When to Replace Brake Pads? (5-Sign Guide)

The brake pads are one of the most important parts of your car’s braking system.

They are the physical mechanism that grabs ahold of the wheel’s rotors and brings them to a stop.

Most late-model cars will use a braking system that depends on high-quality pads to keep the braking efficient and effective.

However, brake pads are designed to wear out through the very nature of how they work. Because of this, you will need to know when to replace brake pads.

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • What brake pads are and how they work
  • Why you should regularly monitor the wear on your car’s brake pads
  • When to replace brake pads
  • And much more!

What Are Brake Pads?

Brake pads are the main component of your car’s disc braking system. They use a friction area to squeeze a rotor that is connected to the wheel of the car when you press down on the pedal.

Most late-model cars will use either a combination of drum and disc brakes, or all disc brakes. Disc brakes are the system that require the use of brake pads, so it is very likely that your car uses them and they will need to be replaced eventually.

What are the Benefits of High-Quality Brake Pads?

Brake pads are the connection point between your foot and the wheels of your car. By using high quality brake pads, you are getting the best possible connection between yourself and the vehicle.

When brake pads are not of a high quality, this can lead to problems with the drivability of your car. It can lead to a long stopping distance or the need to press the brake pedal harder than you should have to.

When this happens, it can be difficult to judge how long it will take for you to stop the vehicle. This can be an issue should you ever get in a situation where you need to slam on the brakes or come to a quick stop.

By making sure you are using high-quality brake pads and that they are in good working order, you can be certain that you will be in complete control of your car at all times . This is one of the best ways to drive safely and confidently in any type of situation.

Read More >> Top 5 Best Brake Pads for a Honda Accord

When Should You Check Your Car’s Brake Pads?

We will be covering some symptoms of worn down brake pads later on in this article. However, there are also a few rules of thumb that will be helpful in determining when the time is coming to check your current pads and see if they need replacing.

Most brake pads are going to be effective for anywhere between 30,000 and 50,000 miles. This means it is not something that you will necessarily have to be thinking about and checking all the time.

However, this number can vary depending on a few factors. These include things like how much you ride the brake when you drive and what kind of driving conditions you usually subject your car to.

For example, if you are regularly driving in heavy traffic, you may need to replace your brake pads much sooner than other drivers.

Why Should You Replace Your Car’s Brake Pads?

You should regularly check your car’s brake pads and replace them when necessary because they are not a permanent component of the braking system.

Brake pads are a temporary part that is meant to be used up. Much like tires or fluids, they should be replaced as a regular part of your vehicle’s maintenance.

Just like oil changes, replacing brake pads is a necessary part of car ownership, and staying on top of it could be a great way to keep your car safe and drivable.

Brake pads use expendable friction areas that are made of organic, metallic or ceramic materials. These materials will eventually start to wear down with use and will become less effective at stopping the car.

By regularly replacing your car’s brake pads, you can be sure that you will have a sufficient friction area with which to grab onto the rotor and slow the car down. As they age, these friction areas can become less effective, and therefore, less effective at doing their job.

Read More >> Top 5 Best Brake Pads for F250 Super Duty

How Do Brake Pads Work?

Brake pads are the central component of your car’s disc brake system. They work by putting a barrier of friction between the car’s spinning wheels and the brake pedal itself.  

Your car’s brake pads are attached to each side of the wheels’ rotor, which is a metal disc that is attached to the inner side of the wheels themselves.

When you press on the brake pedal, the pads squeeze together and create friction on the rotor, which in turn stops the wheel from spinning.

The kinetic energy of the spinning rotor is turned into heat and expelled through the slotting of the pads and the surface area of the rotor. This is all done in a split second through great pressure that is exerted by your car’s braking system.

Check out this video if you want some more in-depth information on how disc brakes and brake pads work!

What Do You Need To Know About Replacing Brake Pads?

While it is possible to replace brake pads yourself, it is not something that should be taken lightly. This is especially true if you don’t usually do your car’s maintenance on your own.

The brakes are perhaps the most important component of your vehicle. They determine how safe it is to drive and how in control you will feel when driving. It is your responsibility to make sure your brakes are in good working order to protect yourself as well as everyone else on the road.

