How to Check Brake Pads | Ultimate Guide

brake pads

Ever felt that dreaded squeal when you press the brake pedal?

It’s a warning sound of a damaged brake pad that can make you nervous while driving. Worn brake pads are unsafe and can stop your car from working correctly. You cannot always think about your brake pads, but you use them every time you need to stop your car.

That’s why knowing how to check brake pads is a must-have skill for any driver, ensuring the vehicle’s safety and performance.

In this informative blog post by All Aspect Motors, we’ll help you know how to easily check your brake pads and identify warning signs of wear and tear. Additionally, we’ll walk you through the simple step-by-step process to keep your brake pads in top shape, ensuring your car stops smoothly and safely every time.

Let’s learn how to avoid costly repairs and stay safe on the road.

What Are Brake Pads?

Brake pads are the central part of your car’s braking system. They are the replaceable surfaces that the callipers press against the rotors. They generate the necessary friction to slow down your car. However, brake pads wear out over time, so it’s important to check and replace them regularly to keep your brakes functioning well and protect other brake parts from damage.

Brake pads are made from various materials like

  • Metallic
  • Ceramic
  • semi-metallic compounds

Each type has different levels of heat and friction resistance, which affects their performance and lifespan. Manufacturers include wear indicators in brake pads to let drivers know when it’s time for a brake pad replacement.

How Do Brake Pads Work?

Most cars have a braking setup on the front wheels that relies on rotors, which are metallic discs behind each wheel. Each rotor has a clamp-like device called a calliper above it.

When you press the brake pedal, the callipers squeeze the rotors from both sides, creating friction that slows the wheels until they stop completely. Brake pads, found in disc brakes, are the parts that make contact with the rotors to create this friction.

Understanding how brake pads work and choosing the right material for your needs is essential. Regularly checking your brake pads and paying attention to wear indicators will help ensure peak brake functionality.

Explore: Brake Failure Safety Guide: Stop Your Car Safely When Brakes Fail

How Often Should You Check Your Brake Pads?

You should check your brake pads after 6 months or every 15,000 miles of driving.

Brake pads will last anywhere from 5,000km up to 50,000km. However, this varies depending on several factors like the surfaces you drive on, your driving habits, and the weight of your vehicle.

Now that you know the basics of brake pads, let’s jump onto the brake pads detailed checking and servicing.

Mainly there are three ways of checking and servicing brake pads:

  • Checking brake pads without removing the wheel
  • Checking and servicing brake pads by removing the wheel
  • Identifying warning signs of worn brake pads

Let’s get into the details:

3 Easy Ways to Check the Brake Pads

1. Inspecting Brake Pads Without Removing the Wheel

You can still check your brake pads on many vehicles without removing the wheel. To assess the brake pad’s condition, you can:

  • look for the wheel holes
  • focus on its pad’s thickness
  • notice the metal wear indicator tab

Handy tip: Use a flashlight for a clearer view of the pad. If it appears thin – measuring less than 4 millimetres, or if they have only about 20% pad life left, it’s a sign that to replace the brake pad.

Moreover, if we talk about that metal wear indicator tab along the pad’s side, notice if this tab nearly touching the rotor or if it’s broken off. It’s a clear indication that new brake pads are needed.

Explore: Should You Replace All 4 Brake Pads or Just 2?

2. Checking Brake Pads by Removing the Wheel

Carrying out a brake inspection is important for your safety on the road. While the steps outlined below provide guidance, it’s highly recommended that inspections and maintenance of brake pads should be conducted by a certified professional mechanic. Here’s a step-by-step brake pad checking guide to help you understand brake components and possible issues:

Brake Pad Inspection in 10 Easy Steps

  • Park on a Flat Surface

First, park your vehicle on a flat and even surface. Engage the parking brake and make sure the car is securely in the park for automatic transmission or in gear for manual transmission before you start.

  • Gather Necessary Tools

Tools you’ll need for checking and servicing brake pads are:

  • Jack and Jack stands
  • Lug wrench
  • C-clamp
  • Brake cleaner
  • New brake pads
  • Safety gloves and glasses

 

  • Lift the Vehicle

Use a jack to lift your vehicle about 6 inches off the ground.

