Does your car sound like a squealing pig every time you come to a stop? Or maybe you can feel your brake pedal grinding or pulsing when you apply pressure. These can be telltale signs of brake system problems that should be addressed right away.
Brake maintenance comes in many forms, so how do you know exactly what is needed for your vehicle and how much it will cost? We are here to help! Keep reading to learn the difference between brake pads and rotors, how long each part might last, symptoms of problems with these parts, and how much it costs for replacements. Your braking system is a critical part of your vehicle, so keeping it in proper working order is essential to staying on the road.
What Is A Brake Pad and Rotor?
Let’s start with the basics of understanding what the parts in your brake system do. The most basic parts in the system are your brake pads and rotors. Most newer vehicles come equipped with disc brakes which means that you have brake pads and rotors at each wheel. Some older vehicles use drum brakes which we will discuss later. You will find that some have front disc brakes and rear brake drums, so a combination of both types.
A brake rotor is a large metal disc that is bolted behind your wheel and attached to the wheel hub. As your car moves, this rotor turns just like your wheels and tires. When you need to stop, the rotor becomes extremely important.
Each rotor on your car has a set of brake pads attached to it with what is called a caliper. The pads always come in pairs because there is one pad on the front side of the rotor and one on the back side. The caliper and brake pads are stationary and do not spin with the rotor. The rotor actually spins in between the set of brake pads.
When it is time to stop your car, you press the brake pedal. As you press the pedal, hydraulic pressure is applied to the pads through the brake caliper. The caliper squeezes the pads onto the rotor, thus slowing it down. The harder you press the pedal, the harder the pads squeeze the rotor. So, you can see how pressing the pedal harder causes your car to stop more quickly.
As your car stops, the weight shifts toward the front of the car; therefore, your front brake pads have to do more work than your rear pads. This also causes your front rotors to wear more quickly than the rears.
In older cars, you could press the pedal so hard that it could cause the pads to squeeze the rotors hard enough that they immediately stop turning. This would cause your tires to stop turning, and your car would slide when you locked up the brakes. However, modern cars are equipped with anti-lock brakes or ABS for short. This safety feature allows you to press the pedal as hard as possible, and the computer in your vehicle applies just the right amount of pressure to stop your car as quickly as possible without locking the brakes. This helps you maintain control of the car and avoid a potential accident during extremely hard braking situations.
It takes a lot to stop a car that weighs 2,000 pounds or more, so an extreme amount of friction and heat is created when you apply the brakes in your vehicle. This friction and heat causes your rotors and pads to wear down and eventually need replacement. These parts will need replacement if you keep your car long enough, so go ahead and educate yourself now on replacement costs and difficulty.
How Much Does a Brake Job Cost?
The average cost of a brake job depends on several factors. The first factor is what kind of brakes your car has. Does it have disc brakes or drum brakes? Drum brakes are a little more complicated and require additional expertise that will cost you more in terms of labor.
Also, the type and size of your vehicle matters when it comes to replacement cost. Higher end cars like BMW, Audi, or Mercedes-Benz usually have more expensive parts and more complicated systems. This equates to higher cost in the end. Also, larger vehicles like a Dodge Ram 2500 will cost more than smaller cars like a Toyota Camry.
Finally, the cost will be affected by the number of parts that need replacing. Can you get away with simply replacing the pads and nothing else? Or do you need a rotor replacement as well? Your mechanic will be able to advise which parts need replacing and which ones still have some life left in them. They can also let you know whether you need a wheel bearing replacement at the same time.
All that said, here are some averages for the typical brake service cost. Replacement of just the brake pads ranges from $175 to $280 per axle. If you need to resurface the rotors, then you can add $50 – $100 in labor costs per rotor. At most repair shops, total replacement of the rotors will add anywhere from $75 – $250 per rotor depending on the type of car and rotor you have. All in, brake pad and rotor replacement cost ranges from $250 – $750 per axle.
Brake Pad Replacement Cost – What Kind of Brakes Do You Have?
Here are the two main types of brakes that your car may have:
- Disc Brakes
- Drum Brakes
Most modern cars come equipped with disc brakes on all four corners. Older cars and some newer cars utilize drum brakes. Drum brakes do not use brake pads. Instead, they have brake shoes which perform the same basic function as pads. With drum brakes, there is a brake drum attached to the wheel hub which houses the brake shoes and other parts. When the brakes are applied, the shoes are pressed outward against the inside of the drum thus slowing down the rotation of the drum and bringing the car to a stop.
Drum brakes are slightly more complicated, and therefore a little more difficult to work on. This often leads to higher costs for maintenance and replacement. Since this article focuses more on brake pads, then we will not go into much more detail about drum brakes.
When you start to hear that squeaking from your brakes signaling time for a service, you are probably wondering what it’s going to cost you. Thankfully, brake pad replacement is relatively cheap compared to some other car repairs on your vehicle. A simple pad replacement can cost anywhere from $100 – $300 per axle depending on your specific needs. As you might expect, some brake pads cost more than others.
There are three main types of brake pads:
- Non-Asbestos Organic
Here is a quick overview of each type along with some pros and cons.
