Front versus rear brake wear


#1

Front brake pads and rotors tend to wear faster than rear brakes. Twice as fast in some cases.
Is it possible for braking systems made to brake harder on rear brakes than on fronts to even out the wear more?
For example, hand brakes on a bicycle can be used by the rider to brake harder on the rear than the front. This has the added advantage of the rider not going over the handle bars.
In a car, braking can lead to the nose diving down in the front, which might increase steering response. But does it have to be so much more wear in the front?


#2

So that in panic stops during slick conditions the back end doesn’t come around and shake hands with the front while you are going into a ditch.


#3

It depends on the car. Mine wore out the rears faster. If the discs/pads are smaller, they can wear faster. Braking in the front is critical on cars because of weight transfer to the front. If rear brakes are as strong as the front, the rear tires will skid.

And maximum braking on a bike also requires harder front braking.


#4

That’s pretty dated information. Used to be true for almost all cars and trucks, but I see many designs from the last 10-15 years (typical family sedans) where the rear brakes are worn out at 50K miles and the fronts last until 80K.

That’s because brakes are designed better these days. Rear brakes do more work than they used to and as a result the car stops better.


#5

Well only 2 vehicle experience for now, disc front and drum back, toyota pickup, fronts good for 50k, rear drums good for 100k, Trailblazer, 4 wheel disk, all 4 replaced every 85k miles. Just my experience, though wifes ford windstar, don’t recall rear brakes but front brakes were every 35k miles, but she was born and raised in NYC, speed up to a stop light, tailgate, break and gas like a yoyo, gave riders nausea, but thank goodness not whiplash


#6

The reason most of the brake wear happens in the front is that, when you apply the brakes, weight shifts from the rear wheels to the front wheels as your momentum pushes the car forward. Depending on how hard your braking, the front brakes are doing 70-90% of the braking.

If you’ve ever ridden a motorcycle, and have taken the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s basic rider’s course, you’ve manually controlled your braking distribution, using the right hand lever to apply the front brake, and the right foot to apply the rear brake.

The laws of physics make it impossible to even out brake wear between the front and the back. It’s just the way it is.

Oh, and looking at your bicycle analogy, it’s a lot harder to put yourself over the handlebars of a motorcycle (unless you’re riding a sport bike) because you’re dealing with a lot more weight, especially on a cruiser with a raked out front end.

If you really want to balance out your brake wear, the only way I can think of to do it is to brake gently so your car’s center of gravity stays centered.


#7

Yup!
On my two previous Outbacks, I usually had to replace the brake pads (front and rear) somewhere around 50–55k miles. However, on my current Outback–which has over 70k miles on the odometer–a recent inspection of the original brake pads revealed that the rears have 5 mm of material remaining on them, and the fronts have 6 mm remaining on them.

I estimate that I will probably have to replace the rear pads at ~80k miles, and the fronts will probably have to be replaced at ~90k miles. However, I am not complaining, as this car’s brake pads seem to be much more durable than on any car that I previously owned.


#8

Here’s an interesting article on bicycle braking:

http://www.sheldonbrown.com/brakturn.html


#9

Thanks for this. Sounds like newer braking systems do what I was wondering about. My newest vehicle is MY 08, and it does not seem to have that benefit.

Anyone know how the braking systems work to have rear brakes do more work? Are they controlled to apply rear brakes earlier? Harder?


#10

They work by changing center of gravity and suspension geometry to reduce weight transfer under braking/acceleration.
Ideally braking force should track the weight that’s actually on the wheels at any given time.


#11

Yes, but the proportioning valves in the brake hydraulic system are also set-up somewhat differently than they were years ago. The advent of ABS is one of the reasons why it is now possible to apply more force to the rear brakes than it was years ago.


#12

What proportion of new cars have this?


#13

ABS?
I think that, by 2017, all of them now have 4-wheel ABS.


#14

No, I was asking about the differently set up valves and more even brake wear. My MY 05 and 08 cars don’t seem to have this, even though both are 4 wheel discs with ABS all around.
Sorry about confusion.


#15

Why even concern yourself with this. It would only matter if that was a selling point for a vehicle you wanted to purchase. All I care about is that my vehicle stops and if the rear pads last twice as long as the front fine.


#16

I used to believe this until the mechanic I trust and have been dealing with for years disabused me of the notion; rear drums on my Suburban being the case in point. What I have found makes a big difference in brake lifespan is where you live. We moved from a rural area to the city ten years ago. Before that (in my one stoplight town) my records show going somewhere around sixty thousand miles before replacing the front. Rears lasted even longer. I’m a pretty conservative driver so hats off to you guys getting eighty thousand plus especially if you are driving regularly in an urban environment.


#17

The main way they do this is by putting smaller disks on the rear. The pads are also smaller, so they wear as fast or faster than the front. Cars have had front/rear proportioning valves for years/decades.


#18

I’ve noticed the smaller rear rotors and pads, and they still wear slower in my experience. And I’m relatively easy on brakes. Left to me, front pads last until 50-60k.


#19

To answer your question, I’m not concerned.
I’m curious, inquisitive, interested, analytical, inquiring, etc. Nothing wrong with that, especially because I’m not the proverbial cat. Not sure I can say that for others not being the same.

And my vehicles stop well too.


#20

There’s two opposing situations happening.
First, the front brakes tend to do more work, especially under hard braking.
Second, rear brakes are generally smaller; and will wear faster than the front, given the same amount of work.
Front brakes need to be bigger because they have to handle more heat under hard braking.