Occasionally replacing brake pads, pads, and rotors is crucial to keeping your brakes in good condition.
Luckily, when you do, the brake pad replacement is usually simple, relatively fast, and affordable. Often, if you have a bit of mechanical know-how, you can do the work yourself.
The average cost of replacing brake pads is $150-$500 per axle. For a two-wheel drive car, you can expect a flat-rate fee for both front brakes. On the other hand, if you have a performance vehicle, costs might go as high as $800 per axle.
The table below shows a quick price comparison of brake pad replacement cost estimates from reputable suppliers:
|Supplier||Brake Pads (set)||Labor|
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Brake Pad Replacement Costs*
Replacing brake pads is almost always a very simple job. You can normally have it done at any point where the pads start to show wear and tear. Or, for example, if your brakes are slipping.
The cost of replacing those brake pads will depend on the make and model of car, the type of brakes, and whether you’re replacing the pads or the rotors and pads as well.
And, if you’re not replacing your rotors, you’ll likely need them refinished. That’s, on average, 1-2 hours of your mechanic’s time in total.
Below, we’ve listed the cost of replacing brake pads for several popular cars.
|Vehicle||Brake Pad Cost||Labor Cost|
*Note: Prices are estimates and were correct at the time of writing (March 2022). Cost estimates may have changed since, our figures should be used as a starting point for your own research.
Brake Pad Replacement Price Factors
There are a lot of factors that can impact the cost of replacement brake pads. However, those costs vary significantly per vehicle.
We’ll go into each of them below.
Type of Brakes
Most vehicles have 3 of four basic types of brakes and sometimes all four. Two of these potentially include brake pads. These are the disc or caliper brakes and the drum brakes.
In most vehicles, you’ll have one or the other. However, it’s also possible that your front and rear brakes are different.
- Caliper brakes are the most common brake system in cars. These include a brake rotor attached to the outside of the wheel. When you depress the brake pedal, hydraulic pressure causes the caliper to squeeze the brake pads into either side of the rotor. This causes the vehicle to stop and slow. Here, you have two brake pads on each wheel or four per axle. Some variations have four per wheel or eight per axle, however, this is less common.
- Drum brakes are very common in older and larger vehicles. They include a brake drum attached to the inside of the wheel. Like with the caliper or disc brakes, this system depresses two brake pads against the brake drum, slowing the vehicle. This system always has two brake pads per wheel, or four per axle.
Here, replacement cost factors include the number of brake pads and the difficulty of access.
Disc brakes are always cheaper to replace the pads on, because they’re on the outside of the wheel. Drum brakes may require more time and labor to replace.
Number of Brakes
If you’re replacing your brake pads, you might want to replace all of them at once. After all, the conditions that cause one shoe to wear are likely to impact all of the pads.
However, that might not be the case if you had a front end or suspension issue that caused extra stress on one side of the car. Chances are, you’ll want to replace brake pads by the axle at the least.
This means you’ll want to replace the front brake pads all at once to avoid your brakes being lopsided when you depress the pedal.
Replacing brake pads almost always means replacing brake fluid, refinishing the rotors, or even replacing the rotors.
This can mean additional costs, which you wouldn’t expect if you were just looking at the brake pads.
Here, you should also look at the brake shoes, as they tend to wear at a similar rate to brake pads.
In most cases, your mechanic’s rate will be one of the most influential costs of replacing your brakes.
For example, you can get basic brake pads for most vehicles for $25-$100 per set. That works out to about $150-$300 per axle including labor for most vehicles – or about $800 including labor for performance brakes.
However, most brake pad replacement takes 1-2 hours of time per axle. This includes removing the wheels, removing the old brake pads, cleaning or refinishing the rotors, and installing the new brake pads. If you have brakes on the back wheels as well, you can double that.
With national average mechanic’s rates varying between $15-$215 across the country, that can significantly impact the total cost of the job. On average, you should expect about $120 in labor per axle.
5 Signs of a Bad Brake Pads
Normally, it’s best practice to go in for a regular brake inspection, usually about every year. In addition, most brake pads are good for 30,000 to 70,000 miles.
You don’t want to wear them down the nubs, because that makes it unsafe for you to drive.
However, if you do start to experience problems, you’ll get these 5 symptoms.
If your vehicle starts vibrating when you hit the brakes, it’s a good sign something is off with the brake pads or shoes. This is usually because the rotors are warped or damaged, which means you’ll want to replace those as well.
However, if you are experiencing vibration during stopping, it could also be because of the suspension or the steering.
You’ll want a full inspection to make sure the brake pads and rotors really are the cause of the issue.
2. Slow Braking
If braking takes longer than it used to, it’s always a matter of brake performance.
In some cases, your vehicle might stop more slowly because the brake pads are worn down. This normally means the friction layer has worn off and you’re relying on a less efficient layer to stop the vehicle.
However, slower braking could mean issues with any other part of the brakes as well. For example, if the rotors are warped, if the shoes are worn down, or even if the brake fluid is low.
You’ll want to inspect the full system before you make any assumptions.
3. Visibly Thin or Worn Brake Pads
If you notice your brake pads are thin or are visibly worn during a manual inspection, it’s a good sign to replace them.
