Worn Brake Pads: Signs, Repair, and Replacement

What Brake Pads Do in a Braking System

Brakes pads are an integral part of any car’s braking system. They have a significant role in ensuring that your vehicle comes to a stop at the required time. You will find the brake pads inside the brake callipers in a braking system.

Since brake pads are subject to wear and tear, they have to be replaced after a while to ensure superior braking. Brake servicing is thus a regular maintenance check that you should always undertake.

Brake pads are made from a high-quality rubber material. As the pads come in contact with the brake rotor surface, they create friction which in turn brings the car to a stop. Due to repeated rubbing between the rotor and pads, the friction surface of the pads wears out.

When this happens, the brake pads become ineffective in stopping a car. As a rule, you will need to replace your car's brake pads after every 50,000 miles (80,000 km).

Different car models and makes have different ways of showing when the brake pads have worn out. If your car starts showing symptoms of brake pad wear, you should immediately go ahead and replace them. Otherwise, you risk causing an accident when you try to brake.

The signs may be quiet or noisy. All the same, you should pay attention to them when they show up. Here are some of the common indicators that will tell you when your brake pad’s replacement is due.

Signs of a Worn Brake Pad

1. Screeching, grinding, squealing, rubbing, and other noises

If you start hearing these sounds, then your brake pads require an urgent maintenance check. Do not ignore this because it could result in more damage to other parts which will cost you more.

2. Metallic squeal

A high-pitched sound which usually dies down when braking, is a sure sign that the brake pads need replacement. This sound comes as a result of the brake pad wear indicator rubbing against the rotor. 

Brake pad wear indicators are made of steel, and when they come in contact with the rotor surface, they produce a high-pitched sound. If not checked, the damage will extend to the rotor, which becomes even more expensive to deal with.

3. Grinding Sound 

While this sound does not necessarily mean the brake pad is worn out, it still should be checked. The grinding noise could be a result of metal on metal rubbing, which can result in grooves in the rotor. 

It could also be due to lack of lubrication in the drum brakes. In other cases, it could be pebbles or gravel in the calliper unit that are producing the grinding sound.

4. Vibration in the pedal or your steering wheel

Should you experience this symptom, do not wait any longer. Have your brake pads replaced otherwise your risk getting your rotor getting warped due to the metal on metal rubbing.

5. Brake warning light

Anytime the yellow or red brake warning light turns on, you know it's an indicator that your brake system has an issue. Immediately take your car for a brake inspection. It could be a brake pad wear issue or just any other brake-related issue. 

6. Using more effort and pressing farther to achieve braking 

If you realise that you have to use more pressure in applying the brake, then your brake pad could be wearing out. This stage is the first sign of a brake pad wearing and calls for maintenance.

7. Throbbing brakes

Brake pads take a lot of irregular friction. For this reason, they may have unequal wear. If you experience a throbbing sensation when you try to brake, it usually means your brake pads have worn out unevenly.

You should quickly replace them with high-quality rubber brake pads. Throbbing typically happens with low-quality rubber brake pads.

8. Marks on the brake rotors

You should not take scratches or dents on the rotor surface lightly. They usually show that you have a badly worn-out brake pad causing the calliper to scratch the rotor surface and thus leaving behind marks. You should repair or replace warped rotors before attaching the new brake pads. 

9. Brake pads appear thinner than a ¼ inch

A brake pad thinner than 1/4 -inch confirms a suspicion of a worn-out pad. Just between the spoke, look at the brake pad. If your estimate of its thickness is less than a ¼ inch, then that’s your go-sign that you need to get it replaced.

Replacement Cost

Brake pads are readily available and cheap. However, there's a significant variation in cost depending on the car type, model, and make. While brake pads generally come cheap, the same cannot be said of the replacement labour cost.

As an alternative, you may DIY the replacement of the brake pads from your home with a little bit of skill.

How to Replace Brake Pads

Knowing how to replace brake pads is a handy skill, and every car owner should aim to learn it. Here’s a simple guide to help you.


  • a Car jack
  • Lug wrench
  • Clean rags
  • Gloves
  • Piece of wire 
  • C-clamp
  • new brake pads


  1. Find a level surface to park your vehicle and turn the brakes on. 
  2. Set chunks of wood or bricks before and after the tyres to keep your car from moving while you replace the brake pads. Let the vehicle cool down before you start.
  3. Jack up the car after the parts have cooled down. With the car jacked up, make sure that the wheel has zero contact with the ground.
  4. Start loosening the lug nuts until they are free to come out. Now spin off the lug nuts. Remove the wheel by pulling it out. The rotor is the part close to the outer side and will be the first thing you see. You will be able to feel the calliper from the back rather than directly touching it.
  5. Now remove the calliper and support it using a piece of wire to ensure that it does not weigh down the brake line. If you are replacing the rear brake pads, make sure that the parking brake is not set.
  6. What's left to do at this point is to remove the worn-out pad and replace it with a new one. 
  7. Using a C-clamp, compress the piston into the calliper. If you are not familiar with how this part is mounted or removed, you can check on the internet or manual.
  8. The last part is to reassemble everything back into place before fitting the lug nuts back. Make sure you tighten the calliper bolts well.

Leave a comment