Brake Pad Replacement: What and Why?

What Are Brake Pads?

Brake pads are an essential component in your car’s disc brake system. These semi-metallic or ceramic blocks are mounted on calipers behind the wheel. When you step on the brake pedal, the calipers clamp the brake pads against the rotor.

That friction then causes the car to slow down and eventually come to a stop quickly and safely. The pads release their grip on the rotors and eliminate the friction when you take your foot off the brake.

What Are The Type of Brake Pads?

There’s a great variety in brake pad shapes, sizes, and construction. They can, however, all be categorized into three main types: non-metallic organic, semi-metallic, and ceramic. Each pad type has advantages and disadvantages, depending on the vehicle and the driver’s mission.

Non-Metallic Organic

Not to be confused with the dangerously toxic asbestos brake pads, non-metallic organic brake pads use organic fibers within the friction surface of the brake pad. Though quieter than semi-metallic brake pads, non-metallic organic brake pads wear the fastest of all brake pads.


Semi-metallic brake pads are the most common brake pad used. The friction surface is made up of embedded metallic fibers to help reduce the amount of brake fade at high heat. They produce larger amounts of brake dust compared to a ceramic pad.


Ceramic brake pads are the most expensive of the lot, but that’s because they offer the most performance and longevity. These pads are made of ceramic and copper fibers embedded in the friction surface. They’re designed to wick away heat with less fade and reduce the amount of brake dust.

How to Prolong the Life of Brake Pads?

Ways to extend the life of your brake pads include:

  • Avoid unnecessary braking by driving with the flow of traffic and putting enough room between you and the vehicle in front of you
  • Keep your vehicle as light as possible by removing any unnecessary weight
  • Spray off your brakes when you wash your car

The brake pad lifespan varies significantly depending on many factors, including the quality and material composition, your driving style, and where you drive. Typical brake pads will last 25,000 miles and up to 50,000 miles or more.

Your pads will wear down faster if you’re in a densely populated area with persistent stop-and-start traffic. Brake pads will have less daily wear and tear if your commute is uninterrupted stretches of open highway.

Unlike some maintenance, such as an oil change, it’s hard to know how many miles you have until you need replacing. 

What are some signs Brake Pads need replacing?

You hear squealing noises

Most, but not all, brake pads are manufactured with built-in “wear indicators.” This creates a distinctive squealing noise that warns you that your current brake pads are in danger of eroding away altogether.

You hear a clicking noise

In some cars, the brake pads fit snugly into a special holding device. Other vehicles keep them steady with clips, bolts, or pins. If they become loose they’ll begin to rattle around. This then results in a clicking sound whenever you press or release the brake pedal.

Your car takes more time to stop than usual

When your brake pads are thin it takes longer for this fluid to travel down and press against the pads. You’ll notice a huge difference when you replace your brake pads from a worn 3-4 millimeters to new pads that are over 10 millimeters.

Your brake pedal vibrates when it’s pressed

As you know friction creates heat, and your rotors and brake pads work together to dissipate this heat.. When you drive in stop-and-go traffic or you often do sprint driving, this causes your rotors to heat up too quickly and they will begin to warp. This warping creates high spots on your rotors. When you press on your brakes and have warped rotors, instead of the brake pads clamping to smooth-surfaced rotors they are clamping to bumpy rotors. This then sends vibrations through your brake pedal and car.

Your brake light turns on

Your brake light is there for a reason, and it’s important to get your brakes checked before driving much further.

You depend on your brakes, and keeping them in good shape helps you make sure you can stop when you need to stop. At some point, your brakes will stop working and you will not be able to stop. Ignoring your brakes when they are not working well could lead to a serious accident. Also ignoring your brakes will wear out your rotors and lead to a much more expensive repair.

When you come to Hillside Auto Repair, you will know that your vehicle is in good hands as it will be serviced by a team of certified technicians that can handle any of your brake service needs. Our certified mechanics will inspect all of the major components of your vehicle's brake system, including the drums, pads, rotors, shoes, and linings and give you an evaluation of the current condition of the system. We will recommend replacements or repairs to maintain and improve the performance of your vehicle based on this inspection. After all, We’re The Professionals You Can Trust!