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7 ways on how to tell if you need new brakes

How to tell if you need new brakes

Are the brakes on your vehicle not working? Do you wish to understand whether you need new brakes? When it comes to personal cars, the brake system is among the most necessary safety features on the vehicle. So, it is important you know how to tell if you need new brakes and rotors so you do not end up in any accident due to brake pad failure.

If your car is making a screeching sound or pulling to one side when you brake, it’s time for new brakes. If you notice that your brake pedal feels spongy or soft, this is also a sign that you might need new brakes. If the pedal sinks to the floor, there’s no pressure in the system and it’s time to get some new pads.

Telling if you need new brakes can be pretty confusing. If you’re not sure, here are some signs that could mean it’s time to replace your brakes:

Your car makes a squeaking sound when you press down on the brake pedal.

Your car pulls to one side when you press the brakes.

When you drive over 60 miles per hour (mph), your car vibrates a lot and has trouble stopping.

What is a brake system?

The brake system is one of the important parts of a car. The starting and stopping functions of the vehicle largely depend on the proper functioning of the Brake System. Also, the brake system in a car does not include only the brakes and wheels but also includes many other components like brake fluid, control wire harness, etc.

The truth is that any problems with the brake system can create a serious threat to road safety and your health. Therefore, you need to level the performance or maintenance of the braking system in the best possible condition to avoid accidents and expensive repairs.

There are several types of brakes: disc brakes, drum brakes, and hydraulic brakes. Modern car manufacturing companies make these auto parts using the latest technologies, making them affordable and reliable.

So, irrespective of the type that comes with your car, you just need to ensure you keep it in good condition for a longer period for your safety.

How to tell if you need new brakes

7 Signs you need new brake pads

The truth is that the first time I experienced brake failure with my car, I failed to give attention to the signs the brake gave. Well, did I ignore the signs? No, I didn’t, but it all happened because I don’t know what it was then.

I have experienced a situation with a brake failure twice, and the second time I had little or no time to fix it as the damage occurred immediately. Some seconds later, I heard the sound of my brakes. This gives me stress out of nowhere.

So, below are signs that will help you know your brake is not in good condition.

1. Screeching sound

One of the signs your brake gives when it is not in good condition is the screeching sound. It happens as a result of the buildup or construction of the brake.

A little piece of metal is built into the brake pad, and the scratches on the brake rotor give an unpleasant sound whenever you match the brake. The metal is a measure to let you know that the brake pad is worn out, and the sound you hear comes from the impact of the metal on the brake rotor.

2. Wear and tear

Wear and tear are also one of the signs that you might need to change your brakes. There are many reasons your brake pad will wear out. The best way you can detect if it wears out or not is through inspection.

Once it wears out, it will begin to give you some sound whenever you match the brake. It is a result of the forceful action of keeping bringing the car to a stop.

You need to remove the tire to observe and check the state of the brake to replace it with a new one.

3. Brake pedal vibration

Whenever you match your brake and notice a sign of vibration, you might want to check out what is wrong with your brake pad. One cause might be a result of a warped rotor, and you might have to fix it with a replacement.

A warped rotor will surely damage the brake pad, even if it is a new one. So, you need it to be in good condition too.

4. Rusty brake rotor

I noticed that one of the two brake pads I bought recently had been worn out for up to a month, and the other is still as new as I bought it. My mechanic made me realize that the rusty brake rotor was the cause.

The sign gives a noisy screeching sound whenever I match the brake, and sometimes it whistles, which was why I took it down to the mechanic. A rusty brake rotor is also one sign that your brake pad might not last longer than expected. So, give attention to that also.

5. Slow-stopping response

One of the fears of every driver is the inability to bring a car to a stop when on a highway at full speed. I once experienced this twice, and it is not friendly at all, I must confess.

So, a slow-stopping response indicates that the brake pad is too bad and will need a replacement. Once you start struggling to bring your car to a stop, then you should be worried about your brake pad.

6. Insensitive brake

If you ever have to push your brake pad to the floor before you can bring the car to a stop, then you should get the car to the mechanics. It is a sign that your brake is faulty and needs urgent repair.

You should never push the brakes so hard to bring a car to a stop, and on the off chance that occurs, you should try to fix the brakes as soon as possible.

7. Pulling to one side

If your car is pulling to one side whenever you match the brake, it is an indication that the brake is bad. Leaving such a brake pad in your car will lead to unpleasant occurrences. So, once you notice that, you should take swift action to get the car to your mechanic for inspection.

Read also: How to remove studs from tires

How to tell if you need new brakes

How to check brake pads

The best way to check your brake pads is to allow the mechanic to do the task for you. However, if you love to get your hands dirty, you can take up the task yourself.

The first step is removing the tire from the car. You need to lift the car with your jack and place a jack stand under the car to support it. You should brace the car at the back before lifting the car and ensure the hand brake is in use.

Get your wheel spanner to loosen the lug nuts from the tire and remove the tire from the wheel hub. If it is hard to remove, you can consult our article on removing stuck tires on wheel hubs.

So, once you have removed it, you should place the tire aside and focus on the brake rotor and brake pad. Gently remove the caliper from the brake rotor, and then you get to have clear access to the brake pad. Remove the brake pad to check the status or for replacement. It is as simple as that.

How to tell if brake discs need replacing?

The brake disc consists of four components: the brake pad, brake rotor, brake callipers, and callipers support. So, if any of the mentioned equipment shows a sign of damage, you might want to agree that the brake disc is faulty.

