The Brake Job Dilemma: Should You Replace All 4 Pads or Just the Worn Ones?
February 24, 2023
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When it comes time for your vehicle to have a brake job, you may be wondering about the best option – should you replace all 4 brake pads or just the worn ones? 


This blog post will provide an in-depth examination of the pros and cons of each option, as well as how to identify worn brake pads and what a typical brake job costs. In addition, we will answer the main question: Should you replace all 4 brake pads at once? With this knowledge, you can confidently make an informed decision that’s right for your vehicle.  So join us as we explore The Brake Job Dilemma and discover what’s best for keeping your car safe on every journey.


Pros and Cons of Replacing All 4 Brake Pads at Once

Replacing all four brake pads at once can be a good option for some drivers, but it is not necessary in all cases. There are pros and cons to this approach, and it’s important to weigh both carefully before making a decision.




  • Improved braking performance: Replacing all four brake pads at once can provide more balanced braking, as all four pads will have the same amount of friction material.


  • Cost-effectiveness: Replacing all four pads at once can be more cost-effective in the long run, as you may save on labor costs by having all the work done at once instead of in separate appointments.


  • Convenience: Having all four pads replaced at once means you only have to schedule one appointment and can have the work done in one visit, rather than having to make multiple trips to the mechanic.




  • Unnecessary expense: If only one or two brake pads need to be replaced, it can be an unnecessary expense to replace all four. In these cases, it may be more cost-effective to replace only the pads that are worn, rather than all four.




Pros and Cons of Replacing Only Worn Brake Pads

Replacing only the worn brake pad is another option for drivers who need to repair their brakes. As with replacing all four brake pads, there are pros and cons to this approach.




  • Cost-effectiveness: Replacing only the worn brake pad is more cost-effective than replacing all four, as you are only paying for the work and parts that you need.


  • More targeted repair: If only one brake pad is worn, replacing it can address the problem more specifically, whereas replacing all four pads may be an unnecessary expense.




  • Imbalanced braking: If only one brake pad is replaced, it can create an imbalance in braking performance, as the new pad will have a different amount of friction material than the other pads. This can lead to reduced braking efficiency and potentially even dangerous braking scenarios.


  • Need for frequent inspections: If only one brake pad is replaced, it is important to have frequent brake inspections to ensure that the other pads are wearing evenly and to address any new issues as they arise.


Identifying Worn Brake Pads

Identifying worn brake pads is essential for safe driving. Brake pads are an important part of the braking system and their condition directly affects the total stopping power of the vehicle. Worn-out brake pads can lead to reduced braking power, squeaking or squealing noises when braking, and a warning indicator light on your dashboard. It’s important to know which brakes wear out first: front or rear brakes, as well as how to check the life of your brake pads. 


Signs of Worn Brake Pads

Signs that you may have worn brake pads include decreased stopping power when applied and increased pedal pressure needed to make them work. You may also hear a screeching, squeaking, or squealing noise when you apply the brakes, indicating that the metal wear indicators of the pads have been worn away and are now making contact with the rotors. Additionally, an indicator light on your dashboard may illuminate when the brake pads have worn too thin. 


Which Brakes Wear Out First: Front or Rear Brakes

The front brakes typically wear out first, since they bear more of the braking load than the rear brakes. However, it is recommended that you check both sets of brakes to ensure their life. To check how much life is left in your brake pads, visually inspect them through the wheel spokes (if possible). The pad should be at least one-quarter inch thick and free from cracks or grooves. If they appear to be worn down significantly, replace them as soon as possible for maximum safety and performance. 


How to Check the Life of Brake Pads

Checking the life of brake pads is an important step in ensuring your vehicle’s safety. To check the life of your brake pads, it’s best to start by inspecting them visually. Look for signs of wear such as thinning, cracking or glazing on the surface. You can also listen for squealing noises while braking, which may indicate that the brake pad material has worn down significantly. 


Another way to check the life of your brake pads is to remove them from their housings and inspect them with a caliper or micrometer to measure their thickness. Generally speaking, if the brake pad is thinner than its manufacturer-specified minimum thickness then it should be replaced. Regularly checking and replacing parts like your brake pads helps keep your vehicle safe and reliable.


Cost of a Brake Job

The cost of a brake job is an important factor to consider when planning your auto repairs. Brake pads, rotors, and other components are necessary for safe vehicle operation; however, the cost of replacement parts and labor can vary significantly from one job to the next.


Average Cost of a Brake Job 

On average, you can expect to spend anywhere from $150-$400+ on brakes depending on the type of car you drive and how much work needs to be done. For most vehicles, front brakes typically cost more than rear brakes since they are doing more of the work. In addition, brake service can include replacing worn pads and rotors as well as installation labor costs. 


Factors That Affect the Cost of a Brake Job

The make and model of your car, the type of brakes installed, and the condition of current parts will all have an impact on the cost to repair or replace your brakes. If you drive an older vehicle with drum brakes, for example, you may find that it’s cheaper to simply replace them than to try and repair them. For vehicles with disc brakes, it may be possible to resurface or replace just the rotors if they show signs of excessive wear or damage. 


Replacing calipers and other hardware also adds to the cost of a brake job. In some cases, if your lines or hoses have become corroded or leaking, you may need to replace them.


How to Save Money on a Brake Job 

There are several ways that you can save money on brake repairs and replacements. One way is by shopping around for parts and getting quotes from different auto repair shops. It’s also possible to buy discounted parts online, although it’s important to make sure they meet the exact specifications of your vehicle before installing them. 


If you’re handy with tools, you might also be able to do some of the work yourself, such as replacing pads and rotors as well as checking fluid levels periodically. Finally, staying on top of regular maintenance such as oil changes and tire rotations can help to extend the life of your brakes and save you time and money in the long run. 


FAQ About Replacing All 4 Brake Pads

1. How do I know if my rotors are bad?

You may need to replace your rotors if you experience any of the following symptoms:


  • Vibrations or pulsations in the brake pedal

  • Squealing or grinding noises when braking

  • The brake pedal feels loose or spongy

  • Visible grooves or score marks on the rotor’s surface

  • The rotor thickness is less than the minimum thickness specified by the manufacturer


2. How much does an average brake job cost?

The cost of a brake job varies depending on the make and model of your vehicle, the type of brake pads you choose, and the cost of labor at your local auto shop. On average, a full brake job can cost anywhere from $300 to $800 or more.


3. How do you tell if your brake pads are worn?

You can check your brake pads for wear by looking at the thickness of the pad material or by examining the brake pad wear indicator, which is a small metal tab that rubs against the rotor when the pad material is worn down. Other signs of worn brake pads include a decrease in braking performance, squealing or grinding noises when braking, and a pulsing or vibrating brake pedal.



When it comes to brake maintenance, the brake job dilemma—should you replace all four pads or just the worn ones—can be tricky. While it might seem more cost-effective to just replace the worn pads, it can be dangerous and unwise in the long run as all four pads should always be replaced together. Regular brake maintenance is essential to ensure your vehicle’s performance and safety on the road. 


If you are replacing or upgrading your brakes, consider using NRS Brakes’ galvanized brake pads that come with superior protection against rust and corrosion while still ensuring maximum braking capacity. With their rust-resistant coating, they are an excellent choice for any car owner who wants to ensure maximum braking capacity while protecting their vehicle from corrosion. Contact NRS Brakes for inquiries at or +1 877-677-2725 today!

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