There are two types of braking systems. The older braking systems used brake shoes with brake drums. Now you have disc braking systems with brake rotors and brake pads. Both types of systems serve the same purpose in slowing down the vehicle when the driver steps on the brake pedal.
When you have a spinning brake rotor, the brake pad presses against it to slow down the rotation. As the rotation slows down, the wheels and the vehicle slow down too. Pressure from the brake caliper is what enables the brake pad to push against the rotating disc like this. This friction is created each time the brake pedal is pressed.
If you own a car with a disc braking system, then you should be aware of the minimum and recommended thickness for your brake pads. Remember that not all brake pads are made the same. Brake pads are constructed with different materials, such as steel backing plates, friction materials, shims, thermal insulation coatings, and rubber coatings. Some of these materials are stronger than others, but they all will eventually wear out and diminish. Once that happens, you need to replace these brake pads with new ones.
After you’ve driven your vehicle about 50,000 miles, you can expect your brake pads to go bad and wear out. Sometimes the pads may last longer if they have the proper amount of thickness to them.
Let’s go over the minimum and recommended thickness levels you should have for your brake pads.
The friction material of your brake pads gets worn down just a little bit each time you press the brake pedal. The thickness of your brake pads’ material will determine how long it will take for it to be completely worn down. Thin friction material means your brakes won’t slow down the vehicle fast enough. This increases your chances of getting into an accident.
To prevent this from happening, the thickness of the material must be a minimum of 6.4mm. Depending on how aggressively you brake, you may be able to have between 3.2 and 6.4mm of thickness and still be okay. But if it drops below 3.2mm, then you’re in the danger zone. Replace your brake pads at this point or else you’re putting lives in danger.
When you are looking to buy new brake pads, you shouldn’t just look to satisfy the minimum thickness requirements of the friction material. If you do this, then it won’t take long before the thickness decreases and falls below the minimum required thickness level. That is why it is better to purchase brake pads which satisfy the recommended thickness level set forth by the manufacturer. This is a level which is higher than the minimum level because it ensures the brake pads will last a long time before they need to be replaced.
The recommended thickness level for the frictional material is 12mm. You should see this thickness size marked on the labels of most brake pads. With 12mm of thickness, you should be able to drive for about 50,000 miles before you get to the 6.4mm range. Even then, you may be able to last a little bit longer if you don’t brake too aggressively.
The friction material of brake pads wears down each time you brake. If you’re someone who normally drives on the interstate or some other road with speed consistency, then you won’t be using your brakes all that much. In this case, the brake pads may last you for longer than 50,000 miles. On the other hand, if you normally drive in stop and go traffic, then your brake pads may wear out a lot faster because of all the braking that you do. So, consider your driving habits carefully when it comes to purchasing new brake pads with a particular amount of thickness.