Over the life of your vehicle, you’re going to have to replace your brakes at least two or three times. Often, it can be difficult to know conclusively that it’s time to replace the brake pads—but if you let them go too long, you can end up with a vehicle that’s unsafe to drive and can end up needing more work than just the pads.

Here’s a list of symptoms that can let you know it may be time to do a brake job:

  • Longer stopping distances
  • Pedal feels soft or spongy underfoot
  • Brake light or ABS light comes on while braking
  • Low brake fluid, which could be a sign there is a leak somewhere, or that your brake pads have worn down
  • Vehicle pulls to one side or the other while braking, and is hard to control
  • Pulsation or shudder through the brake pedal while braking
  • Tendency for one or more wheels to lock up and skid while braking
  • Excessive brake pedal travel, with the pedal going almost to the floor before brakes engage
  • Pulsation or shudder through the steering wheel while braking
  • Squealing, groaning, or metallic grinding noise while braking

Of these, the metal-to-metal grinding noise is by far the worst. It means the friction material of your brake pads has worn to a point where the rivets that hold them to the steel backing plate are exposed. Your only braking ability comes from metal-to-metal contact, and the rivets are quickly digging deep grooves into the rotors. Not only will your badly-scored rotors need to be replaced (doubling the cost of the brake job), but you’re also driving a very dangerous vehicle.

Depending on your vehicle and driving style, brake pads will generally last 40,000-60,000 miles. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to have your brake pads inspected about once a quarter. If you see they’re thinner than about 1/4″, it’s time for a brake job.


Raymond Cooper · August 8, 2018 at 9:24 am

It’s good to know that I should look at getting my brakes checked if the pedals feel soft or spongy. My car’s pedals have been feeling this way for a while now, and I haven’t been sure of what to do. I’ll definitely have it looked at as soon as possible to ensure my brakes are functioning properly.

Edison Maclane · August 9, 2018 at 4:06 pm

I appreciate it when you said that metal grinding noises from the brakes indicate that the rivets holding the metal backing plate to the brake pads are exposed. That is the exact same problem I have with the car as of now, and it really is distracting. Not only that, but I am also always stressed out thinking that I will get into an accident because of it. Hopefully, I can find a mechanic to deal with is ASAP.

Zoe Layman · August 11, 2018 at 5:02 am

I am glad to know different kind of signs of an abnormal braking system. Braking system plays vital role in the performance of the vehicle and driving a vehicle with damaged braking system could leads to an accident. So, the condition of different components of the braking system should be inspected at a regular interval. By doing so, one could identify abnormal components of the braking system and repair such components in time to prevent any kind of accident.

Martina · August 18, 2018 at 4:19 am

Thank you for the excellent article

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