A crucial component of your vehicle is its brake system. That requires regular attention and maintenance. Although it might not be on the forefront of your mind, ensuring your car brake pads are in optimal condition is vital for your safety. This article will explore the warning signs that indicate when you need to replace your brake pads.
Visual Brake Inspection
To assess the wear on your disc brakes, you can use two methods: visual inspection and auditory cues. Start by visually examining your brake pads through the openings between the wheel’s spokes. The outer pad should be pressed against a metal rotor; ideally, it should have at least 1/4 inch of thickness. If you notice less than 1/4 inch of pad remaining, it is recommended to have your brake pads inspected or replaced promptly.
Have you ever heard a high-pitched screeching sound when you apply your brakes? This noise is caused by a small metal shim known as an indicator. Its purpose is to provide an audible warning, indicating the need for brake pad replacement. The screeching sound is noticeable even when your windows are up, although it might not overpower the noise from your radio or air conditioner. If you frequently hear this sound, you must schedule an appointment with your mechanic immediately.
It’s worth mentioning that a thin layer of rust can develop on the brake rotors after exposure to water, such as rain or a car wash. This rust can cause a temporary squeal when you apply the brakes for the first few stops. However, once the rust wears off, the noise should disappear.
In addition to the above, some other signs indicate potential brake problems. If one of these warning signs occurs, you should visit your repair shop without delay:
Reduced Responsiveness or Fading
If you notice that the pedal sinks closer to the floor when you apply pressure or just that the brakes don’t respond the way you are used to, it could indicate a leak in the braking system. The leak might be caused by either fluid leaking from the brake or air leaking from the brake hose. A clear indication that you have a fluid leak is a small puddle of fluid when your car is parked. Brake fluid resembles fresh motor oil but has a less “slimy” texture.
Vehicle is Veering to One Side
If you realize that the car is pulling to the side while depressing the brake pedal, it may signify uneven wear on the brake linings or the presence of foreign matter in the brake fluid. This issue might require a brake adjustment or draining and replacing the fluid.
Brakes Grinding or Growling
A loud metallic sound, like grinding or growling, indicates that your brake pads are completely worn down, potentially beyond the point of replacement. This noise occurs when the metal disc and caliper rub together. Such friction can cause “scoring” or scratching on the rotors, leading to an uneven surface. If this occurs, your mechanic will likely advise turning the rotors (a process to even out the rotor surface) or replacing them altogether.
When you experience vibration or pulsation in the brake pedal, it often suggests warped rotors (though it could also indicate misalignment). This vibration feels similar to the feedback experienced if you were to make a paniced stop in your vehicle with ABS. If the vibration occurs during everyday braking situations without the engagement of anti-lock brakes, it is likely due to warped rotors. This issue arises from intense and prolonged braking, such as driving down steep mountains or while towing. The excessive friction generates significant heat, causing the rotors to warp. The vibration occurs because the brake pads cannot make even contact with the uneven surface. If you frequently drive in such conditions, make it a point to stop periodically, allowing your brakes to cool off.
Regularly maintaining your vehicle’s brakes is often overlooked by many owners. However, ensuring that your brakes are properly calibrated and in excellent working condition can prevent costly repairs in the future and, most importantly, help you avoid accidents. Remember to stay vigilant for the warning signs mentioned in this article, particularly regarding your car brake pads, and address any issues promptly to ensure your safety on the road.