How many brake pads does a car have?

(Last Updated On: July 21, 2023)

Over a vehicle’s lifetime, the brake pads will need replacing several times, but how many brake pads does a car have? As it is vehicle dependant, it’s usually 4, 8, and more uncommonly 12 brake pads per car. With a quick look through the wheels, you can confirm the type of braking system and then the number of brake pads on your vehicle.

Brake pads are a critical component of a hydraulic brake system. Understanding how they work and how many brake pads your car has will help significantly when replacing them. Just getting through a conversation with a mechanic and understanding the jargon makes the whole process much smoother.

So how many brake pads does a car have?

Of the vehicles you may see on the roads today, they will have either 4, 8, or 12 brake pads per car. You won’t find many people talking about cars with 12 brake pads but they are certainly on the road.

Each vehicle with a disk brake setup will have two brake pads on either side of the disk. So per corner of the car, there will be two brake pads. The only exception to this rule is a vehicle with additional handbrake callipers with four brake pads on the rear. A bit more detail on this further down.

Four brake pads

Vehicles with only four brake pads will have a disk brake on the front and a drum brake on the rear. Drum brakes are more evident on older cars as you rarely see vehicle manufacturers fit drum brakes to vehicles as new. Generally, the small number of cars still equipped with drum brakes as new are small hatchbacks that
don’t require much braking force from the rear of the vehicle.

Eight brake pads

Vehicles with eight brake pads will have two pads per wheel on either side of the brake disks. Eight brake pads (a brake caliper on each wheel) is the industry standard; this accounts for 90% of vehicles on the
road. Vehicles with a brake disk and pad set up on all four wheels are the safest braking vehicles on the road.

Twelve brake pads

Twelve brake pads on one vehicle is an unusual setup and only reserved for high-performance sports cars and hypercars. The sports cars with 12 brake pads on the vehicle have a brake disk and pads set up the same as a car with eight brake pads. Although, the disks, pads, and callipers will be much more significant in size to stop the vehicles quicker at higher speeds. They will have a much smaller additional brake calliper fitted to the rear wheels on the car. Each brake disk on the back will then have four brake pads per disk.
These additional brake pads only control the handbrake and are not applied under standard or heavy braking. They rarely wear out like regular brake pads and are only replaced due to age when the surface of the brake pad starts to deteriorate.

symptoms of worn brake pads

There are several symptoms to be aware of as indicators the brake pads may need replacing.

Squealing noise from the pad wear indicator on the pad

A pad wear indicator is just a tiny metal clip on the side of the pad that touches the disk under braking and causes the squeaking.

The brake pad warning indicator illuminated

Usually, this will be the handbrake light which will stay illuminated and change from amber to red or vice versa. Not to be confused with the ABS light. Many vehicles have a separate pad wear warning indicator, so it may not be the same problem if the handbrake light stays on.

Grinding noise when braking

Grinding noise when braking indicates that the brake pad surface has completely worn away. The metal-on-metal grinding noise is the backing plate of the brake pad scoring into the disks when braking.

symptoms of worn brake shoes

Squeaking from the drum brakes

Drum brake shoes generally don’t have any warning indicator, so a squeak or grinding noise may be the only indication that the brake shoe has completely worn out.

Handbrake not holding correctly

Brake shoes push outwards into the drum, and the distance they need to move is more significant as the handbrake is applied. If the handbrake starts to come up to vertical before it holds or there are lots of clicks from the ratchet mechanism. It is a good indicator the shoes may either need re-adjusting or completely replacing.

Brake pedal traveling

Under braking, if the brake pedal starts to drop when the force is applied, this indicates that brake cylinders inside the drum (act like a brake calliper) are leaking brake fluid. A good indication of this is that the brake fluid reservoir level will have dropped. Unfortunately, once brake shoes become contaminated with
brake fluid, they must be replaced.

Disk brakes vs. drum brakes

Disk brakes are much more efficient; they disperse heat better, and the braking force is much greater. When you press the brake pedal on a brake disk set up, the pressure is applied to the calipers (via the brake fluid), pushing each brake pad against the disk. The force applied to the brake pedal depends on how quickly the vehicle stops.

A brake disk setup is a much better system than brake drums. The vehicle can stop faster in an emergency than older vehicles with drum brakes. Drum brakes work similarly in that the brake shoes get pushed outwards to meet a drum to slow the car. The nature of the design means they aren’t very efficient
and work much better when holding the handbrake or as an additional aid to slow smaller vehicles down to keep the car stable under heavy braking.

How are brake pads supplied?

Brake pads are supplied in sets for either the front or a set for the rear. Either can be replaced on their own if the opposite set doesn’t need replacing. When replacing the brake pads, each axle must be replaced together, so if only the front left wheel (nearside) needs replacing, then the right front wheel (offside) will also need replacing regardless of the condition.

Front and rear brake pads work differently, and most of the braking force is applied to the front brakes so that the rears will wear at a different rate. This means the front or rear brakes can be replaced independently, but only in axle pairs. Brake shoes are the same; they also get supplied as an axle set.

Final thoughts

This article has covered how many brake pad does a car have, but to summarise, as standard, most come with 4, 8, or 12. But 12 is not so common and generally not on your everyday vehicle. It is vital to have a good idea of how your brakes work, and hopefully, this article has covered all the essential points you may need to know.

My name is Tom although my friends call me Tommy. Messing around with cars and bikes has always been a hobby of mine even from a young age. So I made it my day job 17 years ago. I am a fully qualified mechanic as you would expect. I've worked in all different areas of the motor trade, valeting, panel beating, engine repairs, I'm sure you get the idea. I enjoy sharing my wealth of knowledge and experience with others, which is the reason I spend a lot of time here writing for this website.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.