Knowing when it’s time for a brake pad replacement can save you a significant amount of money when it comes to maintaining your car. It’s best to wait until they’ve served their last useful mile and you’ve received maximum value from each set, but if you go too long, you run the risk of damaging other brake components — not to mention hurting your car’s stopping power.
1. Listen for the Squeal
You’ve heard it before: a high-pitched squealing sound as a car, bus or truck comes to a halt in front of you. Most brake pads have small metal tabs snugly fitted up against the side, and as the pad wears, the metal eventually comes into contact with the rotor and gives you that nails-against-the-chalkboard tone. That sound is one of the most obvious clues that it’s time to think about brake pad replacement, and if you hear it on your car, make an appointment to get your pads checked.
2. Brake Pad Light or Message
A number of more modern cars have an electronic version of the metal tab, essentially a sensor that monitors when it’s time for brake pad replacement. Instead of a squealing sound, you get a light on your dash or a warning from the on-board computer that the time to swap in new pads has arrived. It’s a more civilized method, but make sure the sensors are working properly or you won’t get any warning at all. Have them evaluated by a mechanic each time you’re in the shop for brake pad replacement.
3. Be Alert
The best laid plans can sometimes go awry, which means you should be aware of any unusual behavior from your brake pads. If you feel vibrations, hear weird noises or experience a lack of stopping power while braking, it could be a sign that you need to head to the shop — even if there’s no other warning from your vehicle. Anything out of the ordinary is cause for concern when it comes to how your brakes feel out on the road.
Don’t let a bad brake pad get you into a bad situation. If you suspect a problem, make it a priority to get it checked out. The experts are your local NAPA AutoCare Center can help you get to the bottom of any brake problem.
Check out all the brake system parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on brake pad replacement, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time. I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.