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Do Brake Pads Come in Pairs? (Explained)

Brake pads are an essential part of disc brakes used in automotive machines. These have steel backing plates attached with friction material. Together, they are bound to the surface facing the disc brake rotors.

Do brake pads come in pairs?

Yes, brake pads are sold in sets of 2 because each side of the car requires 2 brake pads for the wheels. Both of the brake pads should be changed simultaneously. It is advised to change the brake pads on the wheels on the same axle because they wear out at the same rate.

Every car has brakes on its four wheels. The front wheels have front brakes while the rear wheels have rear brakes installed. The type of these brakes installed in cars is called disc brakes.

Front brakes:

Front brakes are designed to withstand higher temperature changes and allow more stopping power. As the car brakes, most of the weight and momentum of the car is experienced by the front wheels.

As a result, the brakes at the front wheels experience a greater change from kinetic energy to heat energy compared to the rear wheels.

Rear brakes:

The rear brakes installed on the rear wheels of a car do not experience such buildup of heat energy or temperature changes. Since the car comes to a stop mostly because of the front brakes, the rear brakes only stop the rear wheels.

This adds stability, prevents the possibility of a spin-out, and aids in emergency maneuvers.

Disc brakes:

Disc brakes, used in the front and rear brakes, are more commonly used than rim brakes. These brakes use calipers or pistons to push pairs of friction pads against the disc or rotor, that is attached to the wheel, to create friction.

They offer great stopping power, precise braking, and stop wheel lockup.

Brands Come in pairs
Brembo brakeYes
Duralast brakeYes
Autozone rotorsNo
Hawk brakeYes

How many brake pads are in a pack?

There are 4 brake pads in a pack. In a typical box of brake pads, 4 brake pads are supplied. 2 brake pads are to be used on 2 sides of the vehicle, i.e., 2 front wheels and 2 rear wheels.

In addition to that, manufacturers of high-tier brake pads provide the necessary materials that will allow the brake pad to perform optimally. These may include anti-rattle clips, shims, and/or special lubricants to reduce noise, etc.

Most of the time, they do so to reduce the chance of getting the product returned with a noise complaint.

How much does it cost to get your brake pads changed?

It may cost around $150 to get brake pads changed. Although the cost of brake repair depends mostly on the vehicle model, type, and materials needed, the average cost is $150.

Per-axle, it costs $150 on average but the pricing may increase due to change in the aforementioned factors. The least expensive brake pads which use organic materials do not last long and are not greatly adaptive to temperature changes.

The more expensive incorporate metal brake pads are more heat resistant and experience less brake fade under heavy usage.

What happens when I don’t change brake pads in pairs?

Instead of changing in pairs, changing a single brake pad may be tempting. Not changing brake pads in pairs, however, can lead to the following issues:

Uneven wearing of brake pads:

Front and rear brake pads are expected to wear out at the same rate. Front brakes usually take the most weight and braking force so front brakes wear out more than the rear ones.

However, changing only a single brake pad can make the unchanged brake pads wear unevenly and require a premature change of brake pads.

Issues with the brake caliper:

Brake calipers are present to push brake pads to the disc to slow down the vehicle. If the brake pad is not changed with its pair, it can wear out faster and cause the brake caliper to malfunction.

This will stick the brake caliper with the brake pad and cause a high rise in the temperatures of the disc.

Disc Thickness Variation (DTV):

As mentioned earlier, the caliper may cause the disc to lose some of its mass by friction. This will cause Disc Thickness Variation (DTV) and require the additional change of the rotors as well as the brake pads and calipers.

Misaligned brake pads:

Sometimes, unchanged or worn-out brake pads may get misaligned. Not changing in pairs will cause the other brake pad to wear unevenly and misalign with the disc. This will result in uneven braking or the car getting pulled to a side while braking.

Danger and accidents:

Since the braking system is one of the vital components of a car, if brake pads are not changed accordingly, severe consequences may occur. For example, the car’s wheels may lock up and cause a spinout.

How do you know if your brakes need to be replaced?

As a rule of thumb, brake pads should be replaced between 30,000-70,000 miles since this is how long most brake pads last. Some signs that indicate that the brake pads need replacement:

Loud screeching noise:

While applying brakes, if the car makes a high pitch noise, it is a possible indication that the car needs brake pads replacements. This usually happens because of the rust buildup on the brake disc.

Longer braking distance:

If the car is taking a long time or traveling more distance than it does after the brake is pressed, this could mean that the brake pads have started wearing out. When brake pads become thinner, they take more effort to stop the vehicle. Replacement is mandatory in this condition.

Grinding sounds:

Problems with the brake disc and brake pads could result in grinding sounds when the car accelerates from a stop. To avoid further damage and wearing out of the brake pads, replace them.

Unusual vibrations:

While the car is moving, if some unusual vibrations are felt then this could be caused by uneven wearing of one or more of the brake pads. This can also happen due to a warped disc that the eye cannot notice.

Warning signals/lights:

Modern cars now come with warning signals or lights for various parts of the car that require attention. Cars with sensors can detect if the car is not braking like usual and can inform with quick messages on the dashboard.

Can you replace one set of brakes at a time? Are they replaced in pairs?

Yes, brakes can be replaced one set at a time and can be in pairs. Brake pads on wheels connected to the same axle wear out at the same rate. If one of the wheel’s brake pads are worn out, then the other ones have worn out too unless something is wrong.

It is beneficial to replace a set of brakes at one time and then the other at a later date. If the front brakes are acting unusually, replace the brake pads of both the front wheels and then at a later date, the rear brakes can be changed and vice versa.

Should you change all brake pads at once?

No, it is not necessary to change all brake pads at once. As mentioned before, changing brake pads of wheels on the same axle is mandatory, but not all 4.

Wheels connected to the same axle will wear out at the same time so, replacing them in pairs is beneficial. This does not mean that all 4 wheels’ brake pads will wear out at the same rate. So, changing the brake pads of all the wheels at the same time is not necessary and is not advised.

Changing all brake pads is not only inconvenient but also is not worth the money. For example, most heat changes and the weight of the car are taken by the front brakes so changing the front brake pads may be enough.

The rear brakes may still last longer without replacement so replacing them at a later date will save money.

Can I just replace brake pads and not rotors?

Yes, only brake pads can be replaced without the rotors. It depends on the condition of the rotors. If the rotors are not damaged or thinned, the brake pads can be replaced without replacing the rotors.

The rotors, or the disc, should not be thinned beyond the minimum thickness specified by the manufacturer. If it is thinned beyond that, then the rotors should be changed too along with the brake pads.

Also, if there is any damage or the new brake pads make noise while braking, then the rotors might be the problem.

Final Thoughts

Brake pads come in pairs of 2 so that the brake pads of the wheels connected to the same axle can be replaced. Changing all the brake pads is not advised but should be checked regularly. If damaged, rotors should be replaced too. Look for signs of a degraded brake pad and replace it immediately.