Driving Tips to Save Your Brakes

by Bimmerfest.com Member - BimmerFest Staff on May 15, 2019, 11:42 am

The way you drive can affect the longevity of your car's parts, especially wear items like brakes. By following these simple tips, you can extend the life on your brakes and save yourself money in the long run.

Your vehicle's brakes generate stopping power by creating huge amounts of friction and heat. This friction and heat slows or stops your vehicle, but it also means that your brakes wear out a little every time you use them. This is how brakes work and it means that occasionally you'll need to replace components like brake pads and rotors.

Brakes are a "wear item" - that is, a component designed to wear down while doing its job over the course of many months and miles. As such, a few simple tricks can help extend the life of your vehicle's braking system parts, ensuring that the wearable components last longer before requiring replacement, saving you money in the process.

It's all about making life easier on your brakes. Read on for the details:

Cool It

Prolonged periods of high brake system temperatures can degrade or even damage components over time, which is why it's important to help your brakes out by being conscious of when they'll be hottest and helping to cool them down if possible.

After generating high brake temperatures, try to allow the vehicle to cruise a few moments without any application of the brake pedal (where feasible) at the highest speed possible. This allows cool air to flow over the brakes, reducing temperatures in a quick and controlled manner.

Your brakes will be hottest in a variety of scenarios, including immediately after braking down a steep hill (more so with a trailer in tow), after spirited driving around a winding road or road course, or after executing a rapid stop from a high rate of speed. Basically, any time they're applied for a length of time from a high speed, or repeatedly in quick succession, your brakes will become piping hot, and heat 'soaks' into components like the brake calipers, pads, rotors and fluid.

It's immediately following these conditions where an opportunity exists to prolong brake component life by providing extra cooling. If possible, avoid stopping, slow speeds or parking within a minute or two of conditions like those mentioned here. This may not always be feasible and that's fine - your brakes are designed to stand up to the heat. But cooling them down with an extra spin around the block or a few more minutes of driving can go a long way towards prolonged brake component life.

Maintenance Is Key

Proper maintenance of your vehicle's brakes can prolong the life of wearable components within. Check your owner's manual for details; parts of your braking system may occasionally need to be dismantled, cleaned, lubricated and reassembled. This bit of brake-system pampering can work wonders for performance and safety and also ensures that all parts of the system are healthy and in proper working order. A healthy braking system is a long-lasting braking system!

Back Off

Following too closely is a bad manner, safety hazard and key cause of accelerated brake system wear. The closer you follow another vehicle, the more often and harshly you'll have to apply your brakes as traffic speeds up and slows down - and the faster they'll wear. A bigger gap between you and the next car in traffic means more opportunities to coast, instead of braking, to slow down. You'll be at lower risk of an accident and your brakes will last longer too.

Forward Thinking

Look further up the road and your brakes will thank you with longer life. Most drivers don't look far enough up the road, preferring to leave their eyes trained in the area about two car-lengths ahead. But looking further ahead provides more time to respond to changing traffic conditions, like slowed or stopped cars. Keep your eyes trained ahead and you'll have more time to plan your stop. Moving your seat into a more upright position as you drive can be helpful here.

When you see an upcoming stop, remove your foot from the accelerator immediately. Let the vehicle coast, so it can decelerate slowly on its own, without using the brakes. Get the timing right and you may not even have to touch the brake pedal at all before the light turns green or slower traffic up ahead begins to move again.

Watching the road in the distance opens up numerous possibilities to coast - rather than brake - to a stop. This helps your vehicle go further and further on a set of pads and brake rotors. Coast when you can, instead of braking, and your wallet will thank you.


Don't underestimate the effectiveness of the downshift to help slow your vehicle while reducing or eliminating the need to use the brakes. Whether you drive a manual transmission or an automatic with a manual shift function, consider downshifting a gear or two ahead of steep hills or drawn-out stops. This offloads some of the work of slowing your car to its engine and transmission, both of which (unlike your brakes) have their own cooling systems.

Downshifting from sixth to fourth gear, for instance, can affect a degree of deceleration on its own, reducing workload and wear on your brakes in the process.

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14 responses to Driving Tips to Save Your Brakes

ladrbill commented:
June 11, 2019, 7:38 pm

Does the recommendation also apply to automatic transmissions?
sfboggsz commented:
June 11, 2019, 8:09 pm

I'm not sure I agree with the advice to use the transmission to downshift. If one has an automatic transmission and you follow the advice to downshift, you may ask yourself which one is more expensive to replace? The torque applied in the transmission from a steep downhill will wear out the transmission faster, brakes are much less expensive to replace.
ladrbill commented:
June 11, 2019, 8:46 pm

I agree. Can't be good for the back end, either.
wcr3d commented:
June 11, 2019, 9:06 pm

I don't think this is posted in the right sub forum.
Colin Campbell commented:
June 11, 2019, 11:38 pm

You don't have to replace an automatic transmission just because you downshifted! The load is on the engine. Letting the energy loss of compressing gas (in this case, air) slow your car has been a proven technique since the beginning of motor vehicles.