However, damage to one or two of the mentioned components doesn’t mean the brake disc is bad, and you should allow your mechanic to do the inspection and observe the cause of damage and give the right suggestion for repair.

Where to get new brakes?

There are many places where you can get new brakes. You can get it from local and online stores. Also, some mechanic shops or service centres sell brake pads.

Take note that it is never right for you to get the brake pad yourself. That is the reason you should have a trusted mechanic in the first place. You should allow your mechanic to get the task done as he or she is in the right position to get the right one that is best for your car.

Signs you need new brake rotors

If you notice a sign of warp on your brake rotor, you might want to get a new one. One of the reasons you will want to get a new rotor is that you keep changing brake pads too often.

A bad rotor will always cause the brake pad to get damaged quickly, and there is a significant need to check out or go to brake service to ask for help. Also, if you notice a dent or mark on the rotor, rust, or corrosion, you might want to settle for replacement.

Common brake problems

  • Failure to bring the car to a stop
  • Pushing the brake to the floor before the car could stop
  • Jerking of the car as a result of too much sensitivity
  • Pushing the car to one side whenever you match the brake
  • Screeching and whistling sound whenever you match the brake

Read also: How to remove a stuck flat tire?

What are the symptoms of a bad brake calliper?

1. Brake fluid leakage

You will surely hear a burning smell from your car once your brake calliper is bad. You will likely experience leakage of the brake fluid, and once it comes in contact with every other part of the brake disc, it will give a burnt smell.

2. Reduced braking power

If you keep struggling to bring your car to a stop, you might want to check the brake calliper too. Often, the reason has nothing to do with the brake pad when the calliper is bad.

The calliper helps to ensure the brake has enough contact with the rotor, and once that is not effective, it will take force and lots of pressure to bring the car to a stop.

3. Car moving to one side

A vehicle pulling to the left or right is another common symptom of a calliper that needs to be replaced. Callipers are subjected to extreme heat during braking, which can result in the calliper piston seizing. A seized calliper piston will not retract automatically, causing a constant drag on that wheel. As a result of the brake drag, the vehicle will pull to the side with the affected calliper because the wheel on that side travels slower than the wheel on the opposite side.

4. Unpleasant sound when braking

Another potential issue with the brake calliper is abnormal sounds from the wheels when braking. If you hear high-pitched noises, sudden thudding, or impact sounds when you apply the brakes, it could be a sign of a calliper that is loose, stuck, or binding. A brake calliper will never stop the vehicle properly in this condition and may even result in premature brake wear.

Read also: Best tire bead seater 

What to do if the brakes fail in an automatic car?

I drive an automatic car, and I have experienced brake failure twice now. The moment I noticed my brake failed, all I did was remove my feet from the accelerator.

Panic is one of the major causes of irrational decisions. So, you do not have to panic at this point. Since your leg is away from the accelerator, you should press the hazard button for other drivers to be aware of whatever is going on.

Keep the car steady and try to press the brakes during the interval. Once you notice the speed drops, you should gently raise the hand brake while firmly holding the steering with the second hand.

At this point, you will notice the car’s speed will drop to the point that you can steadily bring the car to a stop. At several points, you can push down and pull up the hand brake to effectively stop the car.

Can you drive if you need new rotors?

It is not safe to drive a car with a damaged rotor. You are practically risking your life and those you have in the car. You should get a new rotor for your car before you ever decide to take the car out.

Your safety is important, and your brake can only be sufficient and effective when you have the brake rotor in good condition.

How often do brake rotors need to be replaced?

If you go as far as 50000 miles and above, you should consider replacing your rotor. However, most people do not see the necessity for this because the rotor doesn’t show any sign of damage.

However, you need to adhere to safety guidelines for safety reasons, and changing after longer miles is the best thing to do. For brake pads, changing after 5000 miles to 10000 miles is the right thing to do.

How to survive brake failure?

1. Alert other drivers

Once you notice brake failure, you should alert other drivers around you by pressing the hazard light. Once they see the light, they get to know that something is wrong and either get away or clear the path for them.

2. Use friction

The brakes’ best friend is friction. The car slows due to friction on the brake disc. Even if your brakes aren’t working, friction can still be beneficial. Start zigzagging the car if the roads are clear and you’re able to do so. To help reduce speed, use the friction of the tires on the road. If that isn’t enough, try driving over small plants and shrubs along the roadside. Your life is more important than the vehicle in this case. Another option is to carefully drive against the guardrail. This will also aid in slowing down.

3. Use the hand brake

Vehicles are equipped with two braking systems. The primary system is known as the foot brake, and the secondary system is known as the handbrake, emergency brake, or e-brake. The brake connects to the rear brakes via a metal cable. If your primary brakes fail, the e-brake should still function.

It’s not strong enough to stop the car, but it’s a big help in slowing it down. The e-brake performs best when used slowly and carefully. The rear brakes may lock up if you apply it too quickly, sending you into an uncontrollable spin. And, if there is one, keep holding down the release button.

4. Drive up the hills

If you’re still attempting to slow down, look for a hill or any upward slope that will assist you. It could be an on-ramp, a sloping street, or a specially designed run-off area. Even a slight upward slope may provide enough gravitational force to bring you to a complete stop.

Brake pad check tool

The only tool is the brake pad thickness gauge. The tools help you to know how safe your brake is. You can get it from any local store, and it is cheap and affordable. You should check the manual or video on how to use it and do the reading.


This page on how to tell if you need new brakes and rotors is so comprehensive that it covers all aspects of the braking system that you need to know. We have the right information you are looking for on this page, and we hope you are satisfied with what we offer here.