Things you need to know about brake pads

In disc brakes, each disc rotor typically has two brake pads that function together. A caliper attached to the wheel hub or suspension upright holds them in place and controls their movement. However, for the best performance, racing calipers might use up to six different types of pads with different frictional properties arranged in a staggered pattern.

Things you need to know about brake pads

The rate of disc wear might vary depending on the material’s properties, the vehicle’s weight, and the driving speed. Well, in this article, we’ll be discussing the answers to the following questions:

  • What is a brake pad?
  • What’s the function of the brake pad?
  • What are the types of brake pads?
  • How often should you change your brake pads?
  • What’s the ideal brake pad thickness?
  • How do you tell that it’s time to change your brake pads?
  • How much do brake pads replacement cost?

Read more: The most common and possible causes of brake noise

Ok, let’s dive in.


What is a brake pad?

Brake pad is a thin block that press against the disc in a disc brake, typically one of a pair. In automobiles and other applications, brake pads are a component of disc brakes. Steel backing plates make up brake pads, and friction material is adhered to the surface facing the disc brake rotors. Each wheel’s brake calliper, brake disc, and brake pads make up the usual vehicle braking system.

The calliper is designed to hold the pads, which have their friction material virtually touching the brake disc’s two sides. Hydraulic fluid in the calliper pushes each brake pad on either side of the rotating brake disc when the brake pedal is depressed. Friction that arises from this causes the car to slow down and eventually stop.

Read more: Understanding Hydraulic Braking System

What’s the function of the brake pad?

By friction, brake pads convert a vehicle’s kinetic energy into thermal energy. In the brake, two brake pads are positioned with their friction surfaces directed toward the rotor. The hydraulic caliper compresses or squeezes the two brake pads against the rotating rotor to slow down and stop the car when the brakes are engaged.

A dull gray coating is left on the disc as a result of the friction material from the brake pad being transferred onto the disc in small amounts as it heats up in contact with the rotor. Due to application of friction material to both the brake pad and disc, friction is created between them that stops the car.

What are the types of brake pads?

Here are the most common types of brake pads:

Non-metallic (organic)

Non-metallic brake pads are the softest type of brake pad available. They are produced and cured to withstand a significant amount of heat and are composed of various combinations of glasses, rubbers, and resins like cellulose as well as a sparse amount of metal fibres.

The resulting composite is soft and quickly degrades, yet it is kind on brake discs. They are therefore inadequate for use in any situation other than daily road driving, and even then, a more metal-based pad is recommended to prevent needing to replace them frequently.


The majority of the cars sold nowadays comes with these types of brake pads. To create a hybrid compound that is primarily made of metals, they combine synthetic materials and metals. Once the fibers’ composition has been determined, an organic resin is used to bind them together. To increase their durability, they are then molded into certain forms and baked for three to five hours in a furnace.

However, because metal has a lower friction coefficient at low temperatures than the more malleable synthetic material, slightly more pedal force is required to produce the same braking force with the semi-metallic pads when cold. This is because metal has a lower thermal conductivity than the purely organic variants.


But, if brake fade still occurs with a set of steel brake pads as a result of overheating, then investing in a set of full ceramic brake pads would be worthwhile. The ceramic compound employed in these high-spec pads, which are only available for the priciest supercars because to the sheer cost of production, is incredibly effective at absorbing heat from very hard, continuous, violent braking.

This means that they can continuously recover from any demands made on them, including those in activities like endurance racing. However, because of this characteristic, ceramics can be challenging to warm up to operating temperature, which can be problematic for daily driving.

Read more: Ceramic vs. Organic Brake Pads: Advantages, Disadvantages, and Differences

How often should you change your brake pads?

To keep wear to a minimum, you should generally change your brake pads every 10,000 to 20,000 miles. To maintain the best possible condition of your brakes, you should replace your rotors every 50,000 to 70,000 miles. Typically, brake pads need to be replaced on a regular basis (depending on pad material).

How often should you change your brake pads?

Most brake pads have a mechanism in place to warn the driver when this is needed. Making a small central groove that eventually disappears due to wear is a frequent technique for indicating when a pad has reached the end of its useful life.

Other techniques include incorporating a tiny piece of soft metal into a groove, which makes the brakes squeal when uncovered as a result of wear. Furthermore, a soft metal wear tab that closes an electrical circuit when the brake pad wears down can be incorporated into the pad material, which will illuminate a dashboard warning light.

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Read more: Brake pads change: how often & signs that it’s time

What’s the ideal brake pad thickness?

Your brake pads should ideally be thicker than 6.4 mm (1/4 inch) for optimal performance. If it is thinner than this, then consider replacing it right away. The majority of auto mechanics also concur that 3.2 mm (1/8 inch) is the absolute minimum brake pad thickness. If the brake pads are any thinner, you must replace them right away to prevent brake failure.

The amount of brake pad wear that develops is influenced by your car, your driving habits, and the state of the roads. For instance, you might use your brake pedal more often if you frequently drive in heavy commuter traffic that entails a lot of starting and stopping.

