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Brake work is one of many maintenance procedures you will have to perform over the lifespan of your vehicle. It also happens to be one of the most important. Without properly working brakes, you risk both your own safety and the safety of others on the road. Once you accept the reality that you have to pay for brake repair every so often, you need to budget accordingly. How much do brakes cost, and how often will you need to foot that bill?

Whether you are a DIYer or prefer to take your car to the shop, you can find all of the parts you need at an AutoZone near you.

Frequency of Brake Jobs

How often you need to schedule a brake job depends on a number of factors, including how often you drive your vehicle, in what conditions you drive your vehicle, the quality of the parts with which you equip your vehicle and how often you have your brake system maintained. That said, there are certain standards to which you can refer.

Most brake pad companies and mechanics can agree that quality brake pads should last anywhere between 30,000 and 70,000 miles. However, some may need replacement every 25,000 miles, while others can last far longer than 70,000 miles.

Outside of brake pads, brake rotors and calipers, which are more expensive and often more complicated to replace than pads, have varying life cycles. Simply servicing your brake fluid by regularly flushing can extend the life of calipers by preventing corrosion from within the system. Brake rotors should either be “turned” or machined flat on a brake lathe, or replaced with a new rotor. In today’s environment, the cost of brake rotors is often comparable to the cost of machining those rotors, so often a replacement is a better option to go with. Most shops in most cases will recommend either/or with every brake job. It’s not advised to simply replace pads on an old rotor surface, so always expect that the shop will address the rotors at the same time.

How often your brake pads need to be changed or brakes serviced really boils down to these factors:

  • Environment: Stop-and-go driving, such as the type of driving people experience in cities, can drastically shorten the lifespan of a vehicle’s braking system. So too can mountainous environments where drivers have to ride the brakes to control downhill speeds.
  • Driving Habits: Drivers who ride the brakes or routinely stop abruptly risk wearing out their brakes prematurely. Those who are in the habit of stopping gradually may enjoy a longer brake lifespan.
  • Materials: Brake pads, rotors, and calipers are all made of different materials, each of which affects durability. For instance, high-carbon based “severe duty” pads can last longer than standard semi-metallic material. However, because they’re more durable, they often cost much more than their counterparts. Ceramic brake pads generally provide quieter braking and less dusting, but often their braking performance isn’t as great as a semi-metallic pad. Often times, there’s some give-and-take between materials.

Now that you understand how often you’ll need to get your brakes replaced, you may wonder what the actual price for new brakes and rotors actually is. How much will this particular aspect of vehicle maintenance eat into your monthly or annual budget?

The Actual Cost of Brakes

If you can make the brake repair yourself, you can save a good deal of money on brake pad and rotor replacement. However, not everyone is mechanically inclined and not everyone has the time to put into brake maintenance. To ensure you get the best possible deal, call around for quotes from a few different mechanics. Some questions each mechanic should ask you to give you an accurate brake job quote are as follows:

  • What Brand of Vehicle Do You Drive? Typically, parts for European-made vehicles such as BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Jaguars will cost you more than parts for domestic or Japanese-made vehicles. Also, because European vehicle systems differ from American-systems, the mechanic may require more time to make the switch, which means higher labor costs.
  • What Kind of Vehicle Do You Drive? In addition to asking about the brand of vehicle you drive, the mechanic should ask about the make and model. The driver of a Chevy 3500 Diesel truck will pay exponentially more for new brakes than the driver of, say, a Ford Fiesta. Likewise, many 4WD and AWD cars have brake rotors that require more steps and time to remove, and ultimately cost more money in labor in doing so. Size and weight, plus the type of drive on a vehicle (2WD vs 4WD) plays a role in the type of materials the brake system needs as well as how long the brake repair job will take.
  • What Kind of Driving Do You Do? If you use your vehicle for standard city or highway driving, your answer to this question shouldn’t affect the overall cost of the repair job. However, you are operating a vehicle that does a lot of towing, or severe duty work, you’re going to want a brake pad suited for such use.
  • What Kind of Materials Do You Want To Use? The friction of brake pads comes in a variety of materials, including ceramic, semi-metallic and organic, all of which perform differently and come with varying price tags. If you purchase aftermarket brake pads from a premium brand, expect to pay premium prices. Likewise, if you go with an off-brand, you can save a bit. If you want OEM brake parts, expect to pay a pretty-penny, as original parts are often the most expensive.

Brake Pad Replacement Cost

Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast answer to the question of how much new brakes should cost. Every mechanic charges a different hourly rate and every manufacturer prices its parts singularly. That said, for brake pad replacement only, you can expect to pay between $35 and $150 for parts for all four wheels. Labor typically runs between $80 and $120 per axle, making for a grand total of between $115 and $270 per axle.

As stated before, replacing rotors with your brake pads is critical for best braking and maximum safety. New pads on worn rotors can create issues with the new pads, cause vibration, or make braking less safe than with new pads and new rotors together. Rotors cost between $30 and $75 each. Higher-quality rotors like Duralast Gold, which feature a coated hat and edge and are designed to outperform your vehicle’s original equipment, usually cost a little more. Labor at a shop to replace rotors and pads is approximately $150 to $200 per axle. Brake rotor and pad repair generally comes out to around $250 to $500 per axle when visiting a professional shop.

Calipers are the most difficult and expensive aspect of the braking system to replace. A single caliper can cost up to $130 and several will reach prices even higher. A complete brake repair — one that includes pads, rotor and caliper replacement — typically averages between $300 and $800. However, depending on the make and model of your vehicle, you can easily spend more than $1,000 on a complete brake job.

Of course, you can save a significant amount of money if you learn to replace the pads, rotors and calipers yourself. Before you go the DIY maintenance route, though, bear in mind that your safety should come before cost. If you don’t feel comfortable making the repair yourself, you can chose from one of our preferred installers in your area.

If you do feel comfortable making the repair yourself, make sure you have the proper tools. Pick up the tools you need, along with the appropriate parts, from AutoZone today.

Advice, how-to guides, and car care information featured on AutoZone.com and AutoZone Advice & How-To’s are presented as helpful resources for general maintenance and automotive repairs from a general perspective only and should be used at your own risk. Information is accurate and true to the best of AutoZone’s knowledge, however, there may be omissions, errors or mistakes.

Be sure to consult your owner’s manual, a repair guide, an AutoZoner at a store near you, or a licensed, professional mechanic for vehicle-specific repair information. Refer to the service manual for specific diagnostic, repair and tool information for your particular vehicle. Always chock your wheels prior to lifting a vehicle. Always disconnect the negative battery cable before servicing an electrical application on the vehicle to protect its electrical circuits in the event that a wire is accidentally pierced or grounded. Use caution when working with automotive batteries. Sulfuric acid is caustic and can burn clothing and skin or cause blindness. Always wear gloves and safety glasses and other personal protection equipment, and work in a well-ventilated area. Should electrolyte get on your body or clothing, neutralize it immediately with a solution of baking soda and water. Do not wear ties or loose clothing when working on your vehicle.

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