When To Replace Brake Pads: A Guide For Car Owners

Out of all the parts in your car, one of the most important are the brake pads. When they cease to function, unfortunately, this means trouble. Over time and with frequent use, it’s normal for the brake pads to eventually get thinner. You can determine that this is happening when the brakes don’t function as fast and as strong as they normally did.

While it’s normal for the brake pads to go through wear and tear, however, this also doesn’t mean that you should always keep it that way. There are instances when you absolutely need to replace your brake pads.

Let’s have a look and the possible indicators: 

Squeaking Or Squealing Coming From The Brakes

Your brakes are supposed to function effectively without any noise. So, once you start to experience squeaking or squealing coming from the brakes, that’s one of the first signs you need new brake pads.

This is of course given that the squeaking noise has become regular, no matter the weather. If it happens only when you’re driving in the rain, then your brake pads are still fine. That’s normal and expected.

When your brake pads start to squeal, this is usually caused by down pads that are excessively worn out. Once these are worn out, you’ll start to hear a grinding noise. When left to progress, this can also lead to damage on your rotors, which can make the repairs even more expensive.

Indicator Light

For newer models of cars, there’s an indicator light for almost any kind of problem that could happen. One of these is when the car senses there’s a problem with the brake pads, it sends signals for the indicator light to turn on. In doing so, you’re alerted of the problem that’s happening.

If the brake indicator light is on, it’s best to bring your car to your trusted mechanic. Have a professional look at it, as they can give the best determination on how soon to replace them.

Thinning Brake Pads

If you’ve owned your car for a long time now, you can also do a visual inspection yourself as a part of taking good care of your car, and make that judgement as to whether or not the brake pad you have left is sufficient, or too thin. 

For instance, if you have a disc brake, you can do a visual inspection. But you may need to remove the tires to be able to do this. Look at the brake assembly, or the ‘caliper’ holding the pads. This is compressed against your brake rotor.

If you can see that the friction material is already less than a ¼ inch, then you need to have your brake pads replaced. 

Grinding Sound When Braking

Along with squeaking and squealing, a grinding sound isn’t normal whenever you brake. If this happens, then you know you’re in for some trouble again. Especially with a grinding sound, this is a matter of urgency telling you to replace your pads ASAP. 

This grinding sound usually happens because of the natural makeup of the brake. Many are built with metal wear indicators, these make a loud sound to alert you that you should replace the pads.

Most importantly, a grinding sound will also tell you that your brake pads or shoes are making contact with the discs or drums. Because this is a metal-on-metal contact, it can cause even greater damage on the entire braking system of your car.

Don’t take this sign for granted, as if you leave it as it is, you’re only leading your brakes up for more damage and higher repair costs in the future.

Vibrating Brake Pedal

Another sign that should convince you it’s time to replace your brake pads is when the pedal starts to vibrate. This can easily be determined when the vibration is challenging you to stop the car, or that it feels so hard and unsteady when you press down. This should tell you that your brake pedal is extremely worn out, and it needs replacement.

Remember that this isn’t normal. To avoid any further damage or an accident, you should take your car to the mechanic on that very same day.


Making sure your brakes and the pads are still in good working condition is more than just about the cost savings in the long run. It also has a lot to do with the safety of everyone—not just yourself, but also other motorists that you come across. Imagine the danger you’re bringing if suddenly, your brake pads just cease to function. For car owners, it’s important to know these signs, so you can take the responsible approach of getting your current pads replaced. Be wary of the signs touched upon above.