New brake pads every 10k miles...what gives?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Nov 01, 1996

Dear Tom and Ray:

My 1995 Nissan Sentra required replacement of the front brake pads at
10,900 miles and again at 21,000. This seems to indicate some sort of
mechanical problem, since this car is driven solely by my daughter, and I
know she does not ride the brake pedal while driving. Do you consider this
normal wear and tear, or is there a possibility that there may be a problem
with the car's workmanship or design?

The Nissan shop, in both instances, diagnoses normal wear and tear, and I
do not doubt their integrity. But I can't seem to figure this out. -- James

RAY: Is your daughter's hair wet when she kisses you goodbye in the
morning, James? Because that would explain everything.

TOM: We'll get back to that in a minute. The short answer is that this
certainly COULD be normal, James. The life of brake pads is based on number
of stops you make, not number of miles you drive. So if your daughter is
driving in stop-and-go traffic -- making many stops or slow-downs per mile
-- she could easily wear out a set of front pads in 10,000 miles.

RAY: Whereas if she were doing exclusively highway driving, she might be
using the brakes once every 20 miles -- at the end of the exit ramp. And in
that case, her front pads could last 80,000 miles.

TOM: We also have to factor in mitigating circumstances, James, which is
where the wet hair comes in. If she's leaving the house with wet hair, that
means she's late. She gets up late, she rushes to get ready for work or
school, and then she runs out the door.

RAY: And because she's late, she's probably riding up people's bumpers,
driving aggressively, putting on her makeup in the rear-view mirror, and
then stepping on the brakes frequently to avoid hitting pedestrians on the
sidewalk. In which case, she's lucky to get 10,000 miles out of a set of

TOM: Here's what you do, James. Get her to set her alarm clock half an hour
earlier. That should get you another 3,000-5,000 miles on each set of pads.

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