It is very dangerous driving with worn-out brakes.
How often you change your brakes will be determined by the kind of brakes you use, whether you are hard driver, and the kind of loads that you carry.
If you are the type of driver who drives fast with hard cornering then you should expect your brakes to wear out faster than a cautious driver.
Brake pads are made from a variety of materials – organic, semi-metallic, and ceramic. Ceramic brake pads have a longer lifespan with the organic being the least durable.
Lastly, you need to consider the kind of load you are subjecting your car to. If you have tow trailer then expect the brake pads to be under more pressure.
Most people will change their brake pads after every 40,000 to 60,000 miles. The above factors may cause you to change your brake pads sooner. You can check the thickness of the pads and ensure that they do not go to less than ¼ inch thickness.
Signs that your brake pads are worn
There are several signs to check for when it comes to worn brake pads. The best way is always to inspect both the inner and the outer brake pad with a light to make sure you have material remaining on them.
Brake light turns on
The brake light can either be yellow or red. The moment it comes to know that your car is experiencing braking problems. If your brake light is on, it might tell you that that brake fluid level is low, which is an indicator that the brake pads are worn.
Low brake fluid
The brake fluid should not disappear from your reservoir unless you have a leak. However, when the brake pads are worn, the piston will move out which will make more room for brake fluid. This will cause the brake fluid level to go down in the reservoir.
One sure way that you need new brake pads is when you start hearing a squeaking noise whenever you press the brakes. This is an indication that the pads are worn out and the steel underneath is coming into contact with the rotor. However, if you hear a grinding sound it could be a problem with debris coming into the brake calipers.
Vibrating brake pedal
When your brake pads wear out you will notice that the brake pedal vibrates whenever you press the pedal. This will make the car become unsteady and it can be dangerous driving the car at high speeds. A vibrating pedal could be a symptom of further engine trouble.
Grinding metallic sound
Metal bridges are often attached at the bottom of the brake pads and signal to the driver that it is time to change their brake pads. If you are driving and you hear the sound of grinding metal then know that your brake pads are worn out and the metallic ridges are grinding against the rotor. Such brakes make it very hard to stop the car and if you continue driving you may cause an accident.
Brake pads that are less than ¼ inch
Lastly, the best way to know that your brake pads need to be changed is to simply examine them for wear and tear. You can check this through the wheel spokes. If the brake pads appear to be less than ¼ inch then it is time to replace them. In some instances, one part of the tire can get worn out than the rest. The solution is to constantly rotate your tires every 6 months.
How to change your brake pads
Once you notice that your brake pads are worn out you need to change them immediately. If you have a trusted mechanic they can do this for you for a small service fee. However, changing your brake pads is not that hard. With the right tools, you can change them yourself.
Not that some read brake pads require a computer to reset the pistons to be able to replace them. Check out: Replace brake pads with an electric parking brake
Purchase brake pads
Firstly, get the recommended manufacturer’s brake pads. These are sold in pairs in many auto service shops. Brake pads are made from a variety of materials. The more long-lasting they are the more expensive they will be. When going to the service shop inform the attendant of the make of the car, year of manufacture and the price range. Point to note is to avoid rally brakes for a regular car. This will cause unnecessary wear and tear of the rotors.
Lift up & remove wheels
Next, is position your car on a flat surface while waiting for the engine and brake components to cool down. Start by loosening the wheel nuts with your wrench. Do not completely remove them but loosen to a third way.
Use the car jack to lift the car. Most cars have wedges for placing the jack. Ensure that the area you are placing your jack is solid ground. You can put some rocks or blocks on the other wheels to prevent the car from rolling backward. Once you have lifted the car you can place jack stands for extra stability.
Remove the wheel you want to change brake pads. If the wheel is stuck you may need to hit the wheel with your leg to loosen it a bit. Use a wire brush to clean off any rust that could have accumulated on the rims, stud holes, and rotor mounting surface. Once you are done, apply some anti-seize compound.
Removing the caliper bolts will require use of a ring spanner. Brake calipers wrap around the rotors and hold the brake pads. To slow down the car the brake pads attach to the rotors. Due to increased friction between the two the pads wear out with time. All this is done through hydraulic pressure. Just like the stud holes clean the rotors with some WD-40 before reinstalling the calipers.
Replace pads, Clean & Refit
Pads are attached to the calipers with a set of metal clips. Remove your old pads. In some instances they pads can be a bit tight so use some force to remove them. Before placing the new pads, spray some anti-seize lubricant on the edges of metal. The lubricant should not get into contact with the brake pads otherwise you will experience reduced friction between the pads and the rotors. Before testing your new brakes ensure that the car has enough brake fluid. Replace, the calipers and tire.
Your brakes should be replaced every 40,000 to 60,000 miles but this will depend on how you drive the car. For those who drive fast with sharp braking expect the pads to wear out faster. The rate of tear can also be as a result of heavy loads.
If you inspect your brake pads and there are under 3mm/¼ inch left, you should replace them. The moment you notice a squeaking noise from your brake pads know that it is time for a change.