What Causes Brake Pads To Wear Quickly?
Modern disc brakes are far superior and better than the older drum brakes in many ways. They offer better stopping power, and can be equipped with antilock technology to increase your safety. However, they do have a few drawbacks. One of those is the draw backs is that pads wear out more quickly than shoes (pads are used on disc brakes, while shoes are used with drum brakes). Thus having said that, if you’re experiencing unusually fast brake-pad wear, there could be an issue.
How the brake pad system works:
Your brake pads are the point where all the activities happen with your system. They’re prone to wear and tear through from operation. Understanding how disc brakes work isn’t all that hard, and the basics of the system are pretty simple.
A standard disc brake is composed of a calliper, two brake pads and a rotor (per wheel). Fluid is transferred to the calliper from the master cylinder when you depress the brake pedal. A piston inside the calliper is activated, and the calliper then squeezes the rotor between the inner and outer brake pad. This action slows down your vehicle. It also generates friction, heat and lots of wear on the material of the brake pad.
Over time, the brake pads wear out. That’s only natural. You have to change them periodically. The exact frequency will depend on your driving style and habits. For example, if you do a lot of stop-and-go driving, you can expect your pads to wear out much faster than a driver who does mostly highway or goes on an interstate driving.
Driver Error: The single most common reason for abnormally fast brake wear is driver error. This is most usually visible with “two-footed” drivers who use their right foot to work the gas and their left to work the brake. These class of drivers tend to leave their left foot resting ever so slightly on the brake pedal. Understand that ANY pressure on the pedal engages the brakes even so slightly. So, even a small amount of pressure on the corner of the pedal is enough to put the pads in contact with the rotor while the vehicle is moving. This eats through pads very quickly. It’s also generally followed by “bluing” of the rotors, which is a symptom of overheating.
Corroded Slide Pins: The calliper must be able to slide smoothly and evenly at all times. If the slide pins are corroded (most common on old vehicles, or flood-damaged cars), the calliper may not slide out evenly, leaving it placed slightly off centre. This places part of the pad in contact with the rotor at all times and will lead to premature pad change.
Abnormal Rotor Wear: In a correct brake system, the surface of the rotor should be smooth, and both sides should be an equal thickness. However, if the rotors are bad, worn, grooved, pitted, burnt or have seen significant wear (and are now in need of change), they can cause rapid pad wear. It can also cause brake pads to crack, wear strangely (grooving) and other issues.
Guidelines on Expanding the Life of Your Brakes
- Rotors should wear evenly. The plates of the rotor should wear at the same rate. If one plate is thinner, it will affect the thermal and structural properties of the rotor.
- Always replace callipers in pairs. Failing to do so can result in a braking imbalance or pull.
- If the pads and rotor have been worn past recommend levels, inspect the calliper’s piston boot and the piston. Once the piston has been out so far, it may not retract properly.
- Corrosion on the outside of a calliper can extend inwards to the bore of the guide pins and squeeze the bushings. Replacement of the calliper is recommended.
- Brake wear should be the same on both sides of the axle.
- The piston seal loses its flexibility as it ages. This will not allow the piston to return to its rest position. This can cause the brakes to drag and increase pad wear.
- Follow the recommended OE procedure to adjust the parking brake. Not doing so may result in overheated brake pads.
- Once a brake pad has been heat tortured, it is done.
- All callipers should be inspected for wear and damage to the piston boots and seals. Piston boots can be punctured by road debris or improper installation. A puncture will allow moisture and other corrosive material into the piston seal area causing damage to the seal.
- Tapered pad wear is normal for some vehicles, especially for small rear floating calliper designs used on rear brakes. Check for a wear specification in the service information.
- Some electronic brake distribution may have faster than normal rear brake pad wear rates. This is normal in some cases. The reason for this wear is because the rear brakes are used to control nose dive. If the wear is greater than expected, check for TSBs. Often, the OEM will issue new software for the hydraulic control module that solves the problem.
Any errors or omissions are not the onus of the publisher or supplier.