The brakes on your car are not only important to slow down and stop but are also the most important safety feature on any vehicle. If you need to stop suddenly to avoid an accident, your brakes need to be in good working order to function properly. Worn brake pads can prevent your brakes from functioning optimally and result in failure putting you and your passengers at risk.
Pay careful attention to the following common worn brake pads symptoms and get your brake pads replaced as soon as you notice them:
1. The Warning Light
Most modern cars are equipped with advanced electronic warning systems that inform you when specific areas of the vehicle may be in need of maintenance, repair or replacement. These warnings normally alert you through a warning light that appears on the dashboard. If your brakes are not functioning properly, a warning light with an exclamation mark will appear on the dash. The light may or may not have further information with regards to the alert such as “antilock brake”.
It is critical to pay attention to the warning lights on your dashboard and take action as soon as possible. Your brakes are not functioning properly until the problem has been identified and the appropriate action taken. It is also recommended to read the user manual for your car and familiarize yourself with the meaning of the different warning lights on the dashboard.
2. Strange Noises
If you are hearing squeaking, screeching or grinding noises when driving your car, it probably means that there is a problem with the brakes. Although this may be a sign of another problem, it is probably one of the many worn brake pads symptoms if the noises are present when:
Screeching Or Squeaking While Not Applying The Brakes
If your hear a metallic scraping or screeching sound while the vehicle is in motion, this is probably a sign of worn brake pads. It results from the steel indicators coming into contact with the rotor to warn you that the brake pads are worn and need replacement. The sound will stop when you apply the brakes but this does not mean that it is not a braking problem. The indicators can only come into contact with the rotor when the brake pads are worn to warn you of the problem.
Grinding Noises While Applying The Brakes
If you apply the brakes and hear a grinding noise, this means that the brake pads are severely worn. The sound comes from metal scraping on metal and this could be from the shoe scraping on the brake discs or plate. The shoe is the metal component that holds the brake pads. This can cause extreme damage to the brake plate as well as the shoe and result in grooves being sheered into the metal of the rotor. It is essential to get your brake pads checked and replaced immediately to prevent this damage. Having the rotor, shoes or brake plates replaced can be a very costly exercise.
3. Unsteady Driving And Vibration In The Steering
While there are a number of different reasons why faulty brakes can cause your vehicle to feel unsteady while braking, it may be a sign of worn brake pads. This wobbly or unsteady motion may or may not be accompanied by a vibration that is felt in the steering wheel or an unsteady motion when the brakes are applied.
This is most commonly the result of some wear and tear that has occurred on the brake rotor or disc. Some wear and tear is normal and should be corrected every time you have your brake pads replaced. However, it could also be a sign of worn brake pads scraping the discs resulting in an uneven surface which is the cause of that wobbly feeling while braking. Even the tiniest irregularity can result in this symptom. It is crucial to get your brakes inspected as soon as possible if you notice these symptoms to identify the cause.
4. Decreased Resistance
You should not need to push down hard on the brake pedal for the brakes to respond. If you find yourself having to the push the pedal all the way down to the floor of the car, this is a sign that your brakes are not responding as they should. This decreased resistance is one of the most common worn brake pads symptoms. The greater the wear on the brake pads, the greater the decline in resistance. If your foot or the brake pedal are touching the floor when braking, it is best to have your brake pads checked and replaced sooner rather than later.
5. Burning Smell
Any burning smell coming from your car is serious and you should pull over in a safe area as soon as possible and turn the vehicle off. Although a burning smell could be due to a variety of different reasons, it could be a sign of malfunctioning brakes. If you notice smoke coming from the wheels of the car, it is definitely time to have your brakes inspected.
The burning smell could be due to the brakes overheating. While this is commonly caused by a brake caliper that has not retracted sufficiently, it can also be caused by the brake shoe rubbing against the rotor disc. This could be the result of uneven wear on the brake pad or where the brake pad has worn through entirely. If it is as a result of worn brake pads, the burning smell should only occur when braking for an extended period of time or consistently braking over a short period of time.
It is extremely important to have this checked out immediately and recommended to call a tow truck rather than drive the vehicle. Overheating brakes can result in the brake fluid overheating to the point where your brakes may fail completely.
If your car veers to the left of right when you apply pressure to the brakes, this may be a sign of worn brake pads. This can occur when the brake pads have worn unevenly causing the car to veer to one side or the other when the brakes are applied. It can also be a result of wear and tear on the rotor that has resulted from the shoe rubbing against the plate. Veering while braking can be extremely dangerous while braking. While it may only be a slight change in motion that can easily be controlled when braking gently, it can cause the car to veer greatly when applying the brakes suddenly and harder.
7. Slow Braking
If you need to apply the brakes for an extended period of time to slow or stop the vehicle, it is a definite sign that the brake pads are worn. This is dangerous because it increases the stopping distance of the car and could result in the car not stopping in time to avoid a collision. The vehicle is also less likely to stop suddenly when the brakes are applied hard. If you notice that your vehicle is taking longer to slow or stop than normal, it is time to have the brake pads replaced. However, the wear on brake pads is a slow progression and it may be difficult to notice this warning sign.
The brake pads on your car provide the necessary friction against the rotor discs in order to slow and stop the motion of the car. If the brake pads are worn, this friction is not present and it is unlikely that the vehicle will respond to the braking system.
In addition, worn brake pads can do some serious damage to the other components of your braking system and result in a malfunction or the brakes to fail entirely. Repairing or replacing these components can be a very expensive and unnecessary exercise.
Worn brake pads pose a serious safety risk and increases the likelihood of a collision and can also increase the severity of an accident. It is absolutely critical to have your brake pads replaced as soon as possible if you notice any of the above common worn brake pads symptoms. If more than one sign is present, it is even more crucial to get the pads replaced.
However, prevention is better than cure and it is important to have your brakes inspected and pads replaced on a regular basis. On average, brake pads should be replaced every 40,000 miles. However, this can be as low as every 25,000 miles and up to 70,000 miles depending on the quality, make and manufacture of the pads. It is recommended to only have quality brake pads professionally installed and to make a note of the manufacturer’s recommendation for when they should be replaced.
If you haven’t made a note, it is advisable to have your brakes and brake pads inspected after at least 40,000 miles. A brake pad inspection should not cost you much and it is far better to be safe than sorry. Call your local brake specialist to set up an appointment or pop-in for a quick brake inspection.