You can never really talk enough about brake pads. After all, they’re responsible for slowing down or stopping your car entirely. So, needless to say, we have to understand not just the importance of brake pads, but when it’s time to replace them as well. That’s why, in this blog post, we'll go down to the basics. We’ll cover everything you need to know about brake pads, the different types of compounds, and when you should replace them.
Defining brake pads and how they work
Brake pads are usually made from different materials ranging from ceramic, or metal, to even organic compounds. In terms of location and function, they’re attached to brake calipers, another component of a car’s disc brake system. When you press the brake pedal, hydraulic pressure is applied to the calipers which then move the brake pads toward the rotor.
This pressure creates friction between the pads and the brake rotors, causing the car to slow down or stop. Depending on the amount of pressure you apply to the pads in turn also determines how much stopping force will be applied to stop your car.
Brake pad types and how to choose them
There are different types of brake pads, each one has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. When choosing a brake pad compound, it's important to consider your driving style, and the type of vehicle you drive. The most common brake pads include:
Ceramic brake pads – made from a combination of ceramic and metals that don’t contain iron. Ceramic brake pads are durable, have low dust production, and they operate quietly. Due to their high-quality and excellent stopping power, they’re a great choice for most day-to-day driving. This also makes them more expensive than other types of brake pads.
Metallic brake pads – made from a combination of metal fibers, brass, and other materials. They’re known for their high heat resistance and excellent performance in high-speed driving conditions. However, they can be noisy and produce more brake dust than other types of brake pads.
Semi-metallic brake pads – made from a combination of metal fibers and organic materials. These hybrid pads have a well-balanced performance, durability, and low cost. However, they can be noisy and produce more brake dust than ceramic or organic brake pads.
Organic brake pads – made from a combination of rubber, resin, and other materials. Compared to other types of brake pads, organic ones are the quietest. They also have low dust production and smooth braking performance. On the other hand, these pads wear down faster than other types and aren’t suited for high-performance driving.
When should you replace brake pads?
Over time, the friction between the brake pads and the rotor wears down the pads. And if they become too thin, they must be replaced periodically to ensure proper braking performance and, of course, safety. But how to know when to change them? Here are some tell-tale signs:
Squeaking or grinding noise – if you hear a high-pitched squeaking or grinding noise when you press the brake pedal, it's not just another expensive sound, it’s a sign that your brake pads are worn down and need to be replaced.
Visible wear on the brake pads – you can visually inspect your brake pads to see if they are worn down. Some brake pads have a wear indicator, which is a small piece of metal that contacts the brake rotor when the pads are worn down. If you see this indicator, it's time to replace your brake pads.
Reduced braking performance – if you notice that your car takes longer to stop than it used to, or if the brake pedal feels spongy or unresponsive, it's a sign that your brake pads are not functioning properly.
Mileage – the lifespan of brake pads can vary depending on driving conditions and habits, but generally, they should be replaced every 50,000 to 100,000 kilometres approximately. For more specific details, you can always refer to your vehicle's owner's manual.
Warning light – some brake pads come with electronic wear sensors. These sensors are designed to alert you when it's time to replace your brake pads by illuminating a warning light on your dashboard.
Brake pads replacement
It’s always better to let professionals handle car maintenance, particularly replacing your car’s brake pads as it’s a crucial safety issue. However, if you’re someone who has advanced knowledge, experience, and is comfortable with certain maintenance tasks – you can replace your own pads.
One thing of note, if you have an electronic parking brake (EPB), the brake replacement process is a bit different. On cars with EPB, to change the rear brake pads, you have to release the electronic mechanism (put it in the service position). But for this, you’ll need an EPB release tool and coding knowledge.
If you’re looking for an Audi or Volkswagen EPB release tool, you can try out OBDeleven. This smart assistant can act as a parking brake release tool as it helps to speed up the process with One-Click Apps, pre-made coding applications, to do some of the replacement process for you.
Brake pads are an essential component of your car's braking system. Whether you’re a professional or a daily driver, it’s important to understand how they work, what different types there are, and especially – keep an eye on your brake pads condition. Safety is an essential factor you must consider every time you get in your car, so make sure you always consult with professionals before you attempt any kind of changes that could have an impact on your well-being.