Complete Guide to Brake Pads: Lifespan and Replacement | Les Schwab (2024)

Doing the job right the first time is at the heart of what we do at Les Schwab. From tires and wheels, to alignment, batteries, suspension, and brakes, we’re here when you need expert advice and services. That includes answering questions about how long do brake pads last, how to check brake pads, and how much brake pads cost.

What Are Brake Pads?

Depending on what you drive, you typically have one of two types of braking systems. These include disc and drum brakes. Disc brakes are the most common and are mounted on the front and/or rear axle. To stop a wheel (and your car), a disc brake uses a caliper fitted with brake pads. These pads press against a disc or rotor when you apply pressure to the brake pedal.

Complete Guide to Brake Pads: Lifespan and Replacement | Les Schwab (1)

What Are The Differences Between Types Of Brake Pads?

Complete Guide to Brake Pads: Lifespan and Replacement | Les Schwab (2)

Organic Brake Pads: Most of today’s passenger cars and trucks use organic brake pads. These pads are less expensive than other options and do not create a lot of heat, which makes them perfect for daily commutes. Plus, organic brake pads minimize rotor wear, saving you money.

Semi-metallic Brake Pads: Another option is semi-metallic brake pads. These are made from steel wool, wire, copper, and several other metals, along with a special resin that is pressed and shaped into a durable pad.

Ceramic Brake Pads: Do you drive a high-performance or specialized electric vehicle (EV)? Your car might require ceramic brake pads. These pads offer exceptional braking, absorb a lot of heat, are better for the environment, and can last longer than other options. However, they are more expensive.

The professionals at Les Schwab know what kind of brake pads you need for your car or truck.

How Long Do Brake Pads Last?

Your brakes include a lot of moving and hard-working parts. The brake pads are part of that system. Overall, a good set of brake pads on a standard passenger car could last from 30,000 to 70,000 miles, depending on how you drive, where you drive, and how often you use the brakes. For example, stop-and-go city driving can wear down brake pads faster than highway use.

How Often Should I Replace My Brake Pads?

There is no set rule for how often you need to replace your brake pads. Brakes wear out as you use them. Les Schwab recommends you get yours checked every 5,000 miles or six months to play it safe. Our Free Pre-Trip Safety Check comes with a free visual inspection of your brakes. It’s a nice freebie that can save you more than money.

If your brakes are squealing, scraping, emitting burning smells, or you’re not stopping as well as you’d like, get to your local Les Schwab. We’ll check your brakes and make professional recommendations.

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How Can I Tell If My Brake Pads Need to be Replaced?

When you press on the brake pedal, you want your vehicle to come to an immediate stop. If they feel sluggish or they are not working as well as you’d like, you could need new brakes. Other signs that you need new brakes or a quick inspection include:

Squealing Noises

Most brake pads come with a wear indicator. When the pad wears down enough, a small bit of metal will become visible and make contact with your rotor every time you press on the brakes. However, sand or small rocks can get lodged between the pad and rotor, creating the same noise. If the sound persists over a few days, book an appointment at Les Schwab for a free visual inspection.

Grinding Noises

When the brake pad material is dangerously thin or missing entirely, the backing plates can make contact with the rotor causing a grinding metal-on-metal sound. If you hear this noise, get to Les Schwab as soon as possible.

Burning Smells

This could mean your brake pad or caliper are stuck, or you’ve been riding your brakes too much, causing them to overheat. Our advice? Pull over and allow your brakes to cool. If the smell continues, call Les Schwab.

Dashboard Indicator

Some vehicle makes and models include a brake-pad replacement reminder dashboard light. If yours illuminates, get to Les Schwab for a free visual inspection.


If you feel shaking or vibrating in your steering wheel or brake pedal when you apply the brakes, it’s likely time to get your brakes checked. Ignoring the issue could result in damage to your rotors and other parts of your braking system.

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When Is The Best Time To Get My Brake Pads Checked?

Every time you come in to have your tires rotated at Les Schwab (about every 5,000 miles), we’ll give your brakes a look. After all, the tire and wheel assembly will have already been removed for a full rotation, which makes it the perfect time for a free visual inspection.

How Do I Choose The Right Brake Pads For My Vehicle?

When choosing between semi-metallic, ceramic, or other types of brake pads, always look for parts that meet the specifications for the make and model of your vehicle. The professionals at Les Schwab can help you decide based on your driving wants and needs.

What Is The Cost Of Replacing Brake Pads?

At Les Schwab, we replace more than just brake pads. Our pros do the whole job, including cleaning and inspecting all of the wearable components, replacing the calipers when available, and highlighting all of the work that needs to be done to get you safely back on the road. Overall, repairing and replacing brake parts can range from $200 to $500 per axle.

Visit Your Local Les Schwab for Brake Services

At Les Schwab, If we can’t guarantee it, we won’t sell or service it. That includes your brakes. If yours are starting to make noises, grab, pulse, or feel soft when you hit the pedal, it might be time to head into Les Schwab for a free visual inspection and professional recommendation.

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Complete Guide to Brake Pads: Lifespan and Replacement | Les Schwab (2024)
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