Elite Garages Guide to Brake Pads

Brakes are one of the most important safety features on your vehicle and strange noises could concern many drivers. Just think about it for a second; how often do you apply the brakes in any given situation? Travelling at any speed generates high levels of friction but the faster you go, the harder (and longer) it takes to come to a complete halt. For that reason, brake pads and brake discs should be part of any preventative car maintenance plan.

Understanding how brakes work and what to look out for is essential to keep you and your family safe. Many people won’t just trust any old garage, and for good reason. Take pride in your vehicle and get it checked at a reputable service centre for complete peace of mind. At Elite, we pride ourselves in giving our customers the highest level of service you would expect from a family run business. For added value, we’ve compiled this guide on brake pads and brake discs to help you identify any potential issues before they become a major problem.

Why do my brakes squeak?

Many of us have experienced that annoying squeaking sound when applying the brake but what does it mean? While it often may indicate that your brakes need attention, some noise is normal. In simple terms, brake squeal is vibration coming from the interplay between brake discs, brake pads and callipers.

Different driving conditions can affect the type of noise you experience as well as the sound level. Factors influencing brake noise can include dusty conditions, humidity and the temperature of the brakes or how hard you use them.

Your brakes can also squeak when they are not applied which usually means that the brake pad wear indicator is touching the disc. The noise generally disappears when you apply the brakes and then returns when you take your foot off the pedal. The brakes on new cars could make squeaky noises because the brake pads are still hard due to minimal mileage. If the squeaking noise is brief and only happens now and then, there is no need for concern.

Frequent and very loud squeaking could indicate a real problem. If you hear a shrill, metallic noise rather than a consistent, high-pitched squeal, you need to check your brakes immediately. When this happens, your brake pads are more than likely worn down to the discs. It’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to brakes so ask the professionals to have a look if you have any concerns whatsoever.

When do I have to replace my brake pads?

In addition to the type of brake pads fitted to your car, your driving style, where you drive and the type of vehicle can all affect how long they will last. Typically, front brake pads will wear out faster than the rear as they handle more of the braking load. Fortunately, brake pads show clear signs when they need to be replaced and these are our top FIVE:

Grinding

Grinding is a common sound for worn brake pads. More often than not, the noise comes from the brake pad being worn down to the metal calliper.

Pulling to the side

If your car pulls to either side when applying the brakes, they are no longer evenly balanced. This is usually a sign of sticky hydraulics or a mechanical component that prevents your car from slowing down in a straight line.

Pulsating or Juddering
A pulsating brake pedal while applying brakes could indicate that the brake discs have become warped. This is usually as a result of excessive heat.

Vibrating Steering Wheel
While a vibrating steering wheel can happen for a number of reasons including bent rims, worn tyres and a problem with your braking system. If the steering wheel vibrates only when you apply the brakes, it’s more than likely time to call the experts.

Thin Brake Pads
You can look at your brake pads through the spaces between your wheel spokes to check their thickness. Brake pads should generally not be thinner than 6.4mm (¼ inch). Some brake pads have a slot in the middle that functions as a wear indicator that will notify you with a squealing noise when it grinds against the disc.

Tips to making your brake pads last longer

Did you know that braking at low speed doesn’t affect your brake pads as much as heavy braking at high speed? If you’re a city driver, you’ll use your brakes more than those using the highway with little traffic. While congested highways are the main culprits for brake pad wear, it’s not an exact science. Some brake pads will last up to 70,000 miles, while others need replacing after just 25,000 miles.

Follow these simple tips to avoid premature brake servicing:

Be aware of traffic ahead and try to anticipate when you might have to brake. Apply brakes steadily and gradually instead of a sudden, forceful push.
Try to avoid high speeds and braking heavily and quickly as it puts brake pads under severe pressure.
If you can see a junction or roundabout in the distance, take your foot off the accelerator and reduce your speed from 60 mph to 40 mph. While it may be a form of coasting, you are still in gear and maximising fuel and braking efficiency.

Rapid acceleration and heavy braking can add more wear and tear to brake pads so driving responsibly can help contribute to a longer lifespan.
Driving with a light load is also recommended as driving with excess weight certainly won’t make brake pads last longer. Simply remove anything from the vehicle that isn’t required for a particular journey. If there are heavy items in the boot that you don’t need, take them out.

Do I need brake discs and pads done together?

This is a question we hear often, and for good reason. While it is possible to replace brake pads on their own, the discs would have to be in good condition. If they are not, your new brake pads will wear unevenly and additional damage may occur.

Because brake pads and discs wear out together, they develop a wear pattern by ‘hitting’ all the same places hundreds of times a day. When you only replace the discs, for example, the surface is flat while your brake pads are grooved so they will only make contact with the discs in certain places. As a result, you will not benefit from the car’s full stopping power which also affects your ability to perform an emergency stop.

As part of your car maintenance plan, we recommend doing pads and discs simultaneously as it saves you time and effort in the long-term. As a driver, you simply can’t afford any unnecessary downtime or run the risk of causing more damage, not to mention risk the safety of your family.

At Elite Garages, we know first-hand how important regular brake checks are and for that reason, all of our branches offer a FREE brake inspection. Our staff are trustworthy, reliable and remain in constant contact to provide you with the exceptional customer service we are known for. Take a look at what others had to say [linkto: testimonial page] about our expert servicing.

If you require repairs or a replacement, we provide you with a no-obligation quote and will never do any work without your consent. Book your FREE brake inspection at Elite Garages today!

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