How Often Should Brake Pads Be Changed?

by Liz Jones

It is essential to keep your brake system in tiptop shape to avoid brake failure. The least expensive part of the brake system to replace is the brake pads. Brake pads do not wear out in a given amount of time since many factors play a part in the wear, including stop and go traffic and car usage in general. The rule of thumb for replacing brake pads is to regularly check your brake pads and replace them when they wear to a certain thickness. Schedule routine brake inspections monthly.

Visual Inspection

There are two ways to know if your brake pads need to be changed. First, you can look at them to see if they are worn. In many cars, you can see the brake pads when you stand by the front tire. Look through the wheel rim openings to see the brake pads (see "Resources" for picture). Look at the thickness of the brake pad. If it is less than 1/4 inch, you need to replace the brake pad soon. If it is less than 1/8 inch, replace it now. If it is greater than 1/4 inch, you do not need to replace the brake pad. If you cannot see the brake pad by looking through the rims, then you will have to remove the wheel to see the brake assembly system. Jack up the car and take the wheel off or take your car to the auto shop and ask the mechanic to check your brake pads. The mechanic will tell you if you need brake pads and can perform the task for you as well.


The second way to tell if you need brake pads is by listening to your car when you apply the brakes while driving. Brake pads have a security system built into their design; they make a sound when they get thin enough that you need to replace them. This sound is a high-pitched squeal that you hear only when you apply the brakes. If you hear this sound for the first time, you have a few weeks to replace your pads. However, sooner is better so replace the brakes as soon as possible when you begin to hear the brake pad squeal to avoid more expensive damage to the brake system.


About the Author

Liz Jones is a freelance writer with extensive experience in a variety of areas, including digital imaging and the food industry. Jones has been writing professionally for three years. She attended the Pennsylvania State University where she majored in Astro Physics.