How often do I need to inspect my brakes?

Brake maintenance is a critical part of keeping your car functioning. After all, no brakes = bad. In general, you should inspect the brake pads on a routine schedule (or have your car guy do it). the maintenance schedule for every vehicle is listed in the owner’s manual of your car—you can often find the charts posted online. Usually this depends on how hard you abuse your brakes—they may last up to 35k miles or as little as 10k miles. As a rule of thumb, brake pads on a manual transmission car tend to last slightly longer than those on an automatic transmission.

How brakes work is no mystery; most brakes consist of a rotor that spins along with your wheels:

Brake rotor

There are also brake pads contained within a housing that makes contact with the rotor when you depress the brakes:

brake pad with rotor - Flickr

After many years of use, the brake pads eventually become worn out and will start to scrape on the rotor. This is bad. It is recommended that you replace your brake pads before your rotors become destroyed.

Since brake changes are relatively time consuming, I have been putting off brake maintenance. I only have less than 70,000 miles on my 9 year old vehicle, but it looks like my brakes are worn:

Subaru Impreza 2006 worn rotor

Scratched Subaru Impreza 2006 rotors

Obviously I had been so negligent that my brake rotors have pretty bad scratches. In general, brake pads can cost less than $50 for a pair of generic ceramics while rotors cost around $100. If there is still enough tread on the rotors, then they can be polished for $10-$15 apiece. Your neighborhood dealer will charge upwards of $600 for replacement of four brakes depending on how fancy your car is. In my experience, it’s about a 2 hour job if you know what you’re doing. How about that for an hourly rate?

Be smart about where you put your money!


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