The importance of your brake performance can’t be underestimated, but would you know if your brakes were showing signs of wear?
You might think it would be obvious but, as degradation is over a prolonged period, we can sometimes get too used to changes in vehicle performance and adapt our driving.
Of course there can be tell-tale signs and sounds, but they may come at a point when your brakes are already dangerous. It is always best to keep up regular maintenance to make sure your brakes are working as efficiently as possible.
So, how long should brake pads last?
The expected lifespan of your brake pads largely depends on driving style, but you should get at least 25,000 miles out of a set, up to 60,000 miles.
Aggressive braking will cause brake pads to wear much quicker than controlled, slower braking, hence the wide estimate of lifespan. Differentials such as regular rush-hour driving will also affect this.
As most cars are front-wheel drive, it would normally be your front brake pads that wear quicker.
How long should brake discs last?
Brake discs should last longer than brake pads – between 80,000 and 120,000 miles. Like brake pads, this can depend on how and when you drive your vehicle.
How do I know if my brakes may need replacing?
There are various signs that your brake discs or pads might need replacing.
Soft/ spongy brakes
If you can push the brake pedal further to the floor than usual before response, or it feels ‘spongy’, you should book your car in at a local garage. Your brake pedal should always sit above the floor even when fully applied.
A grinding noise
The most common reason for a grinding noise is the brake pads being worn to excess, to the point where a metal-on-metal sound is present. Not only are your brakes seriously compromised at this point, inaction can also cause more damage to the brake caliper, resulting in more costly repairs.
Other potential reasons for a grinding noise includes debris from the road, suck as small stones being caught between the caliper and rotor, or worn-out shims (these should be replaced whenever a brake repair is carried out).
Lack of control when braking
If you notice any vibrations or pulling on the steering whilst braking, there is likely an issue with your brakes.
Uneven pad wear can cause your vehicle to veer to one side under braking, so you should replace the brake pads as soon as possible if you notice this happening.
Reasons for this can be issues such as one of the brake calipers being seized. This can be caused by inactivity or corrosion of the caliper.
A brake judder, or vibration when braking, can be a sign of warped brake pads due to excessive heat or worn brake discs. Anything other than a smooth gradual slowing of the vehicle will likely be due to one of these issues.
Brake warning light
Most newer cars have brake wear sensors which will illuminate when your brake pad thickness is less than 3mm thick. This signifies your brake pads need replacing as soon as possible.
How can I make my brakes last longer?
There are various things you can do to make your brake discs and pads last as long as possible. Most of it is down to maintaining a smoother driving style.
Apply your brakes gently, with plenty of time to stop
This may seem obvious, but its often overlooked by many motorists. There are various benefits to planning much further ahead at traffic lights etc., including fuel consumption and safety. Steady braking will also ease the friction on the brakes and therefore enable them to last longer before wearing.
This is also a practical reason not to tailgate or drive aggressively, as this inevitably leads to more regular, harsher braking.
Make use of engine braking
You don’t always need to apply your brakes to steadily decrease your speed. For example, if you’re descending down a hill, drop into third gear, take your foot off the accelerator, and allow the engine to decrease your speed itself. This way, engine braking can take some of the strain before you need to apply your brakes.
When cleaning your vehicle, don’t forget the brakes!
When rinsing off suds, giving a little attention to your brakes can help dislodge any dust, dirt, gravel or rust that can build up and cause issues further down the road.