How to Diagnose Worn Brake Pads

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Diagnosing a set of worn brake pads is pretty easy. Generally, all you need are your eyes and a few simple tools.

Note: The following is a general guide for educational and entertainment purposes only. Consult your vehicle’s factory information for specific repair instructions and recommended safety procedures.

Inspect the Pads for Wear and Damage

Inspecting and measuring your brake pads is the best way to go. Sometimes, you can peek through your car’s wheel with a flashlight to perform a cursory inspection of the pads. But the most thorough method involves the removal of your wheel/tire assembly and checking the brake pads for minimum thickness and physical damage. Here’s how it’s done:

1. Put on your safety glasses.

2. Safely raise the vehicle and support it with jack stands.

3. Remove the wheel and tire assembly.

4. Remove the brake pads from the caliper.

Note: You can usually measure thickness without removing the pads from the caliper. In this article, however, we are also checking the pad friction lining for physical damage, which requires pad removal.

The most thorough method to inspect brake pads involves the removal of the wheel/tire assembly and checking the brake pads for minimum thickness and physical damage.

5. Use either a brake pad thickness gauge set or a digital caliper to measure the thickness of the pad.

6. In addition to measuring pad thickness, you’ll want to check the friction lining for physical damage that would warrant replacement, such as:

If the pads look worn or damaged, you’ll want to replace them right away.

On the other hand, if the pads look good, you can put everything back together. Once everything is reassembled and the car is back on the ground, pump the brakes several times to ensure they feel firm. DO NOT drive the car until the brakes feel solid.

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Mia Bevacqua

Chief Mechanic at

Mia Bevacqua is an automotive expert with over 15 years of industry experience. She holds ASE Master, L1, L2, and L3 Advanced Level Specialist certification, as well as a bachelor's degree in Advanced Automotive Systems.

Throughout her career, Mia has applied her skills toward automotive failure analysis inspections, consulting, diagnostic software development, and of course, freelance writing. Today, she writes for companies around the world, with many well-known clients showcasing her work.

Mia has a passion for math, science, and technology that motivates her to stay on top of the latest industry trends, such as electric vehicles and autonomous systems. At the same time, she has a weakness for fixer-upper oddballs, such as her 1987 Chevy Cavalier Z-24 and 1998 Chevy Astro Van AWD.

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