What Are the Different Ways to Replace Brake Pads?

There are two ways to replace your car’s brake pads effectively and safely:

You can Replace them Yourself

Replacing brake pads can be done by putting the car up on jacks, removing the wheels and the old pads and following the installation instructions that come with the new pads. It is a relatively simple process that can be done with a little bit of knowledge and some simple tools.

Take your Car to a Brake Specialist

If you are not confident in your mechanical abilities or do not have the space to replace brake pads yourself, you can always take your car in to the mechanic. There are a great many national chains of brake specialists that will be happy to perform this task safely and effectively and get you back out on the road.

What Supplies Do You Need To Replace Brake Pads?

Should you decide to replace your car’s brake pads yourself, there are just a few things you will need:

  • A car jack and jack stands
  • A tire iron
  • A C-clamp
  • An adjustable wrench
  • New brake pads with instructions on their proper installation

Read More >> How To Release Brake Caliper Pressure?

When to Replace Brake Pads? (5 Signs)

Below are 5 signs to look for when you know it’s time to replace your brake pads:

Sign 1: Grinding Sound

Most brake pads feature a small metal tab that protrudes from the backing plate over the friction area of the pad.

This metal tab is pointed toward the rotor of the car and is exactly the length of where the pads will be worn down to the point of needing to be replaced

When the pads start to wear down, this metal tab will start to scrape against the rotor when you engage the brake pedal.

This is a surefire sign that your car’s brake pads need to be replaced as soon as possible.

Signs 2: Squeaking or Squealing

Depending on the type of material your brake pads are made of, they will generally be completely silent when you depress the pedal.

However, when brake pads begin to wear down, the first sign is usually that they will begin to squeak or squeal when the brakes are applied.

This is due to the friction areas becoming smoother and creating grooves where they meet the rotors.

By listening for any sounds when you press the brakes, you can get a good idea of where your brake pads are at in their lifespan.

Read More >> The Right Brake Pads for a Chevy Silverado

Step 3: Vibrations

Your brakes should never be vibrating when they are applied. They should always be smooth and effective.

If your car starts vibrating when you press down on the brake pedal, this is a sign that you should replace your brake pads immediately.

When your brakes make the car vibrate, this means that the pads have begun to wear unevenly and are warped in some way. This is generally a sign that the brakes are not as effective as they should be and that the pads need to be replaced.

Should you fail to replace the pads when they start vibrating, this could also cause the rotors to warp, which will result in the need for them to be replaced. This is much more expensive than new pads, so it’s best to stay on top of your braking system’s needs.

Sign 4: Thinning of the Friction Area

One way you can check your brake pads effectiveness is by simply taking a look at them now and then.

The friction area of the pads can be seen by looking under the car and checking the back of the wheel assembly. You do not even have to jack up the car to look for them.

The friction area of the pads will be the section that is hovering above the silver rotor. Check to make sure that the friction area is at least 1/4″ thick.

Should the friction area be any smaller than that, it is time for them to be replaced. They will not be effective for very long and you could find yourself with a bigger problem like a warped rotor.

Sign 5: Longer Stopping Distance

One of the best ways to know when to replace brake pads is to get a feel for the stopping distance.

You should have a good idea of how long it usually takes to bring your car to a complete stop from a reasonable speed.

If you are starting to notice that it takes longer to come to a stop, this could be a sign that you should replace the brake pads as soon as possible.

Generally, by the time your brakes start losing their efficiency, the pads are well beyond being of use and you should not be driving until they are replaced.

Our Final Thoughts on When to Replace Brake Pads

Knowing when to replace brake pads is a crucial skill for any car owner. It will help you stay as safe as possible out on the road and make sure your vehicle is in top working order.

By recognizing all the signs of when to replace brake pads, you can also avoid costly repairs that can come from using worn pads for too long.

By staying on top of your car’s maintenance, you can keep yourself and others safe on the road. Not to mention, you can feel more confident knowing that your car can be brought to a stop any time you might need it to.

Michael O'Connor

Michael O'Connor

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