Brakes last longer if used more?

I live on a dirt road and a fair percentage of my driving is on the same. I don’t do a lot of driving (only 75,000 miles over 8 years). I’ve had to have work done on my brakes about once a year (sometimes pads, sometimes rotors). When I commented on this frequency, someone at the dealership asked if I rode or used my brakes a lot. I answered no. His response: “If you used your brakes more or more aggressively you wouldn’t have to have them replaced so often.” Is there any way that this could be true? It seemed like a very strange suggestion.

That’s nuts


The only thing I can think of is that using the brakes gently and infrequently the grime and mud and rust that forms from Vermont’s high humidity will just increase and make the rotors and pads rougher and more abrasive. Vermont’s dirt roads are a challenge to the disc brake rotor and pad system that relies on a smooth and clear surface for proper function. Using the brakes more, effectively wipes the crud off the contact surfaces more.


I don’t buy that at all. I suspect the reason you go through brakes fast for the miles driven is because of wear caused by road conditions and caliper slides binding more because of dirt, water, mud, rust, etc.

I would hope during the brake servicing that they are cleaning lubricating the slides. If not, that could be your answer right there as that should be part of every brake service.


That is probably the dumbest thing I’ve heard in a long time. Using the brakes more will shorten their life. As for dirt and crud…it’ll take less then half a second to clear any off by just applying the brakes once.

There’s a reason Vermont is called the Mountain State. You’re either going up a mountain or down a mountain. This is hell on brakes. When I lived in Manchester NH and traveled back to NY - I used to drive through VT (Brattleboro to Bennington). Basically up and down two mountains. At best there were maybe 5 miles of flat.

There was some reason why the mechanic told the OP this advice. It wasn’t to make more money if the mechanic is doing brake work every year already. I was trying to figure out a reason. Of course the harder you use the brakes the faster they wear out, but we really don’t even know if the OP was wearing out brakes or complaining of noise or slipping or what. Vermont has a reputation for more dirt roads than any other State, and lots of terrible road conditions and hills and humidity.

Who ever told you that BS is a nut. Brakes wear out from use. The harder you use them the faster they wear out.

With all due respect, I can tell you that most people who “ride” their brakes aren’t aware that they are doing so. I recall driving to work behind a colleague who was driving her nearly-new Volvo wagon. When we got to work, I said, “Sue, when you take the car in for the first service, have them check the brake light switch”. She asked why and I replied that her brake lights were going on very frequently, on a stretch of road where I didn’t need to use my brakes.

About a week later, she reported that she told her husband about what I observed, and that he rode with her on the way to the Volvo dealership. Her husband then pointed out to her that she was doing a very frequent “two-step” between the gas and the brake when there was no need whatsoever for her to apply the brake. She thanked me for bringing her unconscious driving behavior to their attention.

I once had a boss who had the annoying habit of turning to look at his passengers when he spoke to them. Every time that he turned his head, he would apply the brake, and then when he looked forward again, he would give his gas-hog Buick more gas to compensate for the loss of momentum when he had braked. Yes, his passengers frequently felt nauseated from the constant braking and accelerating.
And…trust me… he was totally unaware of his very annoying driving behavior.

Just saying…

It’s totally absurd.

Thanks for all the confirmation here. I only get the work done when they say it won’t pass inspection in the current condition. I do live on a hill, so I may be using them more than usual, but I suspect it’s a question of grit and sticking calipers. And rust.

Use the brakes a few times and the rust rubs off. If the calipers are sticking, they are not lubricated sufficiently.

1 Like

That’s the only way “use your brakes more” makes any sense at all. If every time you take the car for a brake inspection, the rotors are a rusty mess, then maybe his comment is not totally off the wall.

In my experience, rusty rotors happen, the outer radius erodes away and requires new rotors and pads even though the pads are not worn down. I used to live in a rust belt state but didn’t drive very many miles a year and ran into the same issue.

Using the brakes more doesn’t make the problem any better.

