Brake pads are the component in the braking system that provide the friction to slow your vehicle. They are located in the brake calipers and function by pressing against the disc brake rotors with friction material to slow and stop the wheels. As they are a contact wear item, the brake pads will eventually wear out over time and need to replaced. Usually bad or failing brake pads will produce a few symptoms that will alert the driver that the vehicle may require service.
1. Noisy brakes
The most common symptom of bad or failing brake pads are noisy brakes. Brake pads can accumulate dust as they wear, which if allowed to build excessively, may cause vibration and squealing when the pedal is applied or let off. Squealing brake pads can also be caused by excessively worn pads that have worn down to the point where the wear sensor has come into contact with the rotor. Severely worn brake pads, ones that have worn all the way to the brake pad backing plate, will produce a scraping sound as a result of the metal-on-metal contact between the brake pad backing plate and the rotor. Depending on the extent of the wear, the scraping may be audible when the vehicle is moving forward or when the pedal is depressed.
2. Pulsating pedal
Another symptom of bad or failing brake pads is a pulsating brake pedal. Severely or abnormally worn pads can cause the pedal to pulsate when the brakes are applied. A pulsating pedal may also be indicative of a potential problem with the rotor as well, as the pulsation felt in the pedal is a result of the contact between the rotor and brake pad.
3. Poor brake response
Bad or failing brake pads can also cause poor brake response. If the brake pads have been excessively overheated or severely worn, their capacity to slow the vehicle may be hindered as a result. Reduced brake response will take away from the overall handling and safety characteristics of the vehicle, especially during heavy braking situations where the force and heat generated by braking is considerably higher.
Because the brake pads are essentially the direct component that actually slows the vehicle, they are very important to the overall safety of the vehicle. If you suspect that your brake pads may be worn, or are making noise, have the vehicle’s brake system inspected by a professional technician, such as one from YourMechanic. If necessary, they will be able to replace the brake pads for you.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as Symptoms of Bad or Failing Brake Pads and was authored by Ed Ruelas.