Looking at the big picture, it’s not that long ago since the first Tesla car was taking the world by storm. But long enough for us to see how much it keeps its promises, and in the case of Elon Musk, the promises are usually very bold.
As for its braking system, now we have a decent understanding of how much truth there was in Mr. Musk’s claim that you won’t need to replace the Tesla brake pads ever. Spoiler alert, it’s quite close to the truth, but not exactly a guarantee.
- 1 The technology behind the forever claim: electric car brakes vs. usual brakes
- 2 How long do the brakes of Tesla last?
- 3 How often do checkups need to be done for Tesla brakes?
- 4 Tip to prolong Tesla brake pad life
- 5 FAQs
- 6 Conclusion
The technology behind the forever claim: electric car brakes vs. usual brakes
S0, why do brakes in an ordinary car have such a limited life expectancy? The answer is friction, and more specifically, the friction brakes on a conventional car need to create to stop the car.
Essentially, every time you brake a conventional car, you do it at the expense of brakes, sacrificing them bit by bit, in a way.
Energy can’t just disappear, as we learned at school, it needs to go somewhere. With the old hydraulic braking system, the friction created when a brake pad meets the disc converts into heat and is released into the air. The friction and heating inevitably lead to eventual replacement. But not with Tesla brake pads, where regenerative braking is implemented.
Tesla’s regenerative braking system
In the case of every Tesla model, the wheels are activated by the electric motor powered by the battery. But once you decide to slow down, the opposite happens: the kinetic energy generated by the wheels gets transformed into electric power and sent back to the battery, perfectly available for later use. That’s regenerative braking.
That happens instead of friction and release of the heat, and with regenerative braking, pads wear at a totally different rate. In the case of Tesla, the rate is the lowest currently existing in the industry. The brakes stay cool, and friction is not needed to release the energy – the brake rotors do the job.
On top of this, Tesla’s supreme cooling system and electronic stability control make everything run smoothly, with all the hard work distributed in a very efficient way. The parts that receive so little resistance stay in good condition with as little mechanical wear as possible.
In theory, a system like this can work indefinitely without deterioration. But just like any theory, it gets affected by external factors, such as exploitation conditions, owner’s driving style, and conscientiousness toward safety checkups, to name a few. So, how long do Tesla brakes last in practice?
How long do the brakes of Tesla last?
Depending on the Tesla model we look into, the expected lifespan of Tesla brakes varies from 60,000 miles for Model Y to 150,000 miles for high mileage S and X. With the average yearly car mileage in the US being 14,263 miles, this translates into years of driving, which also depends on the individual driving habits and overall car maintenance.
Usually, a Tesla is expected to work smoothly for 7-8 years, but often it’s over a decade before the brake pads give up. Though, faster breaking points are also not unheard of. Sometimes it’s only the front pads or one of the brake calipers, while the rear pads stay fine. But a combo of front and rear pads needing service all at once can also be the case.
Tesla Model S
The expected life of the original brakes in the Tesla Model S is between 100,000 miles and 150,000 miles, and multiple reviews demonstrate that the bottom threshold is accurate, while the top one is surpassed in about 70% of the cases. Great results overall, though not as eternal as we could imagine.
Tesla Model X
While guaranteeing the same 100,000-150,000 miles as the Model S, the Tesla Model X is an SUV that is well-adapted to its larger size and capacity, and it’s proved by action that the brakes of the Tesla Model X can last up to 200,000 miles of mileage. But it doesn’t mean that all Model X cars can do just as great – and this is normal.
Tesla Model 3/Y
The Tesla Model 3 is a more affordable electric car compared to the Tesla Model S/X, so its characteristics are more on the modest side, with brakes being expected to last anywhere from 60,000 miles to 100,000 miles. It’s a significantly shorter period before you’ll need full maintenance compared to the more expensive Tesla Model S and Model X, but still equals years of use.
How do Tesla brakes compare with other ICE cars’ brakes
Tesla brakes might not be a forever thing in each and every case, but their prolonged endurance (which seems to be a side effect of Tesla being an electric car), still kills it every time you think about it.
Let’s compare the high-mileage Tesla car brake lifespan with some competitors.
Tesla Model S/X vs. Mercedes-Benz EQS. Being an ICE car, the Mercedes-Benz EQS uses the brake assist system, one that relies on friction. That means in the best-case scenario, its brakes last for about 65,000 miles. Not even close to Tesla, but good for an ICE car.
Tesla Model S/X vs. Porsche Taycan. As well, one of the ICE vehicles, the Porsche Taycan, ups the game with its high-performance brakes that use ceramic materials. This way, it reaches a life expectancy of 70.000 miles – not bad at all, but kind of underwhelming next to even the weakest Tesla Model Y, let alone S and X.
Tesla Model S/X vs. Audi E-tron. The closest Tesla competitor in terms of lasting brakes, a luxury SUV Audi E-tron is an electro car as well, meaning it uses regenerative braking, too. And quite effectively, since its braking system lasts for 100,000 miles and more. Almost as long as Tesla, but still second best.
