How to know when your brake pads are worn

Updated March 23, 2017

Brake pads are essential components of any braking system. Brake pads that have adequate pad surface will come in contact with the braking rotors to stop the vehicle. If the brake pads are worn, they will be less effective during braking. There are a few ways to tell if your brake pads are worn. Brake pad wear indicators are one tool built in to alert the driver that the brake pads are in need of replacement. There are other signs to look for to quickly identify brake pad wear.

Listen to the noise coming from your rotors during braking. If there is a grinding sound or an intermittent squealing, then it is likely that your brake pads are worn to the point that they require replacement. The indicators on the brake pads will make contact with the rotors and cause the sound which will be your first indicator that the pads are worn.

Inspect the brake pads. Loosen the lug nuts on the front wheels with a tire iron. Lift the vehicle with the lifting jack and place jack stands beneath the frame of the vehicle. Remove the lug nuts and the wheels from the wheel bolts.

Remove the two caliper bolts on the inside wall of the caliper with a 13 millimetre wrench. Pull the caliper from the rotors. Slide the brake pads from the walls of the caliper.

Inspect the brake pads to see if the pad surface is too thin to provide adequate stopping power. The pads will have wear indicators that should extend to a point shorter than the pad's surface. If the indicator extends past the surface of the pad, the pad is worn to the point that it requires replacement.

Compare the feel of the brake pedal when pressed during braking and when the vehicle is parked. The brake pedal response should be similar in both instances. If the brake pedal bounces during braking, this is an indication that the pads are insufficient in stopping the vehicle.


Once you have identified that your brake pads are worn, replace them immediately. Also, inspect the braking rotors to make sure that the brake pad wear indicators didn't score or otherwise damage the surface of the rotor.

Things You'll Need

  • Tire iron
  • Lifting jack
  • Jack stands
  • Vise-Grip pliers
  • 13 millimetre wrench
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About the Author

Jule Pamplin has been a copywriter for more than seven years. As a financial sales consultant, Pamplin produced sales copy for two of the largest banks in the United States. He attended Carnegie-Mellon University, winning a meritorious scholarship for the Careers in Applied Science and Technology program, and later served in the 1st Tank Battalion of the U.S. Marine Corps.