Your car's brake pads are a regular maintenance item, but they're long-lasting. Depending on your driving habits and pad material, your brakes can easily last for 50,000 miles or more. Unfortunately, this long life may also lead some drivers to keep brake pads on their vehicles for far too long. While old won't necessarily prevent your car from stopping, deferred maintenance can have costly consequences.
If you're in the habit of allowing your brake pads to wear down well beyond their useful lifespan, you may want to reconsider your maintenance strategy. Here are three costly and potentially dangerous outcomes of leaving old brake pads on your vehicle.
1. You'll Wreck Your Rotors
Disc brakes rely on three critical components: brake pads, brake rotors, and brake callipers. Each wheel has a pair of two brake pads, one rotor and a single calliper. The calliper uses hydraulic pressure to push the brake pads against the rotors, creating friction that converts your car's motion into waste heat. The relatively soft material on the brake pads wears away over time, but the rotors are more durable.
Your brake rotors can typically last through multiple brake pad replacements, but allowing your pads to wear down too much will expose the rotors to the metal backing plates. This metal contact will quickly ruin the rotors, creating unpleasant noise and vibration. Repairing the issue will usually require replacing the rotors, adding significant costs to your brake service.
2. You Might Damage Your Calipers
While rotors are reasonably durable, they're still consumable items that will eventually require replacement even with careful driving and regular maintenance. On the other hand, brake callipers can often last for the vehicle's useful life. Callipers also tend to be more expensive than brake rotors or pads, and replacing these items requires additional labour.
Driving on worn brake pads can have several potential consequences for your callipers. The excessive heat generated by metal-on-metal contact can damage the seals on the pistons, allowing dirt and debris to cause internal damage. Overextended callipers — a consequence of driving with pads that have no friction material remaining — can also pull these seals away with similar consequences.
3. You'll Lose Braking Performance
Even if your brake pads are worn down to the backing plates, your car will still stop. However, metal-on-metal contact between the pad backing plates and your rotors will produce poor and potentially unpredictable braking performance. You also risk overheating your brake fluid, resulting in degraded performance on wheels that still have usable brake pad friction material.
Ultimately, maintaining your brakes is a relatively cheap and quick process that will help keep you safe on the road while avoiding far costlier damage to your braking system. When you hear the telltale squeak of a worn brake pad, the best option is to schedule service as soon as possible.
For more information or for further assitance, turn to a company such as Heritage Auto Pro.