Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

Do I need new brakes?

When do I need new brakes?

Brake life varies by vehicle, load weight and driving styles. So there’s no set time to know when you need new brakes. For example, if you drive an SUV or truck and haul heavy cargo or drive in mountainous areas, you’ll probably need new brakes more often than a passenger vehicle that drives on flat streets. Experts recommend a brake check every six months so you can track brake wear.

Brake pads wear out

The brake pad thickness is different for every vehicle but they’re close to ½-in. worn brake padsthick right out of the box. As they wear down to 1/8-in. thick you’ll notice brake performance issues like: taking a longer time to slow down or more pedal effort to stop. This image shows a new brake pad and a brake pad that is worn so badly that it’s running metal to metal against the brake rotor.  Notice that brake pad material has already broken off the steel backing plate and the rivets are worn, indicating they are rubbing against the rotor. The owner of this vehicle would have noticed a severe loss of braking power and a screeching noise due to the rivets scraping against the brake fluid.

What happens if you wait too long to replace your brakes?

Once the brake pads wear to less than 1/8-in. thickness, you risk damaging other expensive brake components. Once the brake pad rivets contact the brake rotor, they begin to score the rotor face. If you continue to drive you’ll grind away the worn brake rotorfriction face of the rotor. In extreme cases, you can wear the rotor face to the point where the brake caliper brake backing platepiston pops out of the brake caliper, causing complete brake failure. These images show the damage caused by waiting too long to replace your brakes. You NEVER save money by postponing a brake job.


worn rotor




Worn brake sounds:

• Screeching during braking

• Squeal during braking

• Grinding or rumbling sound when braking.

• Chirping sound when not braking. Goes away when you apply the brakes

What you might feel when you need new brakes:

• More effort required to stop vehicle. Takes longer to stop. Vehicle starts braking and the braking seems to have less effect the longer your foot is on the pedal.

• Brake pedal feels “mushy”

• Brake pedal goes to floor when you apply brakes

• Brake pedal vibrates or pulsates when you apply brakes

• Vehicle feels like it’s pulling to one side during braking.

What you might see when it’s time for new brakes:

• Red brake warning light is on

• Smoke coming from wheel area

What you might smell that could indicate you’ve got a brake problem:
• Burning smell coming from wheels
©, 2016 Rick Muscoplat

Posted on by Rick Muscoplat

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