Regularly changing the brake pads is a key part of basic car maintenance. But how do you know if it’s time to replace them or not? Here are five easy ways to tell that your brakes are worn down.
- Screeching noises when braking,
- Reduced braking performance,
- Signs that the car is pulling to one side when brakes are applied,
- The amount of brake fluid is very low,
- Grinding sounds when braking.
Let’s dive further into these symptoms of bad brake pads and that it’s time to have them changed.
1. Screeching Noises
As brakes wear down, the metal of the braking assembly begins to touch the metal of the brake rotor. Then, when you press on the brakes, you will hear a screeching sound from the friction of the two metal components touching. This irritating noise is actually by design. It isn’t a symptom of brake damage (at least not yet). Instead, this sound is intended to warn the driver that the brake pads are worn down and need to be replaced soon. Think of it as a noisy friendly reminder.
2. Decreased Braking Performance
Just like a lot of things, brake pads work best when they are new. As they get older and wear down, effectiveness slowly fades and they lose braking power. If you notice that you must hit the pedal harder to make the car stop then was necessary months earlier, it’s a strong indicator that the pads are worn out. There are a few other issues that could cause reduce braking efficiency, but this sign should always be taken seriously. Since the brakes are a fundamental safety component, don’t take any chances; have the car looked at by a mechanic as soon as possible.
Because the process is gradual, it can be difficult to notice the decrease in braking efficiency. This will actually be more noticeable after the brake pads have been replaced and your car feels much more responsive when you hit the brake pedal.
3. Car Pulls to the Side When Braking
If you notice the car pulling to one side or the other when the brakes are applied, this is another sign that the pads are worn out. Brakes, in theory, should wear evenly on both sides of the car. In reality, however, they almost always wear unevenly. This means that the left brake pad might wear out faster than the right, or vice versa. For that reason, if the brakes are close to needing replacement, you might feel the car pull to one side when you press the brakes.
4. Very Low Brake Fluid
If your car is relatively new, and you suspect it’s time to replace your brakes, there’s one quick way to verify this. You just need to check the brake fluid level. If you are unsure of where to find the brake master cylinder, look it up in your car owner’s manual under “How to Check the Brake Fluid.” You will need to pop the hood and see where the brake fluid currently is in relationship to the minimum and maximum lines. If the brakes are nearly worn out or need to be replaced, the fluid level will be closer to the minimum level. This is because as your brakes wear down, they consume more fluid and the level naturally goes down. If your brake fluid is just below the maximum level, then there is probably some other cause for car problems.
5. Grinding Noises
This is the most serious warning sign because it means that the brake pads are completely consumed. If you hear a grinding sound when the brakes are applied, it might mean that you have worn down the pads completely. This means that the damage is now beyond the other warning signs. The noise is caused by the braking assembly scraping against the rotors. When this occurs, it can damage the rotors. Then the rotors will require replacement, in addition to the brake pads. Not only does the repair become more expensive, but it is also dangerous to drive with brakes in such poor condition.
Remember that the only way to be sure that your brakes are still safe to drive with is to have them checked by a professional. A mechanic will have to raise the vehicle, remove the wheel, and inspect the brake pad’s thickness. This inspection should also verify the condition of the rotors and brake calipers.
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