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Minivans are suitable for your adventures, for cities, for camping sites, and can fit your full family with tons of luggage too. With the power of an SUV, trunk space of a sedan , and comfort for your whole family, minivans have the best of all the worlds.
Its practical design works like a charm; storage space, foldable seats, and 7-8 passenger capacities make it a very versatile travel companion. Minivans are also reliable with many having more than 300,000 miles on the odometer but brakes on a minivan will need replaced many times over that lifespan.
If you are just buying a minivan or are simply curious how long you could expect the brakes to last then this is the article for you.
The brake pads on a minivan will typically last between 40-60,000 miles. However, the harder you drive/brake the faster that they will wear out.
They will also wear out much faster if you are often hauling a van full of people or cargo or if you live in a local with a lot of hilly roads. The extra stopping power used because of the weight being hauled or the hills that you go up and down will substantially affect the lifespan of your brake pads.
There are a variety of different factors that affect the life of the brake pads on your minivan and something so simple as the brand or type of pad can make your brakes last longer or shorten their lifespan too.
In the rest of this article we will cover some other important things that you should know about your minivan’s brakes.
How long do brake pads last after squeaking?
If you have been driving a vehicle for a long time you likely know that when the brakes start to squeak it is a sign that they are going to need replaced soon, but is there a specific amount of time after they start squeaking that you should change them?
Unfortunately there is no specific mileage that brakes last after they start squeaking. The metal content in the brake pads can actually cause some lags to start squeaking almost immediately after being replaced.
The easiest thing to do to know when you are nearing the end of your brake pad’s life is to pay attention when braking.
I recently took my minivan to get new tires put on it and when they were done they told me my brakes would need replaced soon as they had about 15% or so left on them. However, I actually knew this before taking the minivan in for new tires because I had started to feel a difference in the way the brakes “felt”.
By simply paying attention to your vehicle and when the feeling of braking changes you will know when you need to get them replaced.
Also, any grinding noises or extremely loud squealing is a sure sign of the brakes needing to be released as soon as possible.
What factors affect the braking power?
Braking power is the force of friction that is applied against the disk/drum surface by the brake pads. Certain factors affect braking which are:
- Driving style. Constant braking and fast driving can heat the brake fluid and cause it to boil; this can result in damaged brakes and brake failure.
- Brake material. Different brake pads are made of different materials. However, most cars use common brakes, but high-end performance cars will have a special braking system. Some brake pads are made such that they can work efficiently under high-temperature conditions while most are not.
- Environment. Certain environmental factors also affect braking. Moisture can cause better grip which results in sharper braking, whereas higher temperatures can cause caliper pistons to stick resulting in brake failure.
When should brakes be changed?
Fortunately, you can know when your brakes are in need of being changed as the minivan should give clear signals that something’s wrong. Bad brakes can cause serious problems such as collisions, sliding, drifting, and in worst cases flipping over. So brakes must always be kept in check.
Take a test drive before leaving for any long trip just to check your brakes. There are also a few common things that you can keep an eye on all the time to know when your brakes need to be changed.
- Brake light on. If you do not have your parking brake on, but the brake light on your dashboard is ON, it likely means your brakes need some service.
- Squeaking, grinding noise. Sometimes you will start to hear all kinds of weird sounds while braking. These sounds may mean that your brake pad is almost completely worn down. A simple replacement of the same can be done to avoid more expensive problems. If you have metal on metal contact it will produce a horrible grinding sound that will be impossible to ignore.
- Wobbling or vibrations. When you brake if your wheel starts to wobble, there might be an issue with either your brake disc or your lug nut (Lug nuts are used to attach the wheel to the axel). The disc might be bent thereby shaking and creating vibrations while braking. This issue can also be caused by brake calipers. The pistons inside the calipers sometimes get stuck due to heating caused by the frictional heat of the roads, resulting in poor braking.
- Fluid leak. If your brake pedal feels soft there may be a leakage of brake fluid. When you press the pedal your brake pressurizes a fluid. This pressurized fluid activates brake calipers, and brakes are applied. This method of braking is called ‘hydraulic braking’. Leaking fluid can cause pressure loss and the inability to brake at all.
- Spongy brake pedal. If the brake pedal feels no resistance, and can easily be tapped to the floor, then there might be a major braking issue. The pedal should at least stop 1.5 inches before the floor.
- Pulling to one side when braking. This problem is caused when your calipers are somehow applying different pressures on both tires. This results in uneven speed reduction and thus pulling to the side.
- Burning smell. If a strong smell of burning comes while driving, it might mean that the brakes have overheated. The vehicle needs to be stopped immediately, to allow the brakes time to cool down. More heating can cause brake fluids to boil, which can cause brake failure.
How to change your minivan’s brakes?
Brakes are an external component; there is no access to them from inside the vehicle or without moving other components. Brake pads are relatively easy to change on most vehicles and is something that can be done by virtually anyone who has a little bit of mechanical knowledge.
Steps to change the brakes:
- Put your minivan on a jack, and then take the lug nuts off of the tire/tires that you are replacing the brakes on (front or rear)
- Once the wheels are off turn your car steering wheel outwards. This way it is easy to see the nuts and bolts involved.
- Remove the required nuts and jimmy the brake pad housing until it comes loose.
- Replace the old brake pads with the new brake pads.
- Screw everything back on and you are good to go.
Obviously that is a simplified version of how to change the brakes on your minivan so for a more complete version you can watch the video below to see if it is something that you can handle. You can also search online for your specific make and model of vehicle that you own to see exactly how replacing the brakes is done on it.
Changing brakes can be a difficult process if you don’t have the appropriate tools or if your vehicle is a little bit harder to access them.
If you are unsure exactly how to do it then it’s better to let the experts handle it.
Different vehicles use different types of brakes. Drum brakes are curved brackets inside of a drum. A brake pad/shoe presses against the inside walls of the drum to create frictional resistance.
In disc brakes, rubber or carbon-ceramic brake pads/shoes press against a metal disc called a rotor. Carbon ceramic pads are resistant to corrosion and can work under higher temperatures, making them a better alternative for more high powered vehicles.