There’s many factors that determine how long brake pads last after the warning light comes on, but there’s a rough estimate of around 1000 miles (1600 km) of driving where efficient braking will be maintained.
What Determines How Long I can Drive?
There’s no single answer but there are several factors that determine how long you can drive once the worn brake pad warning light comes on.
Brake Pad Composition
The type of brake pads you have fitted and what they’re made of is factor for their lifespan.
- Organic – These are usually the cheapest brake pads on the market and tend to wear the quickest. If your brakes are quiet and don’t produce a lot of dust, then you probably have organic pads fitted. Organic pads are frequently fitted to non-performance road cars.
- Metallic – Metallic brake pads offers a range of composition from between 10 to 30% metal (low metallic) and from 30% to 65% metal (semi-metallic). Due to the metallic element, these pads tend to be noisier than organics and produce quite a lot of dust. Low metallic pads last longer than organic pads and are often fitted to non-performance cars, whilst semi-metallic pads last longer than both organic and low metallic pads and tend to be fitted to high performance cars.
- Ceramic – Ceramic brake pads last longer than all the other types and are the most expensive. They’re not as versatile as other brake pads due to braking efficiency being reduced in colder climates. Ceramic brakes produce very little dust which unlike metallic pads, does not stick to the wheels.
Your driving style will influence how long your pads will last once the warning light comes on. If you’re the type of driver that goes storming up to a red light then hits the brakes hard, then you shouldn’t expect too much remaining life from your pads. Less use of brakes equates to less vehicle wear-and tear and less use of fuel. Think:
- Anticipation – Anticipate traffic conditions that will result in you needing to slow down or stop and use engine braking to slow down sooner rather than just the brakes when you get there.
- Driving downhill – Select a lower gear and use slightly firmer use of the pedal at intervals rather than continuously applying pressure as you descent the hill.
- Riding the brakes – This is the habit of unnecessarily keeping your foot on the brake pedal. Riding, or brake ‘drag’ increases wear so it’s best to keep your foot away from the brake pedal until you need it.
- Following distances – We’ve all seen it, the car in front almost touching the bumper of the vehicle in front of them. As a result, there’s the constant need for them to apply the brakes. Maintaining a safe following distance reduces brake wear, increases fuel economy, plus it’s considerably safer (and you’ll get fewer stone chips).
Lose any unnecessary weight from your car. The lighter your car is, the easier it is to stop and the less work your brake pads need to do.
Type of roads
The type of roads that you use has a huge impact on brake pad lifespan. Town and city roads require constant stopping and starting, whereas motorways and dual carriageways require far less use of the brakes.
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