I bought a used car that needed new brake pads after 6000 miles. Is this usual?

brake pads

The car you bought was a 2016 Mazda CX-5. You bought it with 14,000 miles on the clock. It’s now done 20,000. The dealer you got the car from said the brake pads were 60% worn when you acquired the car. Now, 6000 miles later it says they are 99% worn.

How long should brake pads last?

This depends largely on how you use the car. If for example you do a lot of miles with the car fully loaded, or towing, or you’re an enthusiastic driver, your pads will last for fewer miles. Equally, a lot of motorway miles tends to mean less brake use, driving round town or on rural roads means more.

Taking all this into account, a set of brake pads should last anywhere between 20,000 and 60,000 miles.

Can you tell how worn your pads are?

One tell-tale sign is screeching brakes. Read more about these here. If the brake pads are completely worn down, you might hear a grinding sound. This is not good and you should stop driving immediately.

You can also conduct a visible check on some cars. Look through the wheel and you might be able to see the pad resting against the disk. If you can’t see at least 3mm of pad, you could be in trouble.

Other signs that the brakes are on the way out are if the car pulls to one side or there’s a bad vibration through the brake pedal.

brake pads
Brake disc (left) and the pads that grip it (right)

How worn should brake pads on a used car be?

There’s no hard and fast rule about this. One thing is clear: you can’t expect a car dealer to replace all the wear and tear components on a used car. However, if you have an independent inspection of the car, that should flag up if there isn’t much life left in the brakes.

You can also use the government’s online MOT checker. If there’s an advisory that the brake pads are worn, you’ll know they don’t have much life left in them. And ask to see the car’s paperwork. This should show when the previous owner replaced brake pads and/or discs – if that’s appropriate.

One protection that all consumers have is in the description of a used car. If you are told something about the car and it turns out to be untrue you have recourse under the 1968 Trade Descriptions Act.

Can you replace brake pads yourself?

It depends how confident (and competent) a mechanic you are. It’s a tricky job. And obviously brakes are vital to how safe your car is so it’s probably best left to the professionals. A set of brake pads should cost less than £40, so including labour and VAT you could get away with less than £150.

Verdict

We think your dealer may be playing a bit fast and loose. The car’s brake pads shouldn’t have worn down nearly 40% in 6,000 miles, no matter how hard you use them. That means they were either more than 60% worn when you bought the car, they’re not as worn as the dealer is now claiming or there’s another problem. (As it turns out, when asked to investigate, the dealer found the hand brake was binding causing the extra brake wear. Pads and discs were replaced under warranty.)