How Long Should Brake Pads Last?

Reader Question

Thank you for your website, it is very helpful. I always feel that I am vulnerable when I have my vehicles worked on because i do not know as much about auto maintenance as I need to and I am tired of feeling that way.

I have a Pontiac Grand Am that shows all the symptoms of worn out brakes according to your website.

I took it to a mechanic and they said that not only do the brake pads need to be replaced but also the rotors. I have trouble believing that my car (at 37,000 miles) already needs to have the rotors replaced.

Basically all that it does now is the squealing noise except when i apply the brakes and then there is no noise. How would i know if my rotors needed to be replaced as apposed to just “trued”?

Also, assuming that my rotors do need to be replaced or worked on why am i having to do that already? I have only had to do brake work on only one other vehicle that i owned and that was at the recommended 60,000 miles not 37. Is there something else that may be causing me to have to do this kind of repair prematurely?

I would really appreciate your help!

Thank you ,


Hi There Amanda,

Thanks for your email. You might want to get a second opinion on your rotors, you are correct the mileage is low to warrant replacement, but a set of brake pads that are worn out and have metal showing only takes a few seconds of metal to metal contact with the rotor to damage them beyond the point of truing.

If you hear the brake noise with your foot OFF the brake pedal, you are probably hearing the “brake wear indicators”. This wear indicator is a thin piece of metal attached to the brake pad.Many GM cars have this, most Ford and other vehicles do not…and when you hear the noise it is too late. 🙁

When the pads wear down , the indicator comes in slight contact with the rotor, causing a vibration and a high pitched squeal. When you step on the brake pedal you force the wear indicator against the rotor and no vibration occurs or squeal noise.

If you hear a brake noise when you step on the brake, it is probably due to the metal rivets in the worn out brake pad coming in contact with the rotor….and this only takes a few seconds before sever rotor damage occurs.

If you feel comfortable with this shop, I would ask them if they “checked the rotor thickness” to see if it would be under specifications after they trued it. If all else fails, have them install new brake pads and true the rotors the best they can.

The worse thing that can happen is there will be a slight vibration (rotor warp) and the brake pads might not last quite as long…but it would be cheaper than new rotors.

Please share this with your friends,
Austin Davis

Posted in: Brakes

2 Comments on "How Long Should Brake Pads Last?"

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  1. Lauren says:

    Nice article, thank you for your suggestions and advice.

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