You can normally see physical signs of wear on the inside, which tells you exactly where the brake pad has worn down. On average, some wear is okay but if they are thin, replacing them is the safest option.
Your brake pads are considered thin if the pads are 1/8th of an inch thick or less at any point. If you can see the wear indicators, the two metal tabs, the pads also have to be replaced.
4. Squeaking or Squealing
If your brakes squeal or squeak during stopping, it usually means the pads are wearing down.
Here, the most likely cause is that the friction layer of the brake pad has worn down and you’re rubbing metal on metal of the wear indicators or a non-braking layer against the hub. This will get worse as you go.
It’s also always a sign to replace your brake pads and ASAP.
5. Grinding Sounds
If squealing brake pads are left alone long enough, they’ll start to grind. Once this happens, it means that your brake rotors are pressing into the wheels.
At this point, you’ll have to replace the rotors as well as the brake pads.
How Are Brake Pads Changed? (9 Steps)
If you want to replace the brake pads yourself, you can normally do so with a minimum of technical knowledge and tools.
However, you will normally benefit from getting a disc spreader and a torque wrench from a local hardware store.
Things You’ll Need:
- Brake Fluid
- Replacement Brake Pads
- Floor jack + Jack stands
- Wheel chocks
- Wrench and ratchet set (normally in mm, but check your car)
- Screwdriver set (large flat screwdriver)
- Graphite-based grease
- Brake cleaner
- Disposable cleaning towels
- C-clamp per number of pistons on each wheel (usually 2)
- Lug wrench
Replacing Your Brake Pads
To get started replacing your brake pads, you’ll want to park your car on a flat and level surface. Turn off the engine, remove the key from the ignition, and chock the wheels.
Then, use a floor jack and jack stand to elevate the car on the side you want to work on. You might want to loosen the lug nuts first.
In addition, you’ll want to check the brake fluid, if it’s completely full, you’ll want to drain some of it into a container.
- Remove the wheel.
- Remove the caliper bolt. Normally you can just use a ratchet to twist it off. Then, push it out of the way. Some people prefer to use a bungee cord or a string to tie it up out of the way. On most cars, the bolts are on the inside. You can turn the wheels of the car to make this easier to access. In addition, you normally only have to remove the bottom bolt. However, some vehicles will require you to remove the full caliper. Do not disconnect any lines when flipping the caliper up.
- Remove the caliper mounting bracket. Then, use C-clamps to retract the piston(s) and hold them out of the way. You’ll want to leave these in place until you get the new brake pads in place, so the thicker pads have space between the pistons.
- Slide the old brake pads out. You can do so by depressing the retaining clips on either side. You’ll want to inspect them for uneven wear. For example, if you have gouges, if one side is more worn than the other, etc. This may be a sign that the caliper is seizing up and any new brake pads you put in will simply be ruined immediately.
- Replace the brake pads. This involves taking the new retaining clips out of the brake pad package and replacing the old ones. You’ll also want to clean the mounting surface with a wire brush and brake cleaner if possible and then apply new brake grease. From there, you can simply snap the new brake pads into place. It’s a good idea to inspect your rotors at this point as well. They might benefit from being replaced or cleaned.
- Release the C-clamps and push the pistons back into place. Monitor the brake fluid level. If the brake fluid looks like it will over flow, take some of it out with a turkey baster. If you’d rather not use a c-clamp, you can normally borrow a disc brake pad spreader from most hardware stores. This is especially important if you have screw in disc brakes – which are generally only present on rear brakes.
- Reposition the slider bolt on the caliper and tighten it into place. Use a socket and be careful not to over tighten the bolt. You can often borrow a torque wrench from many hardware stores.
- Replace the wheel.
- Repeat all steps on the other side of the vehicle.
Finally, you’ll want to test drive your vehicle in a parking lot or a street with no one in it. Make sure your brakes work, that nothing grinds, and that everything works as expected.
If you still have questions about replacing your brake pads, these related queries should help.
Is it cheaper to replace brake pads yourself?
In most cases, you’ll save $99-$240 by replacing brake pads yourself. In addition, it’s likely cheaper to buy brake pads yourself than to do so through a mechanic.
So, you can definitely save money – providing you don’t have to buy a jack and wrench set yourself.
Why does my steering wheel shake when I brake?
Your steering wheel might be shaking because of worn brake pads or brake shoes. It might also be shaking because of an issue with the steering or suspension, such as the tie rods.
It’s important to have this inspected rather than making assumptions about what the issue might be.
How long do brake pads last?
Normally brake pads last for 30,000 to 70,000 miles. However, there are always flukes.
It’s a good idea to get an inspection every year or every 5,000 miles.
How long can you drive on grinding brakes?
Normally, if your brakes are grinding, you’ve been driving on them too long.
Griding sounds usually mean you’re damaging the rotors, which means you’ll have to replace those as well.
Replacing your brake pads is a relatively easy job and you can do it yourself. However, you can normally have brake pads replaced by a mechanic for about $150-$300 per axle.
On the other hand, if you’re replacing disc brake pads, it could cost a bit more because you have to take the wheel apart.
Good luck with your new brake pads.
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