These pads are made from organic materials such as glass, fiber, rubber, and other items that are held together with binding resins. These pads are relatively inexpensive to manufacture and work well on a variety of applications. They are great for everyday driving and produce far less dust than metallic pads. These pads are typically the cheapest on the market, so they are great for car owners on a budget.
While these pads have some great benefits, there are also some drawbacks. They compress quite a bit, so they can lead to a mushy pedal. They also do not withstand heat very well and quickly lose their friction coefficient under high heat environments. Lastly, they are not designed for any kind of high performance application.
As the name implies, these pads are made of anywhere from 30-60% metal components. This may be steel, iron, copper or other metals. These pads provide better stopping capabilities than organic pads, and they also stand up to high temperatures much better. They do not compress like organic pads; therefore, they lead to a much more firm pedal feel.
There are tradeoffs associated with metallic brake pads. They produce more brake dust than organic pads, and they are also noisier. In addition, since these pads are harder, they lead to more wear and tear on your rotors.
Ceramic pads are one of the newest additions to the automotive brake pad market. They consist of a ceramic material with copper fibers and friction material inside. They were designed to be a combination of the “best of both worlds” between organic and metallic pads. They provide great stopping capabilities while still being quiet and producing low dust. These pads also operate well under a wide range of temperatures.
While these pads perform well, they are also the most expensive pads on the market due to their higher quality. They also do not provide as much cold-bite as metallic pads, so they are not ideal in extremely low temperatures. Overall, ceramic pads are a great choice although they are not intended for extreme high-performance applications.
Pricing for a set of organic brake pads for a small car can be as little as $20 – $30 per axle. Conversely, ceramic pads for a high-end vehicle can be as much as $200 – $300 for a set. You will also need to remember to include labor in your cost estimate. On average, including labor, you can expect to pay $175 – $280 per axle for your brake repair. But, as you can see, that number can go much higher if you have a high-end, expensive car.
Many people choose to upgrade their factory brake systems to an aftermarket system. Some popular brands include Akebono, Wagner, and Brembo. Many of these systems are used by drivers who want the highest in quality and performance.
If this all seems too complicated, then maybe you should just consider selling your car for cash and using that money to get a new vehicle that needs no repairs. You can get an instant cash offer from Auto Wranglers, and we always provide free towing and pickup. We will buy your car within a day or two and put cash in your pocket so that you don’t have to worry about knowing the difference between ceramic or metallic pads!
How Often Should Brake Pads Be Replaced?
Now that you know a little more about how pads operate and how much they cost, you might be wondering, “How long do brake pads last?” Brake pads are considered a wear and tear item, so there is no set interval for when to replace brake pads nor are they covered by warranty (unless there is a defect with them). You should replace them when they are worn so much that they no longer provide solid braking ability. They usually need to be visually inspected to determine the amount of wear and decide whether they need replacing.
Thankfully, most brake pads last for quite a while. You should be able to get a minimum of 20,000 miles from a set of new brake pads. On the other end of the spectrum, some pads have a lifespan of 70,000 miles or maybe even more. It is a good idea to inspect your brake pads for wear at every oil change or tire rotation. You can also hear and feel when your pads need replacing.
If you notice squealing or squeaking from your brakes, this can let you know when to replace brake pads. If you notice your pedal traveling further than it should or pulsing as you press it, then you should have your brakes inspected. Keeping a close eye on your pad thickness will make sure that you replace your pads on time and avoid further damage to your rotors or calipers.
A brake warning light on your dash is another obvious sign of trouble. Some cars have wear indicators inside the pads that will cause a brake light to illuminate. Others have indicators that will cause a loud squealing noise when the pads are worn. Be careful because a warning light can also signal other, more serious, brake problems like a brake master cylinder or ABS sensors. Always consult your owner’s manual to determine what a specific light means, and take it to the dealership if you have any questions.
Can I Replace My Own Brake Pads?
We know that many car owners are DIY experts at auto repairs, so you probably want to know how to change the pads yourself. The answer is yes, you can absolutely replace your own brake pads. Learning how to do this can save you hundreds, or maybe even thousands, of dollars in repair costs over the life of your vehicle.
With a few basic tools, you should be able to change your car’s brake pads in about an hour or two. Make sure that you have proper jack stands, a lug wrench, a socket set, a turkey baster or suction device for removing brake fluid if necessary, and a large C-clamp to push the caliper piston back into place. You can find plenty of resources online for step by step instructions on how to change brake pads for your specific vehicle.
If done properly, you usually do not even have to worry about bleeding the brake lines as no air will enter the system during the process. Also, most of your brake parts can be purchased at your local parts store, so obtaining the parts is a pretty easy task.
If you were wondering, “How much should it cost to replace brake pads and rotors,” then you should now have a good idea of the answer. Brake pad replacement might seem like a daunting task, but it is typically not extremely difficult or expensive. You can even perform this service yourself in most cases. However, if you decide you don’t have the time or money to fool with it, then sell your car to Auto Wranglers for some quick cash. We buy cars nationwide and always provide free towing and pickup. You can use this extra money to buy yourself a car that stops on a dime!