How long do brake pads last & how to help them last longer?



Edisonian

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Aug 17, 2010
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So last year, I bought a Cervelo P2 2010. It was discounted, since it was last year's model.

I probably put 3000 miles on it by the end of the summer. The rear brake started squealing then; they were the ones that came with the bike, FSAs, I think.

I changed them out for some Kool Stop Salmons. No more squeak. But the brakes seemed to still have some life in them -- there was still probably a half-cm of groove on each.

My local wrench told me it was a good idea I changed the brakes. They had hardened.

That led me to wondering -- how long does it take for brakes to harden? I keep my bike in the garage -- would keeping it indoors help?

Just an idle question ... I did quite a bit of searching, and didn't find an answer though. Thanks!
 

davereo

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Jun 17, 2010
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Depends on how often you use your brakes. I live in a rural area and sometimes I go out for a 20 to 25 mile ride and the first time I apply the brakes is when I get home. Other times I go out and are on the brakes quite often. I replace my pads when the grooves are just about gone.

Brakes on a 2010 model bike are no more than 2.5 to 3 years old and should not be beyond their shelf life. Just because brakes are squeaking doesn't mean they need replacing. Brake squeal can be the result of the pads not being toed in correctly or believe it or not squeaky clean. After a thorough cleaning of my brakes and rims the first ride out I have a little squealing going on.

Some pads have a higher durometer than others and are naturally harder. That may explain why the original pads are harder than your replacement. As far as how long pads last I have never had to replace pads that have "hardened" on a bike that was getting regular use.

Check you tube for instructional videos on how to properly set and adjust brake pads.
 

Froze

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Jul 13, 2004
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Geez, my pads last a long time, even when I lived in California and rode up and down mountains they would still last 3 to 5 years. But I have older style bikes and the pads seem to last longer then the newer ones. I have a set of pads on one bike that has over 30,000 miles on the pads, I know this because I replaced the pads when I got new wheels, and these pads still look great. Those pads are red in color, look like a solid block of rubber with three groves, said Suntour when I got them but they may be Dia Comp?; I bought two sets of them at the time, and the one set hasn't not been used. They look like this: http://www.yellowjersey.org/sup_brk.html

I have another bike that has Mathauser red or salmon brake shoes that have no groves and those have lasted a very long time as well; they look like these: http://www.ebay.com/itm/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=260764983013+&item=260764983013#ht_1311wt_882

But those pads are old school stuff and probably won't do you a bit of good.
 

alienator

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Jun 10, 2004
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I think the mechanic was directing a warm breeze up into your groinal region. As davereo said, you're brake pads shouldn't be terribly hard. Even if they were, you can use a fine file, fine sandpaper, or emery paper to remove the hard portion. How long it takes for brake pads to harden is dependent on how much you ride, the elements the brake pads are exposed to, and how the bike is stored. UV light will lead them to harden, as will exposure to ozone. Some chemicals can also cause untoward changes in the pads. No matter the case, though, you certainly did no harm by changing the pads. If you'd like to get more life out of the set you just pulled off, try going over their braking surface with a fine file, fine grit sandpaper, or emery paper as alluded to above.

Brake squeal can be caused by quite a few things, so in the future you might consider doing any of the following:
  1. Toe in the brake pads. Some pad/brake caliper/rim combos are prone to squeal. Note however that some aren't. I've never had to toe-in when using any alloy rims or, for that matter, any CF rims. More rigid brake calipers tend to have less squeal betwixt rim and brake pad.
  2. Clean your rims and your pads. Dirt and brake pad residue on the rim can cause squeal. Note however that sometimes the exact opposite is true (at least of pad residue): I had a set of Reynolds DV46's that squealed until the rim had a bit of a build up of brake residue.
  3. Sand/file brake pads as described above. Again, like the other steps above, you may not need this, but it doesn't hurt to do it. It's not likely to be needed on pads that are newish or used frequently.
  4. If you find that a particular rim is prone to causing brake squeal, you may want to purchase a rim polishing pad, such as what Excel Sports sells: http://www.excelsports.com/main.asp?page=8&description=Rim+Polishing+Pad+K%2D141&vendorCode=HOZAN&major=6&minor=2 . You can also give a scotchbrite pad a go, too.
  5. Use pads appropriate for your rim material, and don't use pads that have been used on alloy wheels on CF wheels because the metal bits in the pads from the alloy wheels can do nasty things to CF brake tracks. Using the same pads can be an option if you carefully clean the pad brake surface before using with CF rims, but I wouldn't IMHO.
  6. Last, but not least, for the love of the gods, don't Armor All your tracks.
 

An old Guy

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Feb 12, 2011
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You do not use sand paper on brake pads. Abrasive from the sandpaper can get embedded into the pads. The abrasive is much harder than your rims.

Brake pads get hard from lack of usage - UV light or just O2 will cause the problem. But it is only surface hardness. It wears off.
 

Froze

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Jul 13, 2004
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Originally Posted by An old Guy .

You do not use sand paper on brake pads. Abrasive from the sandpaper can get embedded into the pads. The abrasive is much harder than your rims.

Brake pads get hard from lack of usage - UV light or just O2 will cause the problem. But it is only surface hardness. It wears off.

This is correct. The only thing you need to use on your brake pads is some sort of pick or a sharp knife to remove any embedded stuff found in the pads, and then to clean them with [COLOR= rgb(51, 51, 51)]alcohol. [/COLOR]
 

alienator

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Jun 10, 2004
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Originally Posted by An old Guy .

You do not use sand paper on brake pads. Abrasive from the sandpaper can get embedded into the pads. The abrasive is much harder than your rims.

Brake pads get hard from lack of usage - UV light or just O2 will cause the problem. But it is only surface hardness. It wears off.
First, visual inspection of the pads--which is something that should be done occasionally--can find those abrasive particles, as can rubbing a finger over the pad. Second, a file, emery paper, or fine sandpaper when applied should be done lightly since it's not terribly hard for the abrasive surfaces to remove a bit of the hard stuff. Third, it can go beyond just thin, ephemeral surface hardness, and it can persist even with braking.
 

swampy1970

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Feb 3, 2008
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Originally Posted by alienator .


  • Last, but not least, for the love of the gods, don't Armor All your tracks.
So you're not a proponent of oiling your rims if they squeak when braking? :p
 

alienator

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Jun 10, 2004
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Originally Posted by swampy1970 .

So you're not a proponent of oiling your rims if they squeak when braking? :p

No, but I do put vaseline on my handlebar tape to keep it supple and moist.
 

Froze

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Jul 13, 2004
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Originally Posted by alienator .



No, but I do put vaseline on my handlebar tape to keep it supple and moist.
Your advice is bad, you're suppose to wax your rims which makes them shine, plus the wax prevents the squeal. Geez, some people, you just can't get good advice anymore.



Originally Posted by swampy1970 .


So you're not a proponent of oiling your rims if they squeak when braking? :p
 

davereo

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Jun 17, 2010
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I would suggest lapping compound. Seeing as it is abrasives suspended in lubricant it should get the job done effectively.
 

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