Brakes are one of the most essential elements in a vehicle's safety system as they are what brings it to stop when you need it to. But, like many other parts of a car, the braking system has several elements and components that work together, and one of the most important ones is the brake pad.
Many vehicle owners know that they need to change their brake pads often, and several can easily tell when they need to replace them from how the braking system functions. However, a huge chunk of these vehicle owners, do not understand what brake pads are actually all about.
Here we explain a few things you need to know about brake pads to help ensure you keep your vehicle safe to drive.
What Is A Brake Pad?
Brake pads look like a very obvious thing, and many people will not even give it much thought, but most do not understand what they are all about.
A vehicle's braking system is made up of three main parts which are the brake caliper, disc, and pad, and each has its unique role to play.
Brake pads are fitted on the caliper, and they are the part that contacts the rotor and causes the friction required to stop the vehicle. Hence, brake pads are the actual element of the braking system that does the actual braking by pressing against the disc brake rotor.
Types Of Brake Pad
Brake pads will come in different types based on their intended use and vehicle that they are designed to work for. But, in many instances, you will often have to choose between two main types, which are the ceramic and semi-metallic brake pads as they are two of the most commonly used types for most vehicles on the road today.
Ceramic brake pads are great all-round pads that will offer the durability of the metallic pads and the excellent grip that you get from the synthetic brake pads, and hence allowing you to get the best of both worlds.
These brake pads are often more stable than most other types under different temperatures, and they offer a relatively quieter performance. And with a ceramic brake pad, you will not have to worry about the brake dust sticking on your wheels, which is a huge advantage when using pricey custom wheels.
There are all kinds of ceramic brake pads from different brands out there, but you can check out some top quality ones from reputable brands over at Zoniv.com.
Semi-metallic brake pads are made with synthetic materials mixed with different portions of metal flakes. These brake pads are designed to be tougher than others such as the non-metallic types and are also more resistant to fading and long-lasting.
The metals used to make the metallic flakes for these brake pads are often high-quality steel or copper and other more exotic metals.
But, while these brake pads last a long time, they will typically cause increased wear to the rotor, which means it has to be replaced sooner, and they often also require greater actuating force.
Note: Other types of brake pads besides these two are the highly long-lasting fully metallic brake pads and the cheaper non-metallic brake pads that also tend to be gentler on the rotors.
How Do Brake Pads Work?
Brake pads will simply work by contacting your rotors, which then causes friction and then makes the wheel to slow and stop. But, they are a part of a more complex braking system than this with each component playing a crucial role.
Here is a step by step breakdown of the functioning of brake pads.
Step #1: Pressing brake pedal activates cylinder that then sends the brake fluid to calipers through hoses.
Step #2: Calipers then respond by engaging the brake pads.
Step #3: Brake pads now push on the rotors that are connected to the wheel and apply pressure on them.
Step #4: Pressure applied on the rotors then creates friction and causes the rotor to slow down, and hence slowing the rotation of the wheel and finally stopping the vehicle.
Why Do I Need To Change Brake Pads?
The first and most important reason why you need to replace your brake parts when they get worn out is the fact that worn out brake pads can lead to braking failure. Hence, with worn-out brake pads, you are endangering the lives of everyone that uses or rides in the vehicle.
Also, brake pads need to be replaced because worn-out ones will allow the calipers to get in direct contact with the rotor, and this direct contact can lead to warping and breaking of the rotors.
And in some severe cases, you can also end up damaging the brake calipers. The cost of replacing calipers and rotors is way much higher than brake pads. Hence, failure to replace your brake pads will end up costing you more in service and repairs.
How Long Will My Brake Pad Last?
Like with any other vehicle components, how long your brake pads will last will largely depend on their built quality and the materials used to make them. Hence, you should not expect cheap non-metallic pads from knockoff brands to last very long.
With that said, most mechanics will tell you that your brake pads will last anywhere between 30,000 and 70,000 miles. But, this depends on the conditions that you drive and also how well you maintain your braking system. Also, other things like the type of rotor you have on your wheels will determine the brake pad lifespan.
When Should I Change My Brake Pads?
If you have been driving long enough it will be easy to tell when you need to change your brake pads from how the vehicle feels when braking. Also, a simple inspection of the brake pads should tell you when you need to change them based on their condition.
But overall, you should watch out for things like squeals and squeaks as they are a good indication that you need to change your brake pads.
Other things to watch out for include the vehicle having a longer stopping distance than usual and also a longer brake pedal travel when braking. But, the surest way to know when to change brake pads is by inspecting their condition regularly.
Brake pads play a crucial role in your vehicle’s braking system, and so it is crucial to make sure they will always be in great working condition by inspecting and changing them often.
Also, besides just changing your brake pads, it is important to know the different types and the pros and cons of each to determine the best type for your specific model.
For those that are still not sure which brake pads to use, your mechanic can advise you accordingly. Alternatively, you can also just stick with the same type that came with the vehicle when new, these factory ones are often great quality.