I've had my bicycle for about three and a half years. I use it just about every day, for a total of 30 kilometers of commute a day. The problem is that my disc brakes have started making weird noises when braking. For the front one (less used), it's a shrieking sound, and for the rear one it sounds kind of like a gremlin or someone clearing their throat.

I suspect this has to do with disc brake wear, so that leads me to the question; after what distance traveled or time used should you replace a disc brake?

  • 1
    I'd try cleaning the rotors and pads before replacing.
    – ebrohman
    Jun 23, 2016 at 17:40
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    Have you checked the pads? You may need to replace the whole unit after you have ridden them with destroyed pads and ruined the pistons. Or if you haven't ruined the pistons yet, you may get away with just replacing the brake pads. Jun 23, 2016 at 18:29
  • The rotor and pistons should last a long time - rotor die through bending from impact, wearing too thin, and contamination. Pistons should not need replacing in the life of the bike, but the seals may need doing. Brake pads, they're a consumable item which is good cos they're the cheapest part.
    – Criggie
    Jun 23, 2016 at 23:14
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    @Criggie Agreed, however, I have seen at least one set of brakes ignorantly ridden to destruction (in a short time) by riding them far past when the pads should be replaced. Jun 24, 2016 at 0:24

1 Answer 1


There is no way you can accurately assign a distance to disk brake replacement. Someone commuting in a stop and go method in a wet climate like the pacific northwest will get much less life out of their setups than someone living in a drier/cleaner climate and a more continuous commute.

Anyone can determine the relative life left in their setup by looking at their brake pads. The pads are the wear point for a set of disc brakes and DO need to be replaced with normal use. Almost all other aspects of the system are likely to last near indefinitely with normal use (except perhaps the cables on a cable actuated system).

For your part, you would do well to check you brake pads IMMEDIATELY. If you wear all the way through the pads and do not replace them you have a high chance of ruining your piston as well as possibly your rotor. Ruining the piston will essentially result in needing to replace the entire caliper and/or unit. Hopefully the horrible noises you are hearing are just the pad backing tearing against your rotor and you haven't damaged your pistons yet. You may get away with just new pads and/or rotors.

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