Vehicles are made of numerous components, all of which work together to keep them safe and operational. Though all those components are important, the ones that make your braking system work properly are among the most crucial. They make sure you’re able to stop when and where you need to, keeping you, your passengers, and others around you safe.
If your vehicle’s brakes aren’t working the way they should, the results could be disastrous. As such, it’s important to keep the brake pads in optimal condition and change them when necessary. If you’re not quite sure of how to determine when the brake pads should be changed by experts like those at Hamm’s Tires, certain signs can give you a great deal of valuable insight.
1) Your Brake Indicator Light Comes On
For quite some time now, vehicles have been equipped with a range of indicator lights that can tell you when a problem is in the making. They’ll let you know if your coolant level is low or the engine isn’t getting the proper air-to-fuel ratio. Some even warn you when sensors are going bad. You’ll see warnings when the oil is nearing dangerously low levels and when it’s time to stop for gas.
Vehicles also have brake warning lights. Still, some are more ambiguous than others. Many vehicles have brake warning lights that just tell you there’s a general issue with the braking system. You’ll have to take the vehicle to a mechanic or have someone plug a code reader into the vehicle to find out exactly what the problem is. Other vehicles actually have warning lights that tell you the brake pads are getting low and it’s time to take action.
2) Disconcerting Grinding Noises
Hearing grinding noises when you press the brake pedal is a surefire indication that your brakes need to be changed right away. Rest assured, this is a very noticeable sound that simply screams trouble could be right around the next curve. In some cases, the grinding sound could be caused by built-in wear indicators that are designed to give you fair warning before the brakes fail. Other times, it’s the actual sound of the calipers scrubbing against the rotors. In the case of the latter, failing to have the brake pads changed as soon as possible could damage the rotors and calipers, leaving you with much more extensive and costly repair needs.
3) Irritating Squealing Noises
Like so many automotive components, brake pads don’t suddenly fail. They wear down gradually due to repeated use. Every time you use the brakes, the pressure and friction take away a small amount of the materials the brake pads are made of. The more you use the brakes, the more quickly they’ll wear out. We’ve mentioned the grinding noises you’re likely to hear when the brake pads are nearing the end of their useful lifespans, but they can also send out alarms before they reach this level of degradation. An early indication that it’s getting close to time to change the brake pads is strange squealing noises when you press the brake pedal.
4) Not Stopping When You Should
Another warning sign that it’s time to replace the brake pads is taking too long to come to a stop. Figuring out the specified braking distance of your vehicle can be a drawn-out process that involves quite a few facts and figures. At the same time, outside variables factor into the equation as well, such as the condition of the road, inclement weather, and slope. The condition of your brakes plays a role here as well. Even your reaction time and outside distractions could impact the amount of time it takes to stop your vehicle.
With all that in mind, you probably have a general idea of how long it takes to stop your vehicle when you press the brake pedal. It’s important to be aware of your normal braking distances and how the vehicle responds when you ask it to stop. When your brake pads start to wear out, you’ll notice that the car’s reaction time begins to get longer. That’ll give you an indication that it’s time to start looking for new brake pads.
5) Coming to a Rough Stop
Ideally, your vehicle should come to a somewhat smooth stop after you press the brake pedal. Even if you have to stop unexpectedly, hitting the brakes harder and faster than usual shouldn’t cause much of a problem. If the brake pads or other components are worn, though, you might notice that the vehicle comes to a rough, vibrating halt rather than a smooth, pleasant one.
This could also be a sign of warped or worn rotors and other braking system issues. If your vehicle vibrates when you press the brake pedal, don’t assume it’s just a rough patch in the road. Get it checked out as quickly as possible.
6) Visible Wear or Damage
If you’re like most drivers, you don’t pay much attention to the individual components of your vehicle until they start giving you trouble. Unfortunately, that means you don’t know exactly what those components should look like if they’re in good shape or which signs of wear and damage to look out for. Consider taking a look at a new set of brake pads that would fit your vehicle, so you’ll know what they should look like in good condition. Then, you’ll have a frame of reference for spotting damage.
To spot excess or uneven wear on your brake pads, look between the gaps in your wheels or crawl under the vehicle to get an inside glance. The brake pads are located on the calipers, or the parts that clamp down on the rotors to stop the car when you press the brake pedal. If they look like they’re less than a quarter of an inch thick, they need to be replaced. In the event they seem to be more worn on one end than the other, it may be a good idea to have a professional check out your brakes as well.
Making Sure You Can Stop When Necessary
Those are common warning signs that it’s time for a brake pad replacement. Knowing your vehicle and understanding what good brake pads should look like will help you determine when professional intervention is in order. Additionally, anytime something just doesn’t feel quite right when you apply the brakes, don’t hesitate to contact a mechanic for help. It’s better to know there’s not a problem than to ignore a seemingly minor issue that could have devastating effects.