  • Remove the Wheel

Now, loosen the nuts and remove the wheel to access the brake components you are going to check.

  • Inspect All Brake Components

Understanding these components is essential for knowing how your brake system operates and how to maintain it effectively. Take a close look at these key parts:

i. Brake pads:

These vital components are located within the wheel assembly and are responsible for creating friction against the rotors to slow down the vehicle.

As mentioned above, check the brake pads visually by looking through the wheel spokes or calliper. If the thickness is less than 4mm, or if you notice wear or unevenness, it’s time to replace them.

For drum brakes, ensure the shoes have sufficient lining thickness.

ii. Brake Calipers or Wheel Cylinder:

These parts house the brake pads and use hydraulic pressure to control their movement against the rotors.

Inspect them for leaks, corrosion, or signs of breakdown. Check that the pistons in the callipers move freely and aren’t sticking.

iii. Brake Drums or Rotors:

These disc-shaped components are where the brake pads clamp down to slow the wheel’s rotation and stop the vehicle.

Look for deep grooves, scoring, or uneven wear on the rotors’ surface. Rotors with such issues can need resurfacing or replacement. Similarly, inspect drums for wear, scoring, or signs of overheating, and replace or resurface them as needed.

  • Examine the Brake Fluid Level

Find the brake fluid reservoir and check the fluid level. Make sure it’s between the ‘MIN’ and ‘MAX’ markings on the reservoir. If it’s below the minimum level, it could indicate a leak or that the brake pads are wearing down.

  • Inspect Brake Lines and Hose

Look for leaks, cracks, or damage in the brake lines and hoses. They should be firm, not spongy or fragile when squeezed. Any signs of damage need immediate attention and replacement.

  • Remove the Brake Pads

Unscrew the calliper bolts using a wrench. Next, take out the old brake pads from the calliper bracket.

  • Install New Brake Pads

Spray brake cleaner on the calliper and bracket to remove dust and debris. Now, place the new brake pads in the calliper bracket. Use a C-clamp to push the calliper back into its place, ensuring a proper fit for the new pads.

  • Reassemble the Brake Components & Test

Carefully reunite the wheel and tighten the nuts. Now, lower the vehicle off the jack stands and remove the jack. Pump the brake pedal a few times to make pressure before driving.

Finally, test the brakes at low speed in a safe, open area to make sure they’re functioning properly.

3. Common Signs Your Brakes Need Checking and Servicing

i. Squeaking or Squealing Noises

One of the most common signs of worn brake pads is hearing high-pitched noises when you brake.

Many brake pads have built-in wear indicators designed to make a screeching sound when the pads are too thin. These metal tabs scrape against the rotor, creating a distinctive squealing noise to warn you that your brake pads need replacing.

ii. Grinding or Clicking Sounds

Hearing grinding noises also indicates severe damage to your brake pads. It happens when the metal parts start rubbing against each other, which can damage the rotors.

In some cars, brake pads are held in place with clips, bolts, or pins to prevent movement. If they become loose, a clicking sound car occurs when you press or release the brake pedal.

iii. Brake Pedal Vibrations or Pulsations

Feeling vibrations in the brake pedal can indicate damaged rotors or uneven wear on the brake pads.

Over time, brake pads can lose their ability to dissolve heat which causes the rotors to warp. This makes high spots on the rotors, and when you brake, the pads clamp onto these bumpy surfaces. This sends vibrations through the brake pedal and your car.

iv. Warning Light

Most modern vehicles have a brake warning light on the dashboard. If this light comes on, it’s a clear sign that you need to check your brake system immediately.

v. When Care Take More Time to Stop

If your car takes more time to stop than usual, it’s often due to low brake pads. As brake pads wear down and become thinner, your car has to work harder to stop, decreasing braking force.

This also means it takes longer for the hydraulic fluid to press the pads against the rotors, increasing the stopping distance.

If you notice any of these signs, replace the brake pads immediately with a brake technician or car mechanic.

Is It Time to Check Your Brake Pads?

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