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Your Brake pads worn out? » Read more about common malfunctions • Repair • Replacement manual
Safety component and wear part no. 1: brake pad
Brake pads are by far the most important safety components and wear parts of a car. They ensure that a moving car can be slowed down at all times. Production and construction of brake pads meet the highest standards. Considering their widespread application they are relatively cheap. Read everything you need to know about brake pads in this article.
Concealed location, essential function
Brake pads of disc brakes are found behind the wheel rim. They are installed in the brake caliper. The brake disc rotates between the brake linings. Drum brakes are equipped with brake linings as well. These are called brake shoes for their shape. Brake pads in disc brakes are often referred to as brake pads, setting them apart from brake shoes in the drum brake. When purchasing brake pads, make certain what you need: brake shoes or brake linings. Brake pads are installed in the brake caliper. The mounting enables their movement in one direction: towards the brake disc and back. Stepping on the brake pedal causes hydraulic force to press the brake pads together assisted by the brake caliper piston, trapping the rotating brake disc in between. The resulting friction slows down the car. Every braking action grinds material from the brake pads.
Properties of drum brakes and disc brakes
Brake shoes are components of the drum brake which used to be standard. Due to the gradually increasing weight and performance of cars this braking technique was no longer sufficient. Drum brakes are very reliable, although they tend to abruptly break down in case of overheating. Disc brakes are considerably less susceptible to temperature stress. Nowadays drum brakes are therefore installed only on rear axles. In larger luxury cars they are solely used as parking brakes. Most modern cars are almost exclusively equipped with disc brakes on all axles.
Grinding noise means you're too late
A worn brake pad makes loud grinding noises. When friction material has completely worn down, the metal of the mounting plate rubs on the metal of the brake disc, causing a noise which clearly differs from the normal braking sound. Should this occur, the brakes are almost faulty. The car is no longer safe for traffic and must be brought to the nearest garage. Replacement of brake pads is cheap and easy, although it needs to be done carefully and timely.
Brakes with early warning
If the car's construction allows it, brake pads with a wear sensor can be installed. The sensor raises alarm as soon as only a few millimetres brake lining are left. If brake pads are worn down so far that the sensor touches the brake disc, the pads have reached their wear limit. The driver is alerted by a warning signal on the dashboard. Sufficient time remains to perform the necessary repairs.
When is it necessary to replace?
To pass MOT inspection, the minimum thickness of a brake pad must be at least 7 millimetres (9/32 in) including the mounting plate. Therefore the actual thickness of the pad should be at least 2 millimetres (5/64 in). If a brake lining is worn down this far it is only a matter of weeks before replacement of the brake pad is imminent. We therefore recommend at inspection of brake pads a minimum thickness of 10 mm (25/64 in) including the mounting plate.
Replace the disc as well?
The rule of thumb dictates that a brake disc should always be replaced at least at every second replacement of the brake pads. Replacement of brake pads however includes a profound inspection of the disc. If it is already considerably worn down, rippled or cracked, replacement is the only option. Additional costs and work for replacing a brake disc are negligible and economising on this point does not bring anything.
Costs for new brakes
Brake pads and brake discs, even in branded quality are so cheap, that choosing a cheap no-name manufacturer is not rewarding. A good example is the best sold car, the VW Golf: Branded manufacturers seldom ask more than 20 euro (£18) for a full brake pad set. Therefore it is really not worth your while to keep on looking for cheaper products.