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3 Easy Steps on How to Check Your Brake Pads

Updated: Jan 13

Did you know that more than 20% of light vehicle accidents involve issues with the brakes?

One of the most important components in your car’s braking system is the brake pads. They are the part that actually stops the wheel. So a problem with your brake pads can be detrimental.

Before you start panic-searching “brake pad inspection near me,” we have good news! It’s easy to check brake pads yourself.

Read on for our brief brake pad guide. We’ll explain how they work, how thick they should be, and how to check brake pad thickness at home. And if they do need replacing, we’ll show you the best way.

What Are Brake Pads?

Cars brake by clamping their wheels tightly. This friction forces the wheels to stop spinning.

At these kinds of speeds, you need specially designed parts to handle this process. They need to take the friction of stopping a speeding wheel. But they mustn't overheat or cause other vehicle maintenance problems.

This is the job of brake pads. Typically made of metal, they are the surfaces that squeeze your wheel into stopping.

As you can imagine, a worn-out brake pad causes major issues; your car won’t stop! That’s why it’s paramount these parts are always in good condition.

But over time, they wear away. Though they’re designed to take this friction, eventually, they’ll become too thin and need replacing.

How Often Should You Replace Brake Pads?

The typical recommendation for checking in on your brake pads is every 6 months. Of course, this can be more or less infrequent depending on how much you drive.

Your style of driving can also have an impact. For example, inner-city driving may involve much more braking than cross-country. And some drivers are heavier on the brakes than others.

That being said, there is no set frequency for how often they need replacing.

In truth, brake pad replacement comes down to how the brake pads are doing, not how much time has passed. The best way to check is to measure how worn they are.

Are Your Brake Pads Too Worn?

Even though every car is different, brake pads have a golden rule. They should be more than 1/4 inch or 6mm thick.

If your brake pad thickness drops below that, your brakes won’t work as well as they should.

Some sources suggest you can allow your brake pads to get as thin as 3mm or even 1.5mm thick, but we don't recommend this.

3 Ways on How to Check Brake Pads at Home

Logically, this leads to two further steps. Check your brake pads and possibly replace them.

But the first of these two steps can easily be done at home! Here are three methods for how to check your brake pads yourself.

1. How to Spot Signs of Wear While Driving

The first giveaway that something’s wrong is the brake pad wear signs and symptoms that flare up while driving.

Cars are designed to let you know when they need a little TLC. For brake pads, this may be a squeaking noise or grinding sound. Many brake pads are designed to make this grinding noise when they’re too worn down.

Another common indicator is vibration while driving; especially when applying the brakes. If you feel this sort of shuddering, there’s likely an issue with their wear.

The most obvious sign is that braking itself feels different.

Is your car taking longer than normal to stop when you brake? Does your foot have to press down further on the brake pedal than usual to stop? If so, it’s likely time to replace them.

Or, does your car or steering wheel pull to one side when you brake? This indicates that the wear on your brake pads is uneven. Even worse, it could suggest a larger brake fault.

Finally, newer cars may have a warning light for your brake pads. If your brake light comes on, check the brake pads immediately.

2. How to Check Brake Pad Thickness Through the Wheel

Ideally, your brake pads will never get to a point where they affect your driving. Here's how to check a brake pad so this doesn’t happen.

Usually, brake pads are visible through your wheel.

Take a close look. Does your brake pad look like it’s less than the minimum 1/4 inch thick? Then they need replacing.

It may be difficult to judge this from outside the wheel though. To help, many brake pads have an “indicator slot.” This groove or notch in the brake pad stops at 1/4 inch from the base of the brake pad.

If this slot isn’t there or is barely visible, your brake pads have worn too thin. It’s time for a brake pad replacement service.

3. How to Check Brake Pad Wear Behind the Wheel

If these two methods sound too much like guesswork for you, try the third way. Remove your car’s wheels so you can see the brake pads close up.

The best way to do this is by raising the car off the ground with a jack, like you would when replacing a tire. Once it’s off, you can see the brake pad up close. If the brake pad is less than 1/4 inch thick or the wear is uneven, they need replacing.

How to Replace Brake Pads

Now you know how to check brake pad thickness yourself. But what about replacing them?

Replacing brake pads yourself is possible, but it’s a risky job to get wrong. It’s much better to leave this crucial work to the professionals.

If you’re in Las Vegas or the surrounding areas, we can help! Our mobile brake repair and brake pad replacement services are quick and convenient. We guarantee to save you money compared to traditional brake repair shops and dealerships.

Get in touch with the Nevada Mobile Brakes team today. Just let us know where you are, and we’ll be at your door fixing your vehicle in no time!

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