How to Know if You Need to Change Your Brake Pads

When you drive your vehicle, whether it is to the grocery store or between job sites, you are responsible for ensuring that your car is in top working condition for the safety of yourself and others on the road. Working brakes are one of the most important factors when it comes to ensuring safety. It can lead to incredibly dangerous situations if they are not working properly or stop working all together. Even if you don’t know much about cars, knowing how to recognize the signs of deteriorating brake pads can be crucial in maintaining safety on the road. 

What are brake pads, and how do I know when I need to change them? 

Brake pads are the objects that come in contact with the rotors of the wheel and create the friction that causes your car to stop. They are the most important part of the braking process, and when worn down, the most common causes of brake failure. Learning how to recognize when they need to be replaced is a good way to help maintain the safety of your vehicle.  

Your brake pads can last anywhere from 25-70,000 miles, but this number can vary depending on the make and model of your pads and vehicle, where you do most of your driving, and the braking behavior of the driver. There are a number of signs to notify you that your pads might be wearing down, and if you are noticing them, it might be time to check your pads: 

  • Squeaking or Squealing: If you are hearing a high-pitched noise that sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard, that might be a sign that your brake pads are wearing down. This is the most common signal that people notice, but this can also be caused by other things like cold weather, excess moisture, and debris on the pads. 
  • Grinding: This is a much more clear and severe sign of worn-down brakes. If your car is making a grinding noise when you apply the brakes, this typically means the brakes have worn down far enough that metal is grinding on metal, and you need to change your pads ASAP. 
  • Decreased response: If you find that your brakes are not as sensitive as they once were, and you need to apply more and more pressure to your brake pedal in order to stop your car this is a clear sign that your brakes are wearing down. Other factors like moisture and temperature can decrease response, but if it a consistent issue it is time to change your pads. 
  • Warning light: Most modern cars have a brake light that appears on the dash to signal brake pad wear. If you see this light, it is definitely time to change your pads! 
  • Increased stopping distance/time: This is especially noticeable at higher speeds, but if you are finding that your car is taking longer to brake than you are used to, this can be another sign of brake pad wear. 
  • Decreased pad thickness: If you are experiencing any of the above issues, you can manually inspect your pads through the spokes of the wheel. An ideal brake pad will be ¼ of an inch or thicker. On some cars, this can be done without removing the wheel.
car dashboard lights

Rather than attempting to maintain the brake pads yourself, it is always a good idea to visit a professional to have your pads inspected and changed. Brake pads are one of the most crucial parts of your vehicle and if changed improperly there could be severe consequences for not just you, but anybody who you are sharing the road with.

Protecting others on the road is not specific to maintaining your brake pads. Make sure you are helping to protect not just yourself but everyone around you by carrying a valid auto insurance policy. Call one of our agents at 1-800-463-4648 for a free insurance quote. 


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