Haven't you seen the signs on the highway that say "Steep downhill - trucks use lower gears"? That prevents overloading the brakes for these super heavy vehicles. Even though your vehicle weighs only a fraction as much, the savings in brake wear can be substantial.

All of my BMW's have been manual transmission cars. Now that there are practically no manuals left in the BMW lineup, I'll be switching to an automatic in a few years. But I'll still try to extend the life of my brakes.
Autoputzer commented:
June 12, 2019, 12:07 am

My first BMW had its original brakes when I sold the car at 115k miles, and the front brakes still had about 40% of the pads left. Unless I was driving fast, my philosophy was that braking was either the result of bad luck or bad planning. If I was coming up to a stop, I'd either coast in neutral or in gear, depending of my speed and distance before I had to stop.

Modern BMW's incorporate "rev' matching" into the integrated engine and automatic transmission control logic. BMW's adjust the engine speed for the next gear (either high or lower). This makes for exceptionally smooth shifting, and it also minimizes the wear of the clutches inside an automatic transmission. Clutches are how an automatic transmission selects gears. Because of rev' matching, compression braking by downshifting an automatic transmission does not cause premature transmission clutch wear like it used to with unintegrated engine and transmission control logic.

Newer BMW's, starting with the 2014 model year, incorporate coasting in neutral in the EcoPro mode. Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and VW Group also use this logic. However, coasting in neutral means that the brakes have to do all the work of slowing down the car.

All of my BMW's have been manuals. But, Frau Putzer's G01 X3 30i is an automatic. My tactic when driving that car is to coast in EcoPro if my impending stop is a long distance away. Modern BMW's have high efficiency wheel bearings, and starting from 50 or 60 MPH they can coast over a half mile in neutral. It's annoying having to hunt for the mode buttons (EcoPro, Comfort, Sport), and I have to remember to manually turn off that damn Auto Stop/Start (ASS) when I go into ExoPro mode.

If I have to stop more quickly, I stay in Comfort Mode, select Sport/Manual mode on the transmission by moving the gear shift lever to the left. That often causes the transmission to downshift one gear. I then manually downshift as necessary with "-" paddle on the steering wheel. I only manually down shift to third gear (M3). As I near the stop, I shift back to automatic mode by moving the gear shift back to the right. If I don't, the transmission logic will shift me to first gear (M1) as I come to a stop. But then when I take off, I'm still in manual mode and I stay in first gear longer than I should.

My coasting and compression braking pisses off a lot of other drivers though, especially the ones with limited mental capacity who cannot drive and plan ahead 20 seconds at the same time. OFW.

Frau Putzer actually has the Putzer household's record for brake life. Her old '06 Honda Accord didn't need brakes until 145k (rear) and 147k miles (front). That's the first time I've ever seen rear brakes wear out as fast as front brakes. I had a '96 Nissan 200SX SE-R with the original brakes when I sold it at 127k miles. Frau Putzer's '97 Honda Civic, my '92 Nissan Sentra SE-R, and my '07 Chevy Cobalt SS all needed front brakes before we were done with them: 70k miles, 50k miles, and 70k miles, respectively.
Alduffs commented:
June 12, 2019, 7:28 am

My 2015 435i has Performace brake package. Is it true that their ceramic and can easily last 100,000 miles plus if used judiciously ?
Autoputzer commented:
June 12, 2019, 8:36 am

Originally Posted by Alduffs View Post
My 2015 435i has Performace brake package. Is it true that their ceramic and can easily last 100,000 miles plus if used judiciously ?
No (they're not ceramic), and yes (easily last 100k miles if used judiciously).

M3/4/5's offer ceramic brakes as options, they're about $9k, and they do last longer. But, the main reason for ceramic brakes is that they can take more heat before failure.
Living Dead commented:
June 12, 2019, 9:07 am

It was my understanding that tailgating was a required driving method for drivers of BMWs, Audis and Mustangs.
Autoputzer commented:
June 12, 2019, 9:23 am

Originally Posted by Living Dead View Post
It was my understanding that tailgating was a required driving method for drivers of BMWs, Audis and Mustangs.
BMW's sold in the UK have defective turn signals.
Living Dead commented:
June 12, 2019, 9:27 am

Originally Posted by Autoputzer View Post
BMW's sold in the UK have defective turn signals.
Doug Huffman commented:
June 12, 2019, 9:35 am

Originally Posted by Living Dead View Post
It was my understanding that tailgating was a required driving method for drivers of BMWs, Audis and Mustangs.
Tailgating, racing from idiot to azzhaoles.

Listen to them as they rant and rave as the zoom past. “GD idiots, get outta my way, I gotta catch up to that azzhaole ahead.” “Aww, Gee Zeus, another one!”
GeorgeBush234 commented:
June 22, 2019, 9:09 pm

The brake Rotor is a great feature support steel. Does that mean letting your foot off the speed pedal.
jfxogara commented:
July 2, 2019, 7:16 pm

I have a 2011 335d and I just did front and rear pads and rotors for the first time at 125K. Both sets of pads had plenty of life left. And I live in a city.