Ask a Mechanic: How Long Do Car Brakes Last?

They're the most important vehicle safety feature, but are your brakes in good shape? We spoke to a mechanic to learn more about car brakes.

Carmakers like to boast about the latest and greatest safety features on their vehicles. But no matter how far technology goes, properly functioning car brakes will always be the first line of defense against a crash. Now, we all know what car brakes do. But how many of us know how they work? Or how long car brakes last or the warning signs of malfunctioning brakes?

To get some answers to these pressing questions, we spoke with Stephen Dias, service manager at Dorman’s Auto Center in Pawtucket, R.I., who guided us through a car brakes inspection and provided other automotive maintenance tips to make sure your ride will always be smooth and safe.

What’s the most common car maintenance mistake you see car owners make?

The most common maintenance mistake drivers make would be neglecting routine oil changes and ignoring warning signs their vehicle may give them, such as unusual noises.

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How long do car brakes typically last?

The average brake life is usually around 30,000 to 40,000 miles. This can vary depending on your driving habits.

How often should you get your brakes inspected?

Car brakes should be inspected with every visit to an automotive repair shop. This includes when bringing the vehicle in for a routine oil change or any other visit.

What does a proper brake inspection consist of?

A thorough brake inspection consists of a visual inspection of friction material, measuring the brake pad/shoe thickness, as well as measuring brake discs and also checking for any disc runout. (Runout refers to the amount of deviation or wobble occurring as the disc rotates. A car’s brake runout must be limited so the brakes don’t shake and vibrate when activated.)

What are the signs that something may be wrong with your brakes?

Brake warning signs include noise, pulsation and a pull to either side while braking. Operators should also watch for a low brake pedal, although this can be difficult for most drivers to notice as normal brake wear is gradual, and the lower pedal may be something the operator doesn’t feel.

What’s you best advice for motorists to keep their cars running smoothly?

My best advice is to not neglect routine maintenance and listen to your service writer when you’re advised on maintenance and safety concerns. Keep your ears and eyes open to any changes in performance. or anything else that doesn’t feel normal.

For the best car care, find a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility near you. Need help getting there? Your membership covers you with 24/7 roadside assistance. If you need us, request service quickly and easily at AAA.com/GetMoving.

AAA members can save on automotive replacement parts and accessories at NAPA.

What automotive questions do you have for our mechanics? Let us know in the comments below.

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2 Thoughts on “Ask a Mechanic: How Long Do Car Brakes Last?

  1. I cannot agree with this statement in the first paragraph:
    “properly functioning car brakes will always be the first line of defense against a crash.” Yes, brakes might be the most important safety feature that comes with your vehicle, as your subtitle says, but they should never be considered the first line of defense.
    I believe operator behavior is the first line of defense against a crash. Drive responsibly and lawfully and watch your “risk rate” drop away substantially. Relying primarily on your brakes to keep you out of trouble is no way to stay safe or to keep others on the road safe (or to protect the life of your brakes and your vehicle).

    1. I totally agree with this. A good driver’s brakes last longer because, when in traffic they look far ahead ‘down the road’ to avoid emergency braking.

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