often.

How to make brake pads last longer

You can maintain the condition of your brake pads and reduce how often you need to change them by keeping these tips in mind:

  • Anticipate braking situations by applying your brakes gently and gradually
  • Keep an eye on your speed – suddenly slamming on your brakes puts undue pressure on them
  • Likewise, your acceleration should be steady and gradual
  • Avoid driving with a heavy load. Empty your car of anything you don’t need for the journey and be sure to remove the roof rack if it isn’t being used.

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