You’re in the car dealership shopping for a new car and all you can see are the numbers. You’re doing the math on what size of payment you can afford, how each car’s price measures up, and whether you’re getting a good deal. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the purchase price is just the beginning.
As you shop for a car, you also need to consider whether you can afford the maintenance costs. If you’re considering a Prius, good news! The Toyota Prius has the lowest ten-year maintenance cost of any car.
Part of that maintenance cost is brake pad replacement. How long do brake pads last? Will you be replacing your Prius’ brake pads every two years or every ten years? Here’s what you need to know.
How Long Do Brake Pads Last?
When you look at a brake pad’s lifespan, you’ll consider it in terms of mileage, not years. Even still, there is a lot of variation in how long a brake pad lasts.
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On average, Toyota’s brake pads last between 30,000 and 60,000 miles. For a Prius, you can expect the higher end of that range. However, it’s also common for a Prius’ brake pads to last between 70,000 and 100,000 miles.
The key reason a Prius’ brake pads last longer is that a Prius has regenerative braking. When you hit the brakes, the Prius puts that energy into recharging your battery first. It only wears on the brake pads at the tail end of the braking process or if you apply the brakes rapidly.
What Affects a Brake Pad’s Lifespan?
It’s clear from the ranges above that there is a wide variation in how long brake pads can last. There are many factors that affect your brake pads’ lifespan, and some of them are in your control. Here’s a look at the top factors:
It should come as no surprise that the more you use your brakes, the shorter your pads’ lifespans will be. That’s why city driving will wear down brake pads in fewer miles than highway driving will.
However, this depends on the highway. The fastest way to wear down brake pads is to drive on congested highways in which you’re braking often from fast speeds.
The way you drive has a strong impact on your brake pads in many ways. A few of them include:
If you’re braking from 70 miles per hour, it will take more force to stop your car than if you’re braking from 20 miles per hour. Of course, you can drive slowly and still wear down your brake pads if you need to brake in a short distance.
As you press on your brake slowly, your Prius can use regenerative braking more efficiently. However, if you are braking quickly, the car will use any means possible to stop your car in time. That means putting more pressure on your brake pads.
If you want your brakes to last longer, easy off the gas and let your car cruise to a slower speed. Gauge your speed and start braking when it’s necessary, not the instant you see a stoplight half a mile ahead.
Of course, you need to use your judgment. If you want until the very last second and you need to engage your brakes hard to stop in time, you’ll do more harm than good.
If you follow other drivers at a close distance, you’ll brake more often and with more pressure. On the other hand, if you leave more space to slow down, it’s safe to ease into a stop more gently.
In the case of highway driving, you’ll be surprised how often you can slow down enough by easing off the gas without hitting your brakes at all.
Two-Footed vs. One-Footed Driving
Most drivers today learn to drive by using one foot for both the gas and the brake pedal. Some drivers, though, drive with one foot on each pedal.
If your foot is on the brake for the entire drive, you’ll hit the brake more often than necessary. One-footed driving will help you avoid hitting your brake by accident, putting less wear on your brake pads.
Brake Pad Placement
When you check your brake pads, don’t assume they’ll all wear at the same rate. Your front brake pads usually wear faster than your rear pads. As you slow, your car’s weight transfers to the front of your car, putting more pressure on your front brakes.
Whether you fix your Prius yourself or hire a professional, it’s important to tighten the wheel lugs correctly. If they’re too tight, they could damage your brake pads, warp your rotors, and more. This can cause your pads to wear in an uneven and rapid way.
The more weight you have in your car, the more force it will take for it to stop. Compare how easy it is to stop an empty shopping cart compared to one that’s filled with dumbbells. To help your brake pads last longer, avoid driving around with heavy cargo more than necessary.
How to Know if it’s Time to Replace Your Brake Pads
There are plenty of signs your car needs a tune-up, but when do you know when your brake pads are wearing down?
The key sign to look for is squeaking when you hit your brakes. If it only happens the first few times you break each day, the squeaks could just be rust wearing away. This isn’t a cause for concern.
However, if your brakes continue to squeak after the first few times you brake, it’s a warning. Schedule an appointment with a mechanic or make prompt plans to check your brake pads if you do your own repairs.
If you don’t replace your brake pads when you hear squeaking or if you don’t notice the squeaking in time, you’ll start to hear grinding when you break. This may be a sign that your rotors need to be replaced along with your brake pads.
When your mechanic checks your brake pads, they’ll give you a wear percentage. It’s best to replace your brake pads when 25% of the pad material is remaining.
Keeping Your Prius in Tip-Top Shape
Brake pads are one of the least expensive car repairs you can make. However, replacing them as needed can prevent repairs that cost hundreds more. The tips above and answering the question, “How long do brake pads last?” can help you know what to expect from your Prius brake pads.
For more tips about maintaining and repairing your car, check out our DIY car repair blog.