Brake work is one of the most important maintenance procedures you can have done on your vehicle, and it's something that's going to come up a few times over the vehicle's life cycle. So, how much should it cost to replace them?
How Disc Brakes Work
To better understand what goes into the costs of a brake job, think for a moment about the principle of disc brakes. The wheels are bolted to smooth steel discs (or rotors), with the caliper enclosing the rotor like a clamp. When you press on the brake pedal, hydraulic pressure forces the brake pads against the rotor, slowing the vehicle by friction (not unlike a bicycle's handbrakes).
The brake pads are a hard ceramic or semi-metallic material, and it typically takes 40,000-60,000 miles for them to wear down to a minimum thickness where they would need to be replaced.
The pads' friction material is bonded to a steel backing plate, with a spring-steel tab that protrudes at a right angle. When your pads are down to a minimum thickness, this tab should drag along the rotors' surface and make a loud squeal as a wear indicator. If you let your pads go too long before replacement, the steel backing plate and rivets will start to dig into the smooth steel surface of the rotors. At that point, your rotors will have to be replaced.
It is still a best practice to replace brake rotors every time your brake pads are replaced. Brake friction material will transfer to the surface of the rotor during your everyday driving. If you replace your brake pads without replacing your brake rotors, you will often get braking noise and diminished performance.
Here's something else to consider when you're in need of a brake job: When you hit the brakes, physics comes into play and the weight of your vehicle transfers toward the front. As a result, front brakes are often going to wear out about twice as fast as rear brakes, and you will often just need the front brake pads replaced rather than a four-wheel brake job.
So, with this in mind, we're going to consider the typical cost of a front brake job, including brake pads, the hardware that should be replaced with them, and the brake rotors.
Your bottom-line cost for a brake job will depend on a few factors:
- What kind of vehicle are you driving? Brake pads for, say, a Dodge Ram 3500 Cummins truck will cost a lot more to replace than brake pads for a Ford Focus. The bigger and heavier the vehicle, the higher the cost. It's just part of the equation.
- What brand of vehicle are you driving? Typically, all sorts of replacement parts for European makes like BMW, Mercedes, Jaguar, and Audi will cost more than their counterparts on American vehicles. The same goes for many Japanese vehicles as well.
- What brand of brake pads do you want to get, and what material? The quality and cost of aftermarket brake pads can vary a great deal. The friction of brake pads is composed of organic, semi-metallic, or ceramic materials, all of which have different performance properties and different price points. Premium national brand brake pads from a manufacturer like Brembo, Akebono, or Wagner will be higher. Store brand aftermarket pads are generally lower in price, and original equipment pads from your vehicle's manufacturer are about the most expensive option of all. For premium performance and safety that can meet or even exceed manufacturer parts without busting your budget, check out Carquest Platinum and Gold brake pads and rotors.
- What kind of driving do you do? If you like to push your vehicle to its limits and need a performance-style braking system, you're going to pay more. High demands mean a higher price tag.
So, back to the original question: How much will it cost to replace brake pads? As you can see, it's not an easy answer. But on a typical vehicle, we estimate the average cost of front brake pads to be under $50, and front rotors around $50 per wheel, for a total of around $150.
Thinking about paying a professional to replace your brakes? You'll want to keep in mind a few additional costs. The obvious is that you'll be paying someone to do the labor, and that alone can double your overall cost. And then there's the markup on parts, which can range widely but as an average may be from 25-50%. All things considered, tackling your brakes on your own could be saving you two to three times the amount you'd be charged at a repair shop. It's worth noting, though, that most professional brake jobs will be covered under warranty, so you are also paying for additional peace of mind.
Of course, the most important consideration when it comes to brakes is your safety and that of everyone else on the road. So check out Advance Auto Parts' full selection of brake pads and rotors and find the parts that meet your budget.