Read more: What the ideal brake pad thickness and how to check it

How do you tell that it’s time to change your brake pads?

Here are the most common signs and symptoms that it’s time to change your brake pads:

  • Brake wear indicator
  • Grinding or squealing noise
  • Spongy Brake Pedal
  • Brake rotor surface appears to have severe scratches
  • Longer brake distance

Brake wear indicator

Most modern vehicles have brake wear indicators when there are 2-3 mm, or 0.04′′ to 0.1′′, of brake pad material left. It’s time to check your brake pads if you see a wear indicator on your dashboard. Although it is worth examining, the wear indicator wires and connectors frequently result in false alerts on the dashboard. Nonetheless, a few cars have wear indicators on both axles, while the majority only have them on the front brakes.

Grinding or squealing noise

If you push the brake pedal and hear a grinding or screaming sound, the brake pads may be entirely worn out. This could be because you can hear the metal plate on the brake pad pressing against the metal brake rotor when the brake pad material is fully gone. Metal rubbing up against metal will sound awful, as you might expect. It’s time to examine your brake pads if you hear a terrible screech when you brake.

Spongy Brake Pedal

If you push the brake pedal and find that it has become spongy, a bad brake pad may be to blame. The brake pedal plate will bend when you push the brake pedal as a result of parts coming loose from the brake pad. You frequently need to remove the brake pedals to inspect broken brake pads by parts that came loose. A quick external inspection might not be sufficient.

Brake rotor surface appears to have severe scratches

When the brake pad wears down to the point where it reaches the metal plate, you may observe severe scratches and an odd surface on the brake rotor. Comparing the surface to the other brake rotors on your automobile can frequently make this extremely obvious.

Longer brake distance

A substantially longer stopping distance will undoubtedly result if the brake pads are worn down to the metal plate. The reason for this is that your car won’t stop as quickly when metal is in contact with metal. Another possibility is that some brake pad components broke loose, which would also reduce friction between the brake rotor and the brake pad.

Read more: Squeaking Noise While Driving But Not Brakes Applied (what to do)

How much do brake pads replacement cost?

Parts typically cost between $35 and $150.
For each axle, labor cost typically range from $80 to $120. Between $115 to $300 (parts + labor) is typically spent on each axle to replace the brake pads. Most automobiles have two axles. A larger vehicle with more wheels and passengers may have more axles. Every mechanic has a different hourly rate, and every manufacturer sets the cost of their parts based on the materials used.

Read more: Brake pad and rotor replacement cost


How much does it cost to replace a brake pad?

Parts typically cost between $35 and $150. Between $80 to $120 per axle is the standard labor cost. From $115 and $300 is the typical brake pad replacement cost per axle (materials plus labor).

How do I know when my brake pads need changing?

  • Brakes Making a Squealing or Squealing Sounds. If you hear persistent squeaking or squealing, that’s the first indication that it’s time to change your brake pads.
  • The indicator light turns on, there is a deep metal grinding sound, the brake pedal vibrates, and the brake pads appear to be less than a quarter of an inch thick.

What is the function of a brake pad?

The rotor, which is directly attached to each wheel, is subjected to pressure from your brake pads. The friction produced by this pressure is what allows your car to slow down or stop. Your wheels slow down along with the rotor.

How long do brake pads usually last?

In urban use, brake pads and shoes are typically estimated to last between 30,000 and 35,000 miles. Brakes may endure 80,000 miles or more under less taxing circumstances, such as highway travel in light traffic.

Should I replace all 4 brake pads?

You have the option of replacing the front and rear brake pads in pairs at the same time or one pair at a time. Your mechanic can take care of this problem on their own if your front brake pads need to be replaced or fixed. You should also be aware that the front and rear brake pads on your car wear out at quite different rates.

How do I check my brake pads?

Lift your car up about 6″ off the ground, then remove the lug nuts and tire. You’ll have a clear view of the brake pad, caliper, rotor, and brake lines once the tire has been removed. Check the brake pad closely for signs of excessive wear.

What are three 3 signs that brake pads are worn?

  • Squeaking, grinding or vibration when braking.
  • Indicator Light Comes On.
  • Brake Pads Appear To Be Thin.

How long do brake pads take to replace?

Consider this: even a skilled automotive technician needs at least an hour to replace the brake rotors and pads on some cars. Brake pad change could take several hours or longer for a person with little to no skill.

How many brake pads does a car have?

In most autos, each wheel has one rotor and two brake pads. Friction from applying the brakes wears the rotor and the brake pads.

That is all for this article where we discussed the answers to the following questions:

  • What is a brake pad?
  • What’s the function of the brake pad?
  • What are the types of brake pads?
  • How often should you change your brake pads?
  • What’s the ideal brake pad thickness?
  • How do you tell that it’s time to change your brake pads?
  • How much do brake pads replacement cost?

I hope you learn a lot from the reading. If you do, kindly share it with others. Thanks for reading; see you around!