Worn Brake Pads – What To Look For

As I am sure you are aware, the brake pads are critical to the operation of your car. When you hit the brakes, the braking system will stop your car.

The brake pads are located between the brake calipers and the brake rotor. When these components come in contact with the brake discs’ metallic surface, friction is created causing your car to stop.

Also, the brake pads are always rubbing against the brake discs which can cause them to wear out, making it very difficult to stop the vehicle. Here are a few signs you should always look for to ensure your brakes are working properly:

Probably the most familiar sound is the grinding and squealing coming from the brakes. Newer models of cars have an indicator that appears on the dashboard when the brake pads are wearing out. Another sign, the brakes pedal will seem spongy when you press it.

There are several very important signs involving brakes that must be addressed. Here is a list of symptoms you should be aware of if your brake pads are wearing down and should be replaced:

Grinding & Squealing Sounds

Grinding Brakes

If you hear grinding or squealing sounds coming from the brakes when you hit the brake pedal, that means your brake pads are seriously worn and should be replaced immediately. This sound is caused by the metal plate on the brake pad pressing against the metal brake rotor.

This is a sound that is not easily overlooked. If you hear this grinding or squealing, it’s time to have your brake pads checked and replaced before something serious happens such as losing your brakes!

The Wear Indicator

Newer cars have a brake wear indicator that comes on when only 2 to 3 mm or 0.04 to 0.1 inches of material is left of the brake pad material. It’s time to check the brake pads!

In some cases, the wear indicator wires and connectors will cause the indicator to sound an alarm on the dashboard but it is still worth checking out.

Keep in mind, most cars only have a wear indicator on the front brakes while a few have indicators on the rear axles as well.

A Spongy Brake Pedal

If you feel the brake pedal seems spongy when you hit the pedal, it might be caused by a bad brake pad. This can also happen if parts come loose from the brake pad, causing the brake pedal plate to bend when you hit the pedal.

Car Skidding

If you want to see if a brake pad is damaged by parts coming loose, you will have to remove the brake pedal to inspect it. Just a quick examination from the outside will not be enough to draw a conclusion.

A Longer Braking Distance

If the brake pads are worn, it will take a longer distance for the car to stop. This is because the metal against metal is not creating the right amount of friction to stop your car.

In some cases, parts of the brake pad have come loose which will cause less friction against the brake rotor.

Noticeable Scratches On The Brake Rotor’s Surface

If you notice scratches and the brake rotor’s surface is strange, it could be caused by a worn brake pad that is making contact with the metal plate.

You will be able to tell the difference if you compare it to the other brake rotors of the car.

How The Brake Pads Functions

The brake pads are made of hard rubber and steel. They are designed to withstand a great deal of heat, dust, and other particles.

The brake pads are installed between the brake caliper and the brake rotor. When you press down on the brake pedal, the brake pads are pushed against the brake rotor creating friction. The friction will slow your car to slow down and bring it to a complete stop.

Depending on the manufacturer, there are different materials in the brake pads. Some of these materials are better than others when it comes to the wear and braking distance.

How To Check The Brake Pads

Check Brake Pads

Checking your brake pads is pretty simple. You will need a flashlight pointing inside the rim against the brake rotor. Check the brake pad material to ensure there’s at least 0.15 to 0.2 inches or 4-5 mm left on the pad. If not, it’s time to contact your mechanic for a replacement.

Sometimes it can be hard to inspect the brake pad from the outside due to the rims. You might have to remove the wheel to thoroughly -inspect it.

In many cases, it’s a lot more common for the inner brake pad to wear out before the outer pads. I would strongly recommend removing the rim for a more thorough inspection or try using a small mirror.

Replacing Brake Pads

In general, the front brake pads are usually more expensive than the rear pads. If you will be replacing the brake rotors at the same time, you will need to know what you might have to replace the brake rotors.

If you happen to have an electric parking brake, you will need diagnostic tools to replace the rear brake pads.

Brake pad replacement is usually a simple task so if you have some knowledge of mechanical repairs, you can do it yourself as long as you do not have an electronic parking brake. If you do, you will need a diagnostic tool to push back the pistons.

If you are not mechanically inclined, get your car to a mechanic as soon as possible.

Your brake rotors and pads are critical for stopping your car. Not taking care of a faulty situation like this could lead to a very serious accident. You do not want to put off taking care of your brakes!


Understanding how the brake pads work in your car gives you an advantage and the possibility of potentially fixing any problem in a timely manner. If you are not mechanically minded or inclined, contact your technician to get any potential brake pad problems investigated, repaired or replaced in order to avoid the issue escalating.

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