Remember the day you first bought your car? You accelerated your car to an almost irresponsible speed and then slammed on the brakes to see how quickly you could get your car to a complete stop. When it came to a smooth silent stop, it felt like you owned the road and were safe being its ruler. Sadly, that feeling of security can change when the mutinous brakes create massive safety issues within your different stopping experiences. Oftentimes these issues appear when it is time to replace brake pads or rotors.
What are these indicators that will help discover the need for new brake pads or rotors, before it is too late? Let’s discuss them now.
• When pressing down the brake pedal, you should feel some resistance. It shouldn’t be too resistant as that could indicate there is something wrong with the booster system which in turn makes it harder to brake. If you feel a lack of resistance then it could mean a leak, either externally or internally, or that a brake caliper has seized up.
• If you check under the hood, you may find an excellent indicator that it is time to replace your brake pads or rotors. If you can find where the brake fluid reservoir, maybe by experience or from your owner’s manual, you should be able to see the fluid level which could reveal the answer to whether it is time to replace your brake pads or not. If you have new pads, the brake fluid reservoir should be full, and as your pads wear, will be at or close to the low marker. Be aware, though, that if it is below the low marker then this could be from a leak somewhere. Obviously, replacing your brake pads or rotors will not fix a leak, so it would be wise to have it repaired as soon as possible.
Pro Tip: Never “top off” brake fluid. Brake fulid level, between “FULL” and “LOW,” is a good indicator of brake pad wear. At the low mark, your brake pads have worn enough that you should consider replacement. If the brake fluid is below the low mark, then you should suspect a leak somewhere. Replace brake pads and repair brake system leaks before you adjsut brake fluid level.
• When you brake, the system converts your forward momentum into heat which allows you to come to a halt. There is only so much heat that your metal rotors can take before they begin to deform or warp. This overheating can happen by rust, braking on hills or riding the brake, and although not being necessarily dangerous, it can be a frustration nonetheless.
• The very common or well-known indicator that it is time to replace brake pads is a squealing sound when braking. However, a squealing sound may not always mean that it is time for the brake pads to be replaced. For example, it could just be brake dust building up on your pads and rotors or possibly that there are damaged components in contact with the rotor. Brake pads do come with a feature that squeals when the pads are almost ready for replacing. Whatever the reason for the squealing, taking a closer look into the noise would be a good idea.
• Keeping track of the brake pads thickness will help you in deciding when to replace your brake pads. You can probably check out the thickness by using a mirror and a flashlight. Once you hit 3 mm or lower, it is definitely time to start replacing your brake pads. If you wait too long then the pads can start to damage your brake rotors or drums and this would be unnecessary and costly.
As you have seen, there are a number of clear signs that show when it is time to replace your brake pads and rotors. Keeping your eyes and hears open to the different indications can be a real time and money saver, and in the long run, a life saver. When those brakes wear and start instigating a fight between you and your safety, and you are ready to quell the problem, knowing when to replace brake pads or rotors will restore your right to rule the road once again.