How Long Do Car Brakes Last? Knowing When to Replace Brake Pads

December 10th, 2020 by

Brakes are one of the most important parts of your vehicle. However, like everything else, they eventually wear down and need to be replaced. So, how long do brakes last on a car? If it’s been a while since your brakes were replaced or you’re starting to hear strange noises coming from your brakes, it might be time to replace them. Discover how long brakes typically last and when you should have them serviced.

Why You Need To Replace Brake Pads

black car on road brakes

Image via Flickr by dennis

When you press the brake pedal to slow or stop your vehicle, you likely don’t think twice about what’s happening underneath. However, you’re engaging a precise system with several different parts that need to work properly to perform. Each time you step on the pedal, the brake calipers press down on the brake pads, which then squeeze the rotors.

While this friction slows and stops the wheels from turning, it also wears down the brake pads and rotors. The black dust that you sometimes see coating the wheels of your vehicle is the residue that comes off the brake pads as they’re being used.

How Many Miles Do Brakes Last?

Unlike with certain other components of your vehicle, it’s impossible to put an exact mileage number on how long brakes last. That’s because different factors influence brake wear and how long brakes last. For example, different environments and driving styles can cause brakes to wear out faster.

Drivers in mountainous states might have brakes wear faster than those who drive in flatter parts of the country. Additionally, drivers who live in cities and deal with more stop-and-go traffic will likely see their brakes wear faster than those who live in rural areas. With all that being said, you can generally expect your brakes to last between 25,000 and 65,000 miles.

Visually Inspect Your Brakes

If you’re wondering if it’s time to replace your brake pads, the first thing you can do is visually inspect them. If you look through the wheel spokes, you might be able to see the outer part of the brake pad where it rests on the rotor. It will be dark, so you’ll probably need to use a flashlight to see clearly.

If you see at least 1/4-inch of material remaining on the brake pad, it’s still in good condition. However, if you see less than 1/4-inch of material, you should schedule an appointment with the Sweeney Buick GMC service department, since your brake pads will likely need to be replaced.

Signs Your Brakes Are Worn Out

Brakes usually give clear signs when they’re worn out and need to be serviced. If you can’t visually inspect your brake pads, you can also look for any of these signs that you need to have your brakes serviced:


One of the most obvious indications that you need new brakes is a squealing noise every time you press the brake pedal. Almost all brake pads manufactured today come with built-in wear indicators, the entire purpose of which is to emit the high-pitched squeal. When the brake pads wear down to the point that the wear indicators are exposed, they’ll scrape against the rotor and make the distinctive noise that lets you know it’s time to replace your brake pads.

It’s very important to take your car to your mechanic as soon as you hear this squealing noise. If you wait too long and begin to hear a scraping or grinding sound coming from your brakes, it could be an indication that the brake pads have worn down to their metal plates, and that metal is now pressing directly against the steel rotors. Not only does this greatly reduce your stopping power, but it can also destroy your rotors and cause your brake system to completely fail.


A clicking sound is another noise you might hear that indicates you need new brakes. Some vehicles use a special holder to keep the brake pads in place, and other vehicles use pins, clips, or bolts. No matter what design your vehicle uses, the goal is to prevent the brake pads from moving as you drive. However, sometimes the pieces holding the brake pads in place can become damaged and loosen. When this happens, they’ll begin to rattle. This results in a clicking noise when you press or release the brake pedal.


If you press on your brake pedal and feel the vehicle start to shake or vibrate, it’s possible that the brake pads causing the problem. Brake pads are usually held together with a type of binding adhesive. As the pads wear down, this adhesive warms up and covers the rotor. If everything is working properly, the adhesive should form an even layer over the rotor’s surface. However, if the brake pad becomes overheated, the adhesive may clump in certain spots. Mechanics call this “glazing,” and it can cause your vehicle to vibrate when you brake.


Your vehicle’s brake pads don’t always wear down evenly. Sometimes, one side will wear down faster than the other. If this happens, your vehicle may pull slightly to one side when you hit the brakes. If you ignore this problem, it could lead to serious damage to your steering rack, wheel bearings, and more.

It’s also important to note that uneven brake pads aren’t the only issue that can cause your vehicle to pull. A malfunctioning brake caliper, a leak in one of the brake lines, uneven tire pressure, an issue with the front suspension, or a faulty wheel bearing can also be the culprit. That’s why you must take your vehicle to your mechanic as soon as you notice the problem.

Now that you know what to look and listen for, you can ensure that your brakes always work properly. When it’s time to service your brakes, the mechanics at Sweeney Buick GMC can get the job done. We also offer a variety of service specials that can help you save, so be sure to contact us the next time you need to have your brakes serviced.

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