How to Check Brake Pads? Very Easy Method

Brake pads may not be a car component you often pay attention to. But you depend on them anytime you step on the brake pedal. And as such, you should learn how to check brake pads for wear or tear. This is to ensure you and your passengers are safe. 

Worn-out brake pads will not give proper stopping power. And as such will not allow you to stop your car at ease. By checking them regularly, you can detect minor problems before they result in brake failure. This way, you will drive your car with your heart at peace.

How to Check Brake Pads

Checking brake pads is not a very difficult task. Therefore, you can do it yourself. Just ensure you have the tools needed to carry out this job.

To get started, ensure your brake pads are cool before you touch them – even a 20 minutes drive can make them hot. Also, note that low or contaminated brake fluid can cause many car problems. So after checking the pads, check and change or top with good dot 3, dot 4 brake fluids, or the recommended fluid for your car. 

Checking the Wheels

how to check brake pads bmw

Brake pads help to clean brake dust on the rotor’s surface, so dust accumulating on wheels is normal for brake pads. Besides, it might be an indication that the pads are in good working condition.  Therefore, the absence of dust in the wheel might mean that the pads are wearing off. At this point, taking your car to an expert mechanic for proper diagnosis may be the right thing to do.

It takes only a few minutes to learn how to check brake pads with wheels on; you can try it out. But If you are not certain of the sufficiency of this method, then you may want to try other methods

Checking The Brake Pads Without Removing The Wheels

how to check brake pads with wheels on

Most cars will allow you to see the pads through the holes on the wheel. Just point a touch light through the holes and check for the pad’s thickness.  A new pad is about ½ inch thick; if you use it, and it decreases to ¼, it’s fine. But anything less than ¼ is an indication that your pad needs to be changed. 

In some vehicles, brake pads have a wear indicator slot down at one of the edges. If the slot appears barely visible or invisible, your pads might have been long gone.

Checking Brake Pads By Removing The Wheels

how to tell if brake discs need replacing

Removing the wheels to examine the brake pads is another way to check the pads if you can’t see them through the wheel’s holes. To do this, you will need brake pad check tools like a jack and wrench or tug.

  • Make sure your car is on a leveled surface
  • Place the jack under the car’s frame close to the wheel you want to remove
  • Lift your car from the ground
  • Remove the wheel nuts with the wrench
  • Remove the wheels.

Once the wheel is out, you can take a good look at the pad. Use a Vernier caliper to check for its thickness. If it’s less than ¼ inch thick, you may need to replace them. Also, check brake rotors, brake calipers, and brake lines. They are important brake components and work together with the pad. Replace all or any of them if there is a need.

Other methods 

How To Check Brake Pads

Aside from the ones listed above, there are other ways to check the state of your brake pads. In some vehicles, worn-out pads will trigger a warning light that appears on your car’s dashboard. Also, watch out for weird noises coming from your wheel. A strong squealing, growling, or grinding noise might indicate a faulty pad.

Again, if you feel your steering vibrating while driving or sense a vibration when you hit the brake pedal, it might indicate that your pads are worn. While faulty pads may not be the only reason for such disturbances, it is good you carry out a brake pads test.

How To Check Brake Pads – How much is left? YouTube


Q: Can You Check Your Brake Bad Without Removing The Wheels?

Yes, you can, so long your car wheels have holes.  But you would need a torchlight to carry out this test. To do this, point the torchlight through the holes and check for the thickness of the pads. If the pad is less than ¼, then the brake pads might be worn. As I stated earlier, also check for strange noises that might come out from your wheels.

Q: Can You Drive With Bad Brake pads?

Yes, you can drive with bad brake pads, but only with your heart in your hand. Driving with worn pads is unsafe and might lead to accidents. This is because you won’t get the stopping power to quickly bring your car to a halt.

And, of course, when the brakes fail, you may crash into someone or something. So to drive with your heart at peace, learn how to tell if brake discs need replacing and do the needful. Driving with bad brake pads might cost severe damage to your brake rotors.

Q: How Do I Know If My Brake Pads Are Worn?

Brake pads have a lifespan. If they have passed their recommended mileage (usually between 20,000 to 70,000 depending on use), they are worn out; replace them.  Also, watch out for grinding noise when braking. Such noise might indicate that the pads are bad and are grinding the brake rotors.  

If you also hear a strange noise while braking or your car shakes while braking, check it out. This might mean that your pads are worn already.

Q: How Much Does A Brake Pad Cost?

A brake pad costs between $35 to $200. It depends on your car model and pad quality. Ceramic pads are used in luxurious cars and are more expensive. On the other hand, organic pads are not as expensive as semi-metallic or ceramic pads.

In a nutshell, the cost depends on the brake pad that is good for your car. Please do not buy a less quality pad in the name of saving cost. You may end up spending more since you would need to buy another one if this one wears off.

Each car has specific brake pad quality needed to function well. An example of a good quality pad you can opt for is bb5 brake pads, white brake pads, etc.

Q: Which Brake Pad Wear Out Faster Front Or Rear?

The front brake pads wear faster. In many vehicles, most of the braking comes from the front brakes. It could be because of the manufacturer’s design or physics. Most manufacturers put the braking pressure on the front wheels to keep the rear from locking up.

So when you step on the brake pedal, the weight is transferred to the front wheels. In conclusion, the continuous use of the front wheel makes them wear faster.

Final Thoughts

It is important you learn how to check brake pads yourself. It saves cost and will help you detect minor problems before they escalate. The brake pad is an important brake system component, so it should always be in good shape.

A worn brake pad is dangerous.  Using it puts you, your passengers, and other road users at risk. How to tell if your brake disc needs replacing is quite easy. Look out for those annoying noises and vibrations you hear while driving. Also, observe if your car shakes when braking. Lastly, try to carry out a proper check on the pad to be certain they are the cause of your car problems.

Osuagwu Solomon

Osuagwu Solomon is a certified mechanic with over a decade of experience in the mechanic garage, and he has over five years of experience in the writing industry. He started writing automotive articles to share his garage experience with car enthusiasts and armature mechanics. If he is not in the garage fixing challenging mechanical problems, he is writing automotive repair guides, buyer’s guides, and car and tools comparisons.

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