Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

How long do brakes last on a car?

How long do brakes last on a car?

Many car owners ask this question when their car is in for an oil change and they’re told their brakes need replacing. They hadn’t thought they needed brakes because they weren’t making noise. If you’re wondering how long brakes last, the answer is; it depends on:

• Where you drive — stop and go city driving wears out brakes faster than highway driving
• How you drive — do you drive fast and brake hard?
• What type of vehicle you own — newer vehicles equipped with automatic emergency braking (AEB) and stability control use the rear brakes more often than older vehicles without those safety features. More on that later.
• The quality of the brake pads and rotors — low quality brake pads and rotors wear out faster than high quality parts.
• The type of brake pads used — non-asbestos organic (NAO), ceramic and semi-metallic brake pads wear differently from one another
• How much cargo you carry also affects brake life
• The condition of your shocks also affects how your fast your brakes wear out

Let’s start with some general rules

General rules regarding brake life

In a car or truck WITHOUT automatic emergency braking or stability control

Rule #1 Front brakes usually only last about 40,000 miles

The front brakes perform about 70-80% of the braking. So the front pads generally wear out in 30,000 to 40,000 miles. The rear brakes last much longer since they’re only doing a portion of the braking and providing rear end stability. So they can last up to 80,000 miles in some cases.

NOTE: Brake wear is much different in a vehicle equipped with AEB and stability control. Skip down to that section if you have a late model vehicle equipped with those features.

Rule #2 Lots of stop and go driving and hard braking reduces brake life

This is kind of a no-brainer. Brakes are a wear item and the more you use them and the harder you brake, the faster you’ll wear them out.

Rule #3 Low quality brake pads and rotors wear out faster

Many chain operated shop purchase low quality brake parts and sell you on the fact that they come with a lifetime warranty. Don’t be fooled; the shop will replace the low quality pads for free when they wear out early, but you’ll have to pay for the labor and the cost of new rotors.

High quality brake pads use premium friction materials and galvanized steel backing plates, so they last longer and resist rust. Low quality brake pads are made with low quality steel backing plates. The thinner backing plates flex during high braking and that causes the friction material to crack. In addition, the low quality steel rusts, which also cracks the friction material.

brake pad backing plate quality

Brake pad quality affects brake life

Low quality brake rotors are made with lower quality cast iron, are thinner, and don’t use the carmaker’s cooling vane design. So they don’t cool as well and wear out the brake pads faster.

Rule #4 The type of brake pad is another factor in determining brake life

Non-asbestos organic (NAO) and ceramic brake pads are softer than the rotor, so the pads wear out before the rotor. Semi-metallic brake pads, on the other hand are more abrasive and tend to wear out the rotor before the pads are used up.

Semi-metallic brake pads contain 30% to 65% metal content so they last the longest of all three types and they perform best at high temperatures.

Rule #5 More load = faster brake wear

Again, this is kind of a no-brainer. If you carry lots of cargo or passengers, you’re going to wear out your brakes faster than the same vehicle with just a single passenger and no load.

Rule #5 Worn shocks wear reduce brake life

Good shocks reduce weight transfer and nose dive in hard stops. Worn shocks allow more weight to sift to the front wheels and that wears out the front brakes faster than normal.

Brake life in a late model vehicle equipped with AEB and stability control?

Automatic emergency braking is designed to stop you quickly if the system senses you’re about to hit something. To stop you fast, these systems direct more braking power to the REAR brakes to prevent forward weight shift and reduce rear end lift. By reducing forward weight shift, the system reduces the weight on the front brakes so they can brake more efficiently.

AEB equipped vehicles monitor your braking at all times, not just during emergency stops. So the system will transfer more braking power to the rear brakes if you’re a hard braking driver.

If you brake hard, it’s not uncommon to see reduced rear brake life in a late model vehicle equipped with these safety systems. In fact, we’re seeing rear brakes wear out in 40,000 miles in these vehicles.

That’s twice as fast as vehicles not equipped with AEB. Aside from the fact that the rear brakes are used more often in hard stops, rear brake pads are usually smaller than front brake pads and the brake rotors are often thinner and non-vented. You can increase rear brake pad life by not braking so hard.

©, 2017 Rick Muscoplat


Posted on by Rick Muscoplat

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