worn brake pads and rotor

Bad Brake Pads: 3 Signs and Symptoms

Bad brake pads aren’t the most difficult components on your car that you’ll ever need to replace, but they’re definitely among the most important. Your brake pads play a critical role in bringing your car to a safe and controlled stop, and over time they gradually wear down to the point where you can no longer rely on them to do so. When the moment comes to change your pads, you shouldn’t hesitate — and here’s how to know that you should be making that appointment with your mechanic.

1. Squealing

Bad brake pads make noise — by design. Factory pads almost all have small metal tabs attached to them, nestled against the side of the pad. As the material on the pad wears down due to the friction that’s generated when it presses against your vehicle’s brake disc, those metal tabs are eventually exposed and stick up over the top of the pad.

The next time you use your brakes, the metal tab makes contact with the rotor — not strongly enough to cause damage, but with a level of pressure that generates a mechanical squeal. This sound is actually designed to pierce through traffic noise and be audible within the cabin of your car. It’s a signal that your pads have worn to the point where a replacement is in your near future.

2. Vibration

Brake caliper, disc pad

Bad brake pads don’t always make noise when they need to be changed. Sometimes the pads can wear unevenly, or become damaged during braking so that chunks of the pad break off or material is deposited onto the disc. When this happens, it can create a vibration under braking that occurs because the pad is unable to evenly distribute pressure across its entire surface. Any type of brake vibration is a sign something is wrong with your vehicle, and your mechanic should investigate it as soon as possible.

3. Decreased Stopping Power

It almost goes without saying, but if you notice that your car or truck is taking longer to stop than it usually does, then it could be a sign that you’re dealing with bad brake pads. Pads typically wear out so gradually that it can be hard to notice the increase in stopping distances. However, if you start to notice less bite when you hit the brake pedal or if you have to brake earlier from the same speed to stop at a red light than you used to, then your pads need attention.

Brakes are perhaps the most crucial part of your car’s safety systems, and it’s never a good idea to ignore any potential issues. If you suspect you have bad brake pads, it’s important to speak with your mechanic and schedule a time to get your braking system inspected as soon as possible.

Check out all the brake system products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 16,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on dealing with bad brake pads, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

about author

Benjamin Hunting

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.

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