Every technician knows it is impossible to estimate how long a set of brake pads will last. But, due to changing ownership cycles, your customers are developing new expectations you’ll have to deal with.
In 2012, according to R.L. Polk, the average consumer held onto a vehicle for 57 months up from 38 months in 2002. If a customer drives 15,000 miles a year, they will accumulate 23,000 more miles before trading in the vehicle. These extra miles could mean an extra front brake job or the replacement of the rear pads during the ownership cycle. These repair incidents create points of reference that form certain expectations that were not there just a decade ago.
In some cases, though, reality may not meet customer expectations. Why? Each time the brakes are serviced, the pads could be compromised by previous brake jobs that did not restore them to like-new condition.
Brake hardware might not have been replaced during the first brake job. Halfway through the customer-expected life of the pads, the abutment clips may have corroded and lost their spring. Now the pads are wearing unevenly and there may be noise before the wear sensor hits the rotor.
The guide pins could have been neglected. Now the pads are wearing very unevenly and the customer will notice that mileage between pad changes has dropped significantly. Performing a complete brake job will break the cycle, and hopefully return the vehicle to a normal pad replacement interval.
A normal customer-expected wear interval cannot be achieved if a low-quality brake pad set is used. One corner that is often cut is in the quality of the backing plate and how well it retains the friction material during the life of the pad.
Keeping a friction material attached to a piece of metal under pressures of more than 1,400 psi and extreme shearing forces is not something to take for granted when selecting a replacement brake pad. If the attachment method and implementation is substandard, it can result in noise and eventual failure of the pad before it is worn to OEM specifications.
This is called edge lift or delamination, and it is caused by failure of the attachment method. Often it is hastened by corrosion. The first symptom of the failure is excessive brake noise, generated by the separation causing irregularities in the braking surface and the pad now having completely different NVH properties.
Some manufacturers are using mechanical attachment methods that can prevent delamination in a brake pad. This technology allows brake pads to be run down to the last few millimeters of friction material. The bond can be resistant to shear loads, corrosion and heat.
In a recent Tire Review survey of technicians and shops, noise was the primary reason why customers brought their vehicles in to have the brakes inspected. They did not bring it in for a low-priced brake job they want safety, not a low price.
Customers can see the value in getting more miles out of a complete brake job, rather than a cheap brake job that has them returning to you 10,000 miles sooner.