Worn Brake Pads Symptoms – What You Need To Know

Male mechanic holding flashlight and examining brake pads

Hey there, I’m Robby – your friendly neighborhood auto mechanic with over 20 years of experience repairing all types of vehicles. Today, I want to have a straight talk with you about worn brake pads. This is something every car owner eventually deals with, but most folks don’t know the signs to watch out for. Well, I’m here to give you my insider tips, so you know exactly when to replace those brake pads for safe stopping power.

In this article, I’ll show you how to spot the symptoms of worn brake pads, explain why it’s so important to replace them promptly, and give step-by-step instructions for replacing brake pads yourself or getting professional service. My goal is to empower you with the knowledge you need to keep your brakes in top shape. Whether you’re a total newbie or a seasoned wrencher, you’ll learn something new here. So buckle up – this is going to be more useful than an emergency brake! Let’s hit the brakes on worn pads.

What Do Worn Brake Pads Look Like?

what does a worn brake pad look like

Disc brakes have brake pads made of friction material bonded to a steel backing plate. There are three common types of brake pad materials:

  • Organic pads use a blend of cellulose, glass, aramid and synthetics. They are quiet but wear faster.
  • Semi-metallic pads combine metals like copper and iron with graphite. They last longer but are noisier.
  • Ceramic pads use porcelain, clay and copper fibers for quiet braking and rotor life.

Regardless of material, pads wear down with use. Visually inspect pads by removing the wheel. New pads range from 8/32″ to 12/32″ thickness. At 3/32″ or less, it’s time to replace them. At 2/32″ or less, replace them immediately.

Signs Your Brake Pads Are Worn Out

Watch for these common symptoms of worn brake pads:

  • Squealing or scraping noises when braking indicates the “squeal tab” is touching the rotor as a warning.
  • Grinding noises and vibration can mean the pad’s metal backing plate is contacting the rotor.
  • Longer stopping distances occur as the friction material wears down.
  • Grooves become visible in the rotor face between wheel spokes when pads are too thin.
  • Brake pedal pulsation can happen when slowing from high speeds with worn pads.
  • Pulling to one side while braking signals uneven pad wear side-to-side.

The Dangers of Driving with Worn Brakes

driving with worn brake pads

You can technically drive with worn pads until they wear away entirely. But safety issues arise once less than 2/32″ of material remains. Replacing pads immediately when they reach 3/32″ thickness is recommended. Driving too long on worn pads can lead to:

  • Slow brake response as effective friction material disappears. Slamming the pedals may be needed to stop in time.
  • Damage to rotors, calipers and hydraulic components from overheating and stress as metal grinds on metal.
  • Brake failure that makes driving illegal and unsafe in most states once pads near 2/32″ thickness.
  • Rapid wear into the rotor surface requires rotor replacement too.

Replace pads yourself or have a professional mobile mechanic come to you, and do it promptly when worn.

How to Replace Your Brake Pads

With basic tools and mechanical know-how, you can replace brake pads at home. Here are the steps:

Supplies Needed:

  • Floor jack and wheel chocks
  • Lug nut wrench
  • Socket set
  • C-clamp or caliper tool
  • Brake lubricant
  • Brake cleaner
  • Gloves and eye protection
  1. Lift the vehicle and remove the wheel.
  2. Locate the caliper over the rotor and use C-clamp to compress the piston.
  3. Remove caliper bolts and detach caliper from mount. Hang it above using wire.
  4. Take out the old inner and outer brake pads. Note position of wear sensors if present.
  5. Use brake cleaner and wire brush to clean caliper mount and rotor surface.
  6. Insert new inner and outer brake pads according to wear sensor orientation.
  7. Lubricate caliper pins and reattach caliper to mount.
  8. Tighten caliper bolts to spec and reinstall wheel.
  9. Pump brakes to seat pads before driving.

Inspect pads regularly and watch for warning signs to avoid unsafe brake wear. Replacing pads promptly reduces risk and protects components.

When to Ask a Mechanic

Online mechanic consultation

Not everyone has the skills or tools to service brakes at home. In those cases, an online mechanic can provide remote advice to assess symptoms or guide you through a brake job.

Their experienced techs are available on-demand to diagnose issues and walk you through repairs for any vehicle make and model. Whether you want to DIY or need virtual mechanic support, use our real-time Q&A service to tap into mechanical know-how when dealing with worn brake pads.

Conclusion

Worn brake pads reduce stopping power and lead to grinding damage over time when left unchanged. Inspect pads visually for remaining thickness and watch for telltale signs like noises, vibration and poor brake response. Address any issues promptly by replacing pads yourself or seeking professional service. Maintaining your brake system keeps you safe on the road.

Worn Brake Pad Symptoms Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if my brake pads are worn out?

Signs your brake pads are worn include scraping, squealing or grinding noises when braking, increased stopping distance, vibration in the steering wheel when braking, and visible damage or thinning of the pads themselves. Severe wear will trigger the brake pad warning light on the dash.

What happens if brake pad wears out?

Driving with worn out brake pads can lead to damage of the rotors, brake fluid leaks, failure of the braking system, and increased risk of accidents. Worn pads should be replaced immediately to ensure braking effectiveness and prevent further issues.

How do I know if I need brake pads or rotors?

If you only hear scraping or squealing noises, the pads likely just need replacement. Grinding noises and vibrations indicate the rotors are worn too and should also be replaced. A visual inspection will confirm - pads should have 4-6mm of friction material, rotors should not show grooves.

How long do brake pads normally last?

With proper driving habits, brake pads typically last 30,000 to 70,000 miles on most vehicles. Factors like driving style, mileage, vehicle weight and climate affect pad life. Aggressive braking wears them faster. Keeping up with scheduled brake inspections helps maximize lifespan.

How long can I drive on worn brake pads?

It's not recommended to drive more than a few hundred miles at most with significantly worn pads. The further they wear down past replacement specifications, the more risk of brake failure and accidents. Have worn pads replaced immediately to restore full braking power and safety margins.

How long do brake pads normally last?

With proper driving habits, brake pads typically last 30,000 to 70,000 miles on most vehicles. Factors like driving style, mileage, vehicle weight and climate affect pad life. Aggressive braking wears them faster. Keeping up with scheduled brake inspections helps maximize lifespan.

How long can I drive on worn brake pads?

It's not recommended to drive more than a few hundred miles at most with significantly worn pads. The further they wear down past replacement specifications, the more risk of brake failure and accidents. Have worn pads replaced immediately to restore full braking power and safety margins.

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Where Can I Find My VIN?

Your vehicle’s unique Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) can be found on the title document, the vehicle registration, and the insurance policy. It is a series letters and numbers like this as example: WAUGC0896JA235262. The VIN can also be located on the following locations on the vehicle itself:

how to find VIN on vehicle