What is a brake pad replacement?

When you step on the brake pedal, the brake pads push down on the brake rotor, and that friction slows down and stops the wheel from spinning. 
As you can imagine, all of that friction will wear down the brake pads over time, sort of like how a pencil eraser shrinks the more you use it. A brake pad replacement involves taking off those old, worn-down brake pads and replacing them with fresh new ones.
Brake pads usually cost between $30 and $150 for all four wheels. Repair shops will charge varying amounts for the labor, but will usually be in the neighborhood of $100 per axle (so $200 or so for all four wheels). You’ll want to call a few different repair places around town and get several quotes to make sure you’re getting the best price.

How to perform a brake pad replacement

Here’s what your mechanic needs to do to finish a brake pad replacement:
  • Remove the wheels on both sides of the axle. Both brake pads on the axle need to be replaced together
  • Remove the slider bolt and carefully flip up the caliper
  • Remove the old brake pads
  • Replace the retaining clips
  • Put in the new brake pads
  • Retract the pistons
  • Check the brake fluid level
  • Put the caliper back down
  • Reinstall the slider bolt
  • Repeat all of these steps on the other wheel
  • Test drive the car to make sure the brakes are working properly
Since the wheels are getting removed and the brakes are getting fiddled with, it’s a good idea to also thoroughly inspect the brake rotor contact surface and the calipers to make sure they’re working correctly and not physically damaged.

Do I need a brake pad replacement?

Here are the warning signs that a brake pad replacement might be needed:
  • An indicator light comes on. It might say “brakes” or show a circle with six dashes around it.
  • Squealing brakes. You might hear the brakes squealing or screeching when you step on the brake pedal.
  • Brake pedal vibrating or pulsating. This might indicate brake pad fading or problems with a rotor.
  • Car swerves or wobbles when you brake. This can be any number of problems, but it might be a sign you need a brake pad replacement.

How important is a brake pad replacement?

If your brake pads fade too low, your car’s braking abilities will be compromised and you’ll have a hard time slowing down or stopping. So if you suspect you may need a brake pad replacement, don’t hesitate. Take your car to a repair shop as soon as possible.

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