When to Replace Brake Pads: Warning Signs You Need New Brakes

Brake pads are a vital safety feature in our vehicles. When they wear out, they put us, our passengers, and other drivers and pedestrians at great risk. It’s crucial that we know when to replace brake pads for our own sake as well as that of others.

Every time you hit your brakes, your brake pads wear down a tiny bit. Over time, the pressure and wear add up, and these pads need to be replaced. 

The length of time brake pads last depends on a number of factors. The type of roads you drive, the climate where you live, the vehicle type, and the intensity and frequency of your braking all play a part. So it’s impossible to know based on numbers alone when a set of brake pads needs to be replaced.

Although an auto professional can visually gauge when brake pads need to be replaced, you likely don’t want to bring your car in for a checkup every few thousand miles. Fortunately, there are telltale signs that drivers can be on the lookout for to know when the time has come.

1. Try a Visual Inspection

You probably don’t have a lift in your garage, and you probably don’t want to remove your wheels and tires to inspect your brakes. However, you can check out your brake pads without doing any of this.

When you peek through your wheel’s spokes, you should be able to see the outside brake pad pressed against the metal rotor when you’re parked. A quarter of an inch of the pad should be visible. If it appears to be less than that, then you should get your brakes checked out by a professional.

2. Screeching and Squealing Sounds

The next way to know that you need new brake pads is through sound. When you brake, you may hear some high-pitched noises that you might describe as squeaks or screeches.

This is one very obvious indicator that your brake pads have disintegrated. The sound is pretty recognizable, but if you’re unsure, ask a friend. It’s likely that they’ve heard this sound before in their own car and can confirm for you.

When you do get your brake pads replaced, you might want to consider performance brake pads on the next go-round. Performance brake pads come in ceramic or semi-metallic forms, and as a result, last longer than regular brake pads. They cost a bit more, but it’ll be a lot longer before you hear these sounds again.

3. Grinding Sounds

Another sound you might hear, after the squeaking and squealing have subsided, is grinding. This is a sign that your brake pads have worn down completely, and you’re doing deeper damage to your rotors by letting it continue. See a mechanic right away before you end up having to have them replaced.

4. Pulling Left or Right

If your car pulls to one side when you brake, but your tires and alignment are fine, then your brake pads may be wearing unevenly. In cases like these, you may need a brake adjustment in addition to brake pad replacement.

Know When to Replace Brake Pads

Replacing your brake pads when they need changing is one of the responsibilities of car ownership. It’s your duty to keep them functioning to keep everyone safe.

Be on the lookout for these warning signs and if you’re unsure, take your car to a mechanic for a checkup. You must know when to replace brake pads, as it’s always better to be safe than to be sorry. 

If you want to know more about cars, trucks and their care, then check out our Automotive section for more posts.

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