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How to Check Your Car’s Brakes

Keep Up with Car Maintenance

Proper brake pad maintenance and inspection can not only be critical for the long life of your car, but also for your safety as a driver or passenger. Simply put: your vehicle’s brakes are what enable you to slow down and stop. Unfortunately, brakes can be overlooked when it comes to regular auto maintenance. So, what needs to be done?

When to Replace Brake Pads

There’s no specific schedule for when it’s time to replace your brake pads, according to That means you may want to consider checking your brake pads regularly to help determine the amount of wear and tear. Typical brake pad wear depends how and where you drive. For example, if you drive in urban areas, your brake pads could wear out faster than someone who drives on rural roads due to the stopping and starting of city traffic.

Have your brake pads professionally checked each time you have your tires rotated — about every six months, says It can also be a good idea to check your car owner’s manual or talk to a professional technician so you understand what’s right for your particular vehicle. says that some common signs that it may be time to replace your brake pads include:

  • Pulsation or vibrations in the brake pedal

  • Longer stopping distances.

  • Your foot goes down further than normal when you apply the brakes.

How to Check Your Brakes

Fortunately, brake pads are designed to provide clear signals that they need to be replaced. Here are some ways to check them:

  • Listen to your brakes.Your vehicle’s brake pads are designed to make a noise as an early warning signal that they need to be changed, says J.D. Power and Associates. This noise will usually sound like metal scraping in the wheels when the car is moving, and the sound caused by these wear indicators will typically get louder the more the the brakes are used. If, after inspection, you still have noisy brakes, you may require different adjustments or repairs.

  • Look at the wheels. Brake dust accumulation in the wheel is another sign of normal wear, according to MotorWeek. As the brake pads wear out completely, the amount of dust on the wheels usually decreases. Noticing cleaner wheels after previous brake dust accumulation may be a sign that brake pads need to be replaced.

  • Observe the brake pad. On many cars, the brake pad can be seen through the wheel. Look at it to determine its thickness. If it seems very thin, less than ¼ inch, it is likely in need of replacement, according to J.D. Power. Some brake pads have a slot in the center that serves as a wear indicator. Look at the slot; if it’s almost gone, the pad probably needs replacement.

  • Feel your brake pedal and steering wheel: When brake pads are worn out, a vibration can often be felt in the brake pedal when braking. A vibrating steering wheel when braking may also be a sign of brake pad issues.

If you do not feel comfortable checking your brake pads, take your vehicle to a local dealership or repair shop where a professional can do it for you. Not only will replacing worn brake pads help make your car safer, it may help save money in the long run by preventing avoidable accidents.

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