How often do checkups need to be done for Tesla brakes?
Tesla recommends that the maintenance of the brakes needs to be done either every year or if your driving habits are intensive every 12,500 miles. Maintenance for healthy brakes includes cleaning the rotors from dust, lubricating calipers, and adding or changing brake fluid if needed – recommended every two years but can be necessary more often.
Signs you need an emergency brake service
For now, Tesla owners are bound to deal with the fact that not everything is yet known about how the car will behave closer to its old age. With every safety measure, Tesla recommends its users that they should take care of their cars according to their annual care plan.
But sometimes things just go wrong. Some things are easy to spot as brake safety red flags, which are listed below. And in case of any oddity, it’s better to see what can be wrong fast.
These symptoms are the sign you need to drive your Tesla car to the service and hear what they have to say. If you notice any of these problems for the first time, it might be a minor (yet urgent) maintenance problem, like a low brake fluid level. Or, especially if it happens for a while, it might indicate a pending brake failure.
Burning odor. When you drive a Tesla for the first time, the polymerization reaction in your brakes that causes the burning rubber smell is normal (it’s called “curing” and makes rubber stronger). But the burning smell from the brakes that appeared at some further point can be a sign of numerous issues like low brake fluid, as well as more serious ones.
Screeching or squealing noise during braking. This can be a sign of a problem if it happens regularly and is not caused by external factors like weather. Usually, it’s not very urgent itself but needs to be attended to in time, or whatever causes might lead to permanent damage.
Metal-grinding sound. This is more dangerous and is likely to be a sign that the brake pads have to be replaced ASAP. Ignoring this symptom can be straight-out fatal, as brakes can fail right while you drive.
Vibrating or hard-to-push brake pedal. If the brake pedal has worn out and wobbles, it needs to be replaced, preferably as soon as possible.
And if it’s hard to push the pedal, it’s probably a brake fluid issue that interferes.
Brake pads look less than a ¼ inch thick. The silent wearing of the brake pads is easier to spot while at the master’s, and you will likely be offered then and there to replace them.
The indicator lights turn on. If you own a Tesla model that is equipped with the lighting indicator of brake wearing, there’s no need to guess when it’s the replacement time.
Tip to prolong Tesla brake pad life
Overall, Tesla cars are not extremely high maintenance, but the amount of care that Tesla recommends should not be skipped. The brakes of a car must be a part of every scheduled checkup, and the red flags that suggest problems should never be overlooked.
On top of that, there are a few more things to keep in mind, which can help your brakes last longer – up to 200,000 miles or so.
Avoid reckless driving. On top of being dangerous, risky driving habits tend to put unnecessary pressure on the brakes, which will at some point add up to the point of a system failure. Also, sudden slowdowns are not the healthiest for the brakes.
Keep the brake fluid in check. Normally, the brake fluid needs to be checked once in two years. While this is not a hard thing to do, forgetting about it can easily turn your brakes into a mess that is beyond repair. The problems are either a low level of brake fluid, leading to poor brake work, or the metal and dirt accumulating over time, with the risk of full brake failure.
Be attentive to your tires. One of the worst enemies of the healthy braking system is low tire pressure.
Under-inflated tires can cause more damage to the brakes than expected, as tire pressure directly affects how smoothly everything works.
Keep the rotors clean. The work of rotors can easily be obstructed by dust, which put direct additional pressure on the braking pads, and Tesla pads are not supposed to be under heavy pressure.
How often do you have to replace Tesla brakes?
Tesla brakes are expected to work for 60.000-100.000 miles for Tesla Model 3/Y, and 100,000-150,000 miles for Tesla Model S/Model X. It’s 5 years and 7-8 years of driving accordingly. However, deviation in both directions can happen, with many factors affecting when exactly you’ll need brake service and which parts of the braking system will need a replacement.
Do brakes wear out on a Tesla?
Yes, brakes do wear out on Tesla cars, though brake pad wear of Tesla brakes has a very different nature and rate compared to conventional hydraulic cars. Tesla’s regenerative braking system ensures slow wearing that puts the replacement date anywhere between 5 and 10 years away from the purchase. It may or may not be the entire time you use the car.
Why do Tesla brake pads last so long?
Tesla brake pads last as long as they do due to regenerative braking, a technology that practically eliminates the main reasons why brake pads wear out and fail – friction and heating required for traditional brakes to stop the car. Instead, brakes return the power generated back to the source, and brake pads avoid the pressure.
This way, the brakes last for years. More so, Tesla’s brake life span is currently the longest out there and doesn’t seem to have equals even among electric vehicles.
So, Musk’s claim that Tesla’s brakes literally never need to be replaced is slightly hyperbolic, since Tesla owners have a different experience with their cars regarding it. But can it be used to bash Tesla’s quality? Absolutely not! It still has the longest life expectancy on the market, and those car brakes last for years before the need to replace them becomes evident.
Also Read: Tesla Owner Reports