Brake pad problems should never be ignored. There are many warning signs you need new pads. When your car starts making strange noises or you feel vibrations in your steering wheel or pedal, it's just a matter of time before your pads fail completely. About 5% of car accidents and nearly 30% of commercial truck accidents are caused by pad failure. Your pads are one of your vehicle's most important safety features, but the good news is your brake system will give you many warning signs that it's time to schedule brake replacement or repairs.
The following signs indicate your brakes are wearing out and reaching the end of their life.
Does your car make strange noises like ticking, clicking, squealing, rumbling, or grinding when you pads? These odd noises may be related to brake fluid loss, scored rotors, or worn-out pads, all of which need to be repaired soon.
If you hear a high-pitched screeching noise when you press on the pads, this is a clear sign that your pads are worn. Brake pads are made with a small metal shim or indicator that's designed to give you an audible warning when your brake pads are too worn. This noise should be loud enough to hear with the windows up.
The only time this high-pitched noise is not an indication of worn brakes is after your car is exposed to water. Moisture from rain, car wash, or driving through water can cause a very thin layer of rust on the rotors. This is very normal and you may hear a squealing noise for a while as the pads press on the rust. This sound will stop once the rust wears away.
If you hear a very loud growling or grinding noise, it likely means you have worn down the pads completely. The sound you hear is the metal disc and caliper rubbing together. This is a very serious problem because it can score the rotors and create an uneven surface. If you wear down the pads to the rotors, the rotors will need to be turned or replaced.
When you step on the brake pedal, do you feel vibrations in the steering wheel or the pedal? Pay attention to vibrations when you brake because this is your brake system telling you something is wrong. If you ignore these vibrations, your rotors may become warped from metal-on-metal rubbing. Along with posing a safety hazard, this will make repairs more expensive.
As you step on the pedal, you should feel the pedal becoming progressively firmer as you press harder. The brake pedal should never feel soft or nearly touch the floor when you press on it. If you notice you need to press harder than usual to brake, your pads are likely wearing out. You may also experience a mushy brake that almost goes to the floor when you press on the pedal. A mushy pedal can be caused by air in the brake line or a fluid leak. In some cases, your brakes may grab very quickly at the slightest touch of the pad. This may be due to contaminated or dirty fluid or an unevenly worn rotor.
Sensitive brakes are a serious hazard. A mushy or sensitive pedal can make your brakes difficult to operate and put you at risk of an accident.
Does your car pull to one side when you step on the brake pedal? This may mean your brakes need to be adjusted, you have a loss of fluid, or your pads are worn out. The pulling may be caused by a stuck caliper, in which case there is friction on one wheel but not the others, causing the car to pull toward the stuck caliper. A collapsed brake hose can also be responsible as it causes the calipers to move unevenly. Unevenly worn pads can also cause pulling by applying different amounts of pressure to the wheels.
Most cars have disc brakes that have a fluid-filled hydraulic system that triggers a pair of padded clamps or calipers. These calipers are squeezed together onto a disc or rotor. This causes friction to stop the car. Over time, this action causes the pads to wear away. You can check the thickness of your pads by checking between the spokes of your wheel. Once you spot the shiny rotor, look near the outer edge for the metal caliper. Between the caliper and rotor are the pads. In general, pads should be at least 1/4" thick. If your pads seem thin, it's time to get them replaced.
Don't let brake problems put you at risk of an accident. Make sure you have your pads inspected every six months for signs of wear and don't allow problems to get worse. Schedule brake inspection or repair services with Creech Import Repair if you notice any of these warning signs to ensure your vehicle remains safe to drive.