7 Signs You Need New Brake Pads

By: Kris LeSueur   |   29 Apr 2024

Brake pads are essential components of your vehicle's braking system, responsible for slowing down or stopping your car when you press the brake pedal. Understanding the signs that indicate you need new brake pads can help ensure your safety on the road.

What Are Brake Pads?

Brake pads are composed of a flat piece of steel with a thick friction material. This material plays a crucial role in converting kinetic energy from your moving vehicle into heat energy, allowing for effective braking. In a disc brake system, when you apply pressure to the brake pedal, the master cylinder activates, sending brake fluid to the calipers. The calipers then engage the brake pads, causing them to make contact with the brake disc (rotor), which creates friction and slows down the wheels. Releasing the brake pedal relieves the pressure on the brake rotor, allowing the wheels to move freely once again.

Over time, the stress of bringing a heavy vehicle to a stop causes brake pads to wear down. The speed at which they wear depends on factors such as driving frequency and style. If you frequently drive in heavy traffic or have a heavy braking style, you may need to replace your brake pads more frequently.

What Are the Different Brake Pad Types?

Brake pads come in various types, each with its unique characteristics and suitability for different driving conditions. These types include:

Non-metallic brake pads (organic)

These pads are known for their softness, providing a quiet braking experience. However, they tend to wear out more quickly, making them suitable for smaller cars and low-stress driving conditions. They also produce less brake dust than other types of brake pads.

Semi-metallic brake pads

These pads are commonly fitted to most new cars and offer a balance between performance and durability. The metallic pad material provides increased heat resistance, making them suitable for daily driving and certain performance applications. However, they may produce more brake dust compared to non-metallic pads.

Ceramic brake pads

Ceramic pads are considered high-performance pads and are often used in high-performance vehicles. While they offer excellent braking performance and produce minimal brake dust, they are also significantly more expensive than other types of brake pads. They are best suited for high-performance applications and must be properly warmed up before use.

What are the Signs You Need New Brake Pads?

Recognizing the signs that indicate your brake pads need replacing is crucial for maintaining your vehicle's safety and performance. Look out for the following indicators:

Screaming or grinding noise

When your brake pads wear down, they may produce a high-pitched noise as a wear indicator rubs against the brake rotor.

Vibrating steering wheel or brake pedal

Worn brake pads can lead to increased metal-on-metal friction, resulting in vibrations felt through the steering wheel or brake pedal.

Decreased braking performance

As brake pads wear down, they lose their ability to provide sufficient friction, resulting in longer stopping distances.

Low brake pedal

Worn brake pads require the brake caliper to extend further to reach the rotor, leading to increased brake pedal travel distance.

Vehicle veering to one side

Uneven wear on brake pads can cause the vehicle to pull to one side during braking.

Brake warning light

If your vehicle's brake warning light illuminates on the dashboard, it may indicate issues with the brake pads or brake system.

Visible brake pad wear

During a visual inspection, if the brake pad material thickness measures less than a quarter of an inch, it's likely time for replacement.

By paying attention to these signs and addressing them promptly, you can ensure your vehicle's brakes remain in optimal condition, enhancing safety and performance on the road.

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