How Many Brake Pads Per Wheel? Are Front/Rear Pads The Same

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By Douglas Mercer

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While brake rotors are, undoubtedly, the most important part of a braking system, some spotlights should be spared for the braking pads, too. Without these small but powerful pads, your rotors will struggle to apply constant friction to the wheels and make them stop at your will.

This article will discuss them in more detail by diving into some of our readers’ most burning questions. Which brakes are more important? Keep scrolling to have your inquiries resolved.

How Many Brake Pads Does A Car Have?

In most cases, each wheel will have 2 braking pads – specifically, the outer and inner ones. 

wheel will have 2 braking pads

There are several different scenarios. Sports cars, for instance, install disc brakes for the back and front axles. 

Meanwhile, passenger cars incorporate disc brakes only for the back axles’ drum and front brakes. In that case, it would be natural to wonder how many pad sets your car needs under exact circumstances.

  • For cars using brake pads on the rear and front axles: You will need one pad set for your front wheels and another set for the car’s rear ones. 

Each set includes four pads (2 for each of your wheels), which equals 8 brake pads in total: four for the rear and another four for the front.

  • For cars using brake pads for front brakes only: You only have to buy one brake pad set (or 4 pads). 
  • For cars using only drum brakes for back axles and only disc brakes for front axles: The car will have 4 pads in total. 

Are They In Pairs?

Yes, brake pad companies often make them in pairs, as you could have guessed. Most cars require two pads for each wheel (one for the rotor’s outer and another for its inner sides). 

Long story short: if you want to replace the pads of one wheel, two pads (or a pair) will be needed. Such brake pad designs have a purpose: to distribute the braking force evenly, ensuring optimal stability and balance maintenance during braking. 

How Many Rotors Does A Wheel Have?

Each wheel includes 1 rotor, meaning 4 rotors in total for the whole car. These designs allow the brake forces to be equally applied to all wheels, distributing loads and providing efficient brake power.

4 rotors in total

Nevertheless, many vehicles do not abide by the norm. For instance:

  • Smaller cars or cars that use drum brakes for rear tires usually install rotors only for their front wheels (two rotors in total). 
  • Larger vehicles might include more/larger rotors to tackle higher braking demands. 
  • Modern models (ex: electric or hybrid vehicles) are equipped with advanced braking mechanisms and regenerative braking. Since they mostly rely on electric motors, there is no longer the need for traditional brake pads and friction-operated rotors. 

Thus, the exact number of rotors will vary. I suggest checking the manuals or confirming the issue with your vehicle dealer/brake manufacturer. 

Are Brake Pads and Rotors The Same?

No. They are two different brake components with different brake mechanisms. To sum it up:

  • Brake rotors: the circular discs attached to the wheels, converting kinetic power into thermal power to slow the car down. They clamp on the brake pads to halt the wheel’s spinning.
  • Brake pads: the steel-backed plate coated with frictional materials to apply friction/pressure on the rotors whenever you engage the brakes. 

To make it easier to tell them apart: rotors comprise harder materials, while brake pads feel much softer and hence, require more frequent replacements. 

Are They Sold In Pairs?

No, not really. In most cases, parts stores often sell them in individual units. 

Nevertheless, manufacturers often recommend replacing brake rotors in pairs. 

Only one rotor replaced means the remaining rotor on that axle will have different thicknesses and wear levels, affecting the car’s steering and handling. 

Hence, replacing both can ensure more consistent braking performances, reducing unwanted risks of wheel imbalance or uneven pulling/braking. 

To accommodate such recommendations, a few parts suppliers do offer bundles or packages with two rotors and one pad set. Assess your needs to find the best deal. 

When Do You Need to Fix or Replace Them? Signals of Bad Rotors and Pads

Rotors should be replaced every 50,000 to 70,000 miles, while the brake pad material demands shorter replacement intervals due to limited density – every 30,000 to 35,000 miles.

Nevertheless, symptoms of defects or malfunctions might sometimes arrive earlier than these benchmarks due to external damage or aggressive driving habits. Keep an eye out on these alternative warning signs: 

Symptoms of Bad Brake Pads:

bad brake pads
  • Squealing or Squeaking Sounds: These squealing sounds are most certainly caused by worn pads. 

