They take the brunt of the frictional force when the brakes are applied, and so they require regular maintenance.
Fortunately, brake pads are designed to show clear signals when they need to be replaced. Here are 5 of those signals.
Unusual Sounds When Braking
If you can hear your car braking, chances are it needs your attention. Worn out brake pads will often make a noise like metal grinding when your car is in motion, and the sound will get louder as the brakes are pumped.
Consider any unusual noise from your braking system a warning signal that the pads should be checked.
Brake Pads Appear Thin
You can see your brake pads by looking through the spaces between your wheel spokes. Check for their thickness. Generally, brake pads shouldn’t be thinner than ¼ inch.
Some brake pads are made with a slot in the centre that functions as a wear indicator – it’s a small piece of metal that contacts the brake rotor when the pad has been worn to a certain level. When the wear indicator grinds against the rotor, it will notify you with a squealing noise.
Accumulation of Dust
Check your wheel for the amount of brake dust that has accumulated. A by-product of brakes under normal operation, brake dust is a mixture of metallic particles that wear off the surface of the pad.
As the pads wear out, the amount of dust they give off will decrease. Noticing cleaner-looking wheels is often a sign brake pads need replacement.
Vibrating Steering Wheel
A vibrating steering wheel can happen for a number of reasons. It could mean bent rims, that your tires need to be rotated, or there’s a problem with your braking system. If the steering wheel vibrates only when brakes are applied, it’s likely the latter. Start by inspecting the brake pads.
Spongy Brake Pedal
If your brake pedal feels spongy, slow to respond, or if you find yourself having to press down further than usual on the pedal, it could be a sign of brake pad wear.
Pay attention to the alignment of your car as you’re in motion – if it tends to pull to one side, this could also be a sign.
Don’t wait for one of these signs to become evident. Check your brake pads every 12,000 miles or 12 months, or refer to your car’s owner manual to find out what’s right for your car. Proper brake pad maintenance means fewer costly repairs and certainty that you can always stop safely.