All vehicles have parts that are going to wear out at one time or another. Replacing these is just part of regular maintenance. Brake pads happen to fall into this category. Sure, you can take your car into a shop and pay for both parts and labor. Or you can learn how to replace brake pads yourself and save some cash.
What Do Brake Pads Do?
First off, you should know exactly how brake pads work. They’re an integral part of the brake system that directly impacts how quickly you’re able to bring your vehicle to a stop. Their primary function is to generate friction that slows the wheels; they do this by pressing against the rotor. You control when this happens by hitting the brake pedal, which in turn causes the calipers to push the brake pads against the rotor.
What Damages or Wears Brakes?
Regular use is going to degrade your brake pads over time; there’s nothing you can do to stop it. Just like the best car batteries eventually die, so too do the best brake pads eventually get too worn to generate the necessary friction to stop safely.
However, there are a few factors that can send your parts to an early grave:
- Quality of parts’ materials
- Frequency of sharp or sudden stops
- Driving environment
What Are the Signs That You Need New Brakes?
Since brake pads wear out gradually, you may not notice their decline immediately. However, there are several sure signs that you need to do maintenance:
- Steering wheel or brake pedal pulsates
- Dashboard shows wear indicator (available on newer cars)
- Vehicle wanders or pulls while braking
- High-pitched squealing when brakes are engaged
- Brake system warning lights are illuminated
- Brake maintenance reminder message (available on newer cars)
Even if you haven’t experienced these signs, you should check your brake pads at least every 10,000 miles.
What Parts Need Replacing?
When you’re doing maintenance, you should inspect the entire system, as there may be other parts in need of replacement. The cost of each varies:
- Rotor: $30-$75 each
- Caliper: $130 each
- Brake pad: $35-$150 for four wheels
As you can see, replacing brake pads alone is relatively cheap. However, other parts of the system can quickly rack up a big bill. Fortunately, you have some control over the total because you can choose the parts yourself.
What Factors Should You Consider When Parts Shopping?
When you’re weighing the cost of parts, there are a few things you should consider. First, what’s your vehicle make and model? You’ll need parts that fit, and the more expensive your vehicle, the more expensive the part is likely to be.
Second, which brand are you interested in? This can make a huge difference in costs. It also ties into the third factor: quality. Don’t rely on a familiar name; do your research to find parts that last. If you don’t, you may end up paying for a popular name, but less-than-stellar materials.
Learning how to bleed brakes and do other maintenance may seem intimidating at first. However, it can save you a lot of money while keeping your vehicle in good shape.