1 Like

There must be some reason your mechanic said that to you. It would be interesting if you could ask for his/her reasoning behind that recommendation.

I suspect the culprit is the sand and grime from the dirt road is coating your brake parts and causing excessive wear. Wet conditions plus fine sand makes for a very abrasive combination.

An example I can think of was, years ago I was in the mountains of California on my mountain bike. Outbound was a long (about 15 miles) steep uphill ride and the return downhill was in a rain downpour on a sandy-gravel road.
I completely wore out a new set of Shimano OEM good quality brake pads before I got to the bottom of my ride. I had to walk it for about 3 miles because I feared the worn out pads would snap past the rim and into the spokes. The guy I was riding with had the same problem.

If you buy another Subaru, consider Paddle Shifters and spare the use of brakes by downshifting. I have a 2017 Outback, with Paddle Shifters, and downshifting saves wear on the brakes.

Good insights here. I have paddles and use them in the winter for snow and slippery conditions. Now that I know build up can go with just a few seconds of braking, I’ll use the paddles more on my home hills. Anyone think it’s worth taking the hose to the brake areas to rinse off sand and grime?

When I referred to rust earlier what I was alluding to was dirt/rust or even wear on the caliper slides; not the rotors.

Might not hurt to ask them if they clean and lube (or replace if worn) the caliper pins. If they hesitate with an answer or give you a blank look then you know they have not been doing this.
Given what you were told about making the brakes last longer with more aggressive driving I have to wonder if they have ever considered slider pins on anything.

You refer to a dealership. Does this mean a new car franchised dealer? If so you were likely told this by a service advisor at the service counter and that right there says it all…

Rust and dirt are both hard on brakes, not just the rotor surfaces. My son’s Sonata was going through brakes every 18 months and 15-18 thousand miles when he lived in Western NY.

He has now been living in Florida for 10 years, has changed cars once to another Sonata and has not had to do a brake job since the move. Driving the car more would not make the brakes last longer. Driving it under different conditions would.

I was going to mention something similar, cars that sit in driveways or especially near grass or on grass for long periods of time without use, sometimes require brake repair sooner than a vehicle that gets used daily under normal operating conditions.
Rotors get rusty, calipers start getting sticky and rotors eventually start flaking apart, usually on the inner side surface and then chew the pads in the process…

You (and we) need more information. On its surface this seems like an unsupportable statement - when presented with something that doesn’t seem to ring true it’s good policy to ask follow-up questions - what are the qualifications or experience of the “someone at the dealership” who told you this? Are they familiar with the details of why your brakes need service so often (and are you)? What is their experience with brakes that would support this claim, what specific mechanisms do they propose are responsible for increased maintenance requirements for brakes that receive only slightly less than average usage (slightly under 10kmi/yr isn’t exactly low usage, though usage frequency might play a role)? Even people skilled at fixing cars may not properly understand why something goes wrong and offer bogus explanations in a mistaken effort to be helpful - we’ve all heard some crazy things.

There are many reasons brakes might need repair, see if you can get answers to the following: Wear is most obvious and there can be several reasons for excessive wear, but slightly less than average usage isn’t likely to be among them. Sticking caliper slides have been mentioned and are common (it’s an easy way to save time on a job, and not likely to be detected immediately). There also are various causes of corrosion which shortens caliper/cylinder life (old brake fluid, long non-operation periods).

Is the shop using the manufacturer’s parts, or cheaper parts? On grades do you control speed primarily with your brakes or do you shift to lower gears for more engine braking? Is your 16yr old nephew driving the car? Has your experience changed over time (different car, altered habits other than slightly less miles - are you driving more hills and fewer main roads than before)?

Get some details and, if needed, return to the forum armed with specifics.

What the mechanic said is not nuts. Brakes have moving parts that are subject to corrosion. And sadly it takes just a bit of moisture getting into your caliper slide pins to cause one pad to stick causing uneven wear and a warped rotor. There is a reason most dealers or garages recommend an annual or even twice a year brake service and inspection. Reality is though most don’t want to hear it, and skip the servicing.