How to Detect Signs of Worn-Out Brake Pads

How to Detect Signs of Worn-Out Brake Pads

Sponsored by Advics

Ensuring a vehicle’s braking system is in working order is crucial to your customers’ safety. So, a thorough assessment of the vehicle’s brake pad wear is a must. Keep reading for some tips and tricks from our expert techs when it comes to diagnosing brake pad wear and how to remedy some common potential issues.


The very first thing you’ll do when the vehicle is up on the hoist is perform a visual inspection, which if done thoroughly and correctly, can help you easily identify a pad wear issue if it’s present.

As you make your way around the vehicle, check each pair of brake pads and shoes for things like uneven pad wear and rust or other environmental contaminants. You’ll also check the rotors for signs of overheating, like grooves, scoring and warping. 

Each brake pad has a minimum thickness measurement as defined by the manufacturer, which indicates the specifications for the maximum wear that the pad can endure before being considered unsafe to drive on. As you know, each pad’s minimum thickness differs, so review the specifications for the brake pads currently installed on the vehicle.

Another visual indicator that brake pads have worn out is usually reported by the customer – an illuminated brake indicator light on the instrument panel. You know that this light can mean a few different things, but pairing this information from the customer with your visual inspection can help you quickly and efficiently work out a diagnosis before you even need to pick up a tool!


If signs of brake pad wear aren’t immediately visible or obvious when you complete your visual inspection, there are a few things you can listen for during your test drive. Are the brakes giving off a squealing, squeaking or grinding noise? Let’s dive into what each of these sounds can mean:

Squeaking or Squealing Noise

You’re hearing this noise for a reason! As a technician, you know that brake pads often have steel clips included in their construction to serve as a wear indicator. If the act of pressing down the brake pedal results in a squeaking or squealing noise, your customer’s brake pads are likely worn past their prime and need to be replaced immediately. Make sure to take this opportunity to educate your customer on the importance always bringing their vehicle into the shop if they hear unusual noises, especially when depressing the brake pedal. By encouraging your customer to stay on top of service and maintenance, you can help ensure that their vehicle stays in good working order, and also help them avoid costly additional repairs – like rotor replacement as a result of driving on thin brake pads for too long.

Grinding Noise

If the customer’s brakes are giving off a grinding sound when you put your foot to the brake pedal, you may be dealing with a larger brake system issue. This sound often happens when the brake pad has worn so thin that the brake rotor is coming into contact with the caliper. In this situation, the rotors and calipers are at risk for damage, as well as the brake pads. You’ll need to let your customer know that their brake pads need to be replaced right away to prevent further damage, and that there is a chance that rotors or calipers might need service or replacement, too.


During your test drive, check for proper pedal feel when depressing the brake pedal. Is the vehicle taking longer than normal to reach a complete stop? Do you feel a vibration in the steering wheel or below the driver’s seat during braking? These can both be symptoms of worn out brake pads, or other issues with the braking system. If you feel any of these abnormalities, you can use that information to help you make an accurate diagnosis. 

Final Checkpoints

Based on look, sound and feel, you might assess that the vehicle’s brake pads have worn thin and need replacement, but don’t forget that other brake system parts like calipers and rotors may have been damaged depending on how long the pads were driven on in this state.

At ADVICS, we always recommend replacement of brake pads and brake rotors together, to ensure that the vehicle is always equipped for a safe, smooth and reliable stop every time. You can feel good recommending ultra-premium brake parts like ADVICS brake pads to your customers, knowing that our brake pads surpass the competition in testing for noise, pedal feel and pad life, according to SAE standard measurements.

You May Also Like

Extended Engine Oil Change Intervals / A false economy?

While most everyone is aware that the cost of used and new vehicles has gone up over the past few years, it is not the only expense related to owning a vehicle that has significantly increased over that time. The latest 2023 AAA data found that the average cost of new vehicle ownership has soared

While most everyone is aware that the cost of used and new vehicles has gone up over the past few years, it is not the only expense related to owning a vehicle that has significantly increased over that time. The latest 2023 AAA data found that the average cost of new vehicle ownership has soared to $12,182 a year. This is a 13% increase from 2022. With the cost of preventative maintenance also rising, OEMs have chosen to reduce these costs by extending lubricant drain intervals for engines and transmissions, citing “improved” or “synthetic” oils as the reason. What is most concerning is the OEM extension of critical preventative maintenance requirements for the new high output “fuel efficient” turbocharged gasoline direct injection (TGDI) engines.

Engineering For Excellence – MEYLE HD Solves Tesla Noisy Control Arm Issues

By Stefan Bachmann, Head of Steering & Suspension, MEYLE HD The effort that goes into creating one of the world’s most technologically advanced electric vehicles is staggering, and the engineers at Tesla who developed the Model 3 and the Model Y should be proud. However, they also should tip their caps to the engineering team

A Closer Look: Servicing Electric and Hybrid Vehicles

Hybrid vehicles have been sold in the U.S. for over 20 years. As hybrids continue to grow in popularity, and as full electric vehicles have entered the market in the past several years, they have brought with them numerous service opportunities for aftermarket repair facilities. Whether shops dive in and get involved with replacing batteries,

Advanced Filtration Is Key to Vehicle Longevity

Let’s face it, we love our cars – and we drive a lot. According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Americans drive more than 13,000 miles per year on average. Although the miles continue to rack up on our cars and trucks, their overall shelf life keeps increasing. Once upon a time, vehicles

What Causes Fuel Pumps to Fail?

Like most vehicle components, natural wear and tear is the unavoidable cause for parts replacement. Fuel pumps are often out of sight and out of mind for most shop visitors. That’s because they are an as-needed repair and not typically a part of ongoing maintenance. Nevertheless, if you diagnose fuel pump failure, customers will want

Other Posts

Brake Lines and Hoses: Inspecting for Wear and Preventing Brake Failure

Discover the secrets to maintaining safe brakes with our comprehensive guide to inspecting brake lines and hoses.

MEMA Aftermarket Suppliers’ BMC to Host Summer Meeting

The Brake Manufacturers Council meeting will be held on May 31, in Naples, Florida.

Basic Types of Brake Rotors

The most common materials used in brake rotors include cast iron, carbon composite, and ceramic cast. This video is sponsored by The Group Training Academy.

Selling the Complete Brake Job

These simple guidelines will help you ensure that your customers have everything they need.

Brake Job