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Changing Brake Pads: Should You Do It All At Once?

A brake pad on a rotor. Do you need to change all of your car's brake pads at the same time? While the answer is, "it depends," here's why you should get into a habit of changing your front brake pads at the same time.

What you’re looking at is a brake pad that’s reached the end. But, when changing brake pads, should you do all four at once?
Worn brake pad

Well, first, you absolutely should replace both front or both rear brake pads at the same time. Unless something’s really wrong, one should be wearing out at about the same rate as the other. But that’s not necessarily true about all four brake pads.

Front Pads Wear Faster

In most cars, 70 percent of the braking comes from the front brakes. Some of that is intentional and is attributed to the way the vehicle manufacturer designs the braking system — and some of it is just physics. Manufacturers bias the braking system toward the front to keep the rears from locking up. That puts more of the job of stopping the car on the front brakes.

The physics part? Ever notice what happens when you step on the brakes in most cars? The nose goes down to some degree. That’s weight transfer. And that weight is transferring onto the front of the car, pushing down with greater force on the front wheels, and thus, the front brakes. That means more wear. So it’s much more likely that you’ll need to be changing brake pads in the front before you need to change them in the rear.

Your Mileage May Vary

Yes, I know we’re talking brakes, not fuel. But different cars with different braking aids can see more wear on the rear brake pads than other cars. Some newer cars have a feature called electronic brake force distribution (EBD). It’s great in terms of vehicle stability, but it uses a processor to safely apply more braking power to the rear wheels, meaning more rear brake pad wear than in cars that don’t have it.

An older and more common feature is anti-lock braking (ABS). It cycles braking pressure on and off at the rear as well as the front. And that increases rear brake pad wear, as well.

And some cars have both EBD and ABS.

Style Matters

Your driving style, that is. Aggressive driving usually means aggressive braking, and that means faster wear for your brake pads. Brake pads wear a little every time you step on the brake — even gently. It’s how you drive — and how you stop — that determines the difference between a little and a lot of wear and how often you’ll need to be changing brake pads. If you do a lot of mountain driving or stop-and-go city driving, your brake pads will wear faster, too.

Time for a Check-Up

The best advice is to have your brakes inspected. If all four wheels need new brake pads, by all means, do it. But most drivers find they’ll change the fronts two or more times before they have to change the rears.

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 how often you should replace your brakes, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.


Mike Hagerty View All

Mike Hagerty is an automotive journalist whose work has been featured on radio, TV, in print and online since 1997. He's the Publisher and Editor of, and contributes car reviews to the Los Altos Town Crier and Previous outlets have included KFBK and in Sacramento, California, the ABC television affiliates and Hearst-Argyle and Emmis radio stations in Phoenix, Arizona; AAA magazines for Arizona, Oklahoma, Northwest Ohio, South Dakota and the Mountain West and

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