One of my customers was hearing a grinding noise on his 2-year-old Subaru Impreza. The vehicle only had 35,000 KM on it, and this was mostly highway driving, so he was not expecting that it would need new brakes. I took one of the rear wheels off and discovered that the brake pad was completely worn through and the car was only being stopped by the calipers on that wheel.
This was a base level Impreza so the original brakes are not high-end like the replacement brakes I install. Nevertheless, I was surprised how quickly they wore through. I asked my customer if he was in the habit of "riding the brakes" or driving with both feet. He assured me that he was not. Also, he parked the car in a garage when not in use so it was unlikely that rust contributed to the premature wear.
After more probing, I learned that my customer had recently moved from Quebec to Kitchener and he lived in the mountains near Mont Tremblant. Every day, the customer drove down a steep hill that was over a kilometer in length, with a stop sign at the bottom. Therefore, in fact, the customer was "riding the brakes" every day but doing so out of necessity, since this was the only way to keep the vehicle at the speed limit. When you accumulate all of this braking over two years it would be like driving with your brakes on for over 400 KM! The excess heat generated by depressing the brakes for a KM at a time would also contribute to the increase in wear.
The moral of the story is that you really can't just go by the age or mileage of your vehicle to determine when it needs brakes. It is a good idea to have the brakes inspected every couple of years to make sure they are safe and to assess when the pads should be replaced. Learn about our brake inspection service.