4 Tips For Determining Whether Or Not Your Car Needs New Disc Brake Pads

Posted on: 21 January 2016

If your car is not stopping properly when you apply the brakes, the problem could be that your disc brake pads have become worn or tattered. If this is the case, you may need new brake pads. Use the following four tips to determine whether or not you need to have them replaced.

Pay Attention To Any Strange Noises When You Apply Your Brakes

When you apply your brakes while coming to a complete stop, pay attention to any strange noises that they make. If you hear a high-pitch screeching noise, this could be a sign that the pads have worn down. Brake pads have a small metal piece in the center that is just under the top of the pad. When it becomes exposed, its purpose is to make this sound, indicating the pads need to be changed.

However, if you hear a loud rumbling or the sound of metal grinding, this could be a sign that the pads have completely worn down. This makes the caliper's metal under the pad grind into the brake's disc, or rotor, because the pad is nonexistent. If you hear this sound, take the vehicle to a mechanic to have the rotors and pads checked out as soon as possible because the brakes may lock up, causing an inability to stop the car.

Feel How Your Car Reacts

Along with listening for unusual noises, also feel how your car reacts while you are stopping. Normally, the tires should slowly and smoothly bring your vehicle to a stop. However, if the brake pads are uneven due to wear, you may feel vibrations or a jumping sensation from the wheels.

If your car does not respond right away to the application of the brakes, then suddenly jerks, this could indicate that the pads are completely worn down on one side, causing the brakes to work unevenly. When this is accompanied by the grinding noise discussed in the first section, you should have them looked at right away because there could be damage to the calipers and rotors.

Look Through The Wheel Spokes At The Brake Rotors

Another way to determine if your car needs new brake pads is to look through the wheel spokes to examine the rotors. Use a flashlight to illuminate the metal. If you see excessive black dust or grease on the discs, this could mean the pad is scraping off onto the rotor. 

While inspecting the disc, look for any deep grooves in the metal. If these are present, the pads may be worn completely down and are scraping into rotor itself. If so, limit driving the car until you can have them inspected by a mechanic because the metal's integrity may have been compromised, potentially leading to a crack or break if too much pressure is applied.

Remove Your Tire And Visually Inspect The Pads

One way to fully inspect the brakes pads are to remove your tire and look at them up close. After removing the tire, remove the caliper, then turn it over to inspect the pad. The surface should be smooth and the pad thick. If there are signs of tearing or excessive rubbing, or if the surface is uneven, they should be replaced in the near future.

However, if you see the bare metal of the caliper under the pad, do not drive the car except to a mechanic. It will need to be examined to see if it or the rotor is still safe to use or if one or both will need to be replaced.

If any or all of the above indicators exist, have your brakes inspected as soon as possible by an automotive brake specialist or mechanic. Getting the brake pads replaced once you find a problem could prevent an accident from having your brakes go out while you are driving.