Brakes — you need them and they need you. Staying on top of brake condition is an integral part of keeping your ride safe. The average life of brake pads and shoes varies greatly based on a number of factors, some of them well within your control.
Luckily, there are a few simple rules you can apply to the way you drive today that might save you big time down the road.
The less you use them, the less often you’ll have to replace them, and you’ll also reduce your risk of grinding too far down and causing mechanical nightmares.
There are a number of ways to do this without breaking the law. For one, know your roads. That stop sign is still in the same place it was yesterday. Why not stop accelerating a little earlier on the approach so you don’t have to brake as soon or as hard as you would if you’d driven all the way up to it?
Don’t Be a Zombie
Paying attention while driving should be a given, right? But if you’re in stop and go traffic you may be overusing your brakes. You can coast as much as possible instead of doing the speed-up, slow-down tango all afternoon. It’s a vicious cycle, rise above it.
Not in your vehicle, at least. The less weight you carry with you, the less effort your car expends trying to stop. Imagine standing at the end of a bowling alley trying to stop a bunch of well-hurled bowling balls. Now imagine they were ping-pongs. Better, right? Your brakes think so too. Bonus points — lighter vehicles also get better mileage. Winning all around.
Timing Is Everything
City driving calls for much more frequent braking than driving on the highway does, but you can cut back by noticing that yellow light before it turns red and laying off the accelerator, allowing your vehicle to come to a stop by itself as much as possible. When you’re in traffic, look farther ahead than the car in front of you to anticipate the slower patches and you might be able to employ a little coasting instead to mitigate the difference.
No Sudden Stops
Probably the worst thing you can do that wear out your brakes is making sudden stops from high speeds. It takes a lot of energy to stop something as big as your car, and it creates a ton of heat along the way. This can cause damage beyond normal deterioration if components wear improperly, and allows excessive heat to travel back into your brake system potentially affecting more expensive parts like hub bearings, rotors and master cylinders.
Nothing lasts forever, and your brakes will eventually need to be serviced. Inspect the condition and thickness of pads and shoes whenever your wheels are off (during a rotation, for instance), and take your vehicle in for regular service as required. If you notice strange sounds, vibrations or pedal action, enlist the help of a trusted mechanic immediately.
Check out all the brake system products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on the average life of brake pads, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photo courtesy of Blair Lampe.
Blair Lampe is a New York-based professional mechanic, blogger, theater technician, and speechwriter. In her downtime she enjoys backpacking wherever her boots will carry her, rock climbing, experimental theatre, a crisp rosé , and showering love on her 2001 Sierra truck.