Ignoring the bad pads only worsens the sounds – so much that squealing might change into grinding. And at that point, even the rotors will start experiencing damage.

  • Braking Vibration: The car shaking violently when you step down on the brake pedals implies severe troubles with the pads. 

Chances are these pads are no longer as smooth as before, causing brake imbalance issues. Take your car to professionals immediately to have them fixed. 

  • Taking More Time to Stop: If you struggle to make it stop right after the pedals are engaged, the pads have either been worn down or suffer from low brake fluid (due to leakages). 

Again, putting off your trip to brake services is not advised; have the car inspected as quickly as possible. 

  • Indicator Lights Turned On: Modern cars often incorporate dashboard lights for the braking systems: ABS and brake warning lights. When they illuminate – and the brake fails to engage – it is time to ask for help from brake pad services.
  • The Pads Look Thin: Simply look through the wheel’s spokes to inspect your pad. If it is below 6.4mm/1/4 inch thick, your car probably wants a brand-new pad set.

Symptoms of Bad Brake Rotors: 

Bad Brake Rotors
  • Steering Wheel Vibration: Pulsation/vibration on steering wheels mostly stems from rotor rust or overheating/imbalance issues. Check with the brake mechanics to see if they can be fixed or must be replaced. 
  • Squealing, High-Pitched Noise When Braking: High-pitched sounds are the tell-tale signals of worn rotors. Specifically, the rotors develop uneven edges and surfaces on both exterior and interior sides, causing noises when rubbing against the pads. 
  • Pedal Pulsing: Uneven rotor surfaces and rust are the most likely culprit, causing the pedals to pulsate violently while braking. And if your front discs also fail, this pulsation will transport to the steering wheels, too. 
  • Large Edges on The Rotor’s Outer Part: Compare your rotor’s outer or inner edge with a completely new rotor. Does yours look larger? If yes, chances are it is being worn down. 
  • Littering Scratch Marks: Look behind your car’s rims to inspect the rotors. If too many big and deep scratch marks are littered across its surface, it is time to have these rotors replaced. 

Do You Have to Replace Rotors and Brake Pads At Once At Automotive Shops?

No, that is unnecessary. 

Although they cooperate in the same system, pads and rotors have different wear rates, as stated above in the previous sections (rotors can be replaced every 50,000 miles at automotive repair shops, while pads must be swapped after 30,000 miles). 

Which Brakes Wear Out First

Front pads often wear down a lot faster than rear ones. 

It is to be expected; after all, the vehicle’s front pads are more important and usually handles much more weight transfers once the brake is engaged, resulting in more wear. Over-time friction and heat also contribute to the deterioration. 

Should You Replace All Brakes At Once

Yes, that would be the safest option – since it ensures consistent wear rate and balance performance. 

But what if these additional shop fees are not an affordable option for you? In such cases, at least try to repair both rear pads or both front pads at the same time. 

Are Front and Rear Brake Pads The Same? Can You Mix Them? 

No, they are clearly not the same. Since braking demands mostly pool on the car’s front wheels, front pads are about 70 to 90% larger than their rear counterparts. 

As such, using front brake pads on rear wheels or vice versa is out of the question due to safety reasons.


Do Cars Have 2 Or 4 Brake Pads?

The answer is either 4 or 8 (refer to the above sections). Cars with 2 pads are quite rare. 

How Do I Know If I Need Front or Rear Brakes? 

If the noises emit during normal braking, the front brakes are likely problematic. Meanwhile, noises after engaging emergency brakes usually point to issues with the rear. 


Questions regarding the number of brake pads/rotors and brake replacement tips have all been covered in my guide. 

While they do not need frequent replacement at automotive repair centers, regular brake maintenance schedules and checkups are still a must to save labor costs and ensure safe city driving. Never forget that.

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Douglas Mercer

Douglas Mercer

Automotive Service Manager

Douglas Mercer is an automotive service manager with 12-year experience at Stockton Wheel Service, Douglas excels in addressing intricate tire and wheel concerns as plating wheels, straightening bent wheels, widening stock wheels, and precisely correcting offset and back-spacing…

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