How To Check To See If Your Brakes Are Up To Scratch

How to Make Sure Your Brakes Are Up To Snuff

If there is one area of your car that you want check regularly to make sure it’s up to par, it’s your brakes.

I’m sure you’d agree that you wouldn’t want to stop to let an oncoming train or semi-truck pass by and have a sudden brake failure. There are a lot of things that can happen during a car part failure, but this is one of the worst.

Luckily, you won’t have brake failures or have to take your car in for brake repair nearly as often if you know how to check them yourself and look for early signs of wear.

The parts of your braking system that you can most easily monitor are the brake pads and the rotors.  I’ll break these down into two sections below:

Why check your brake pads?

One of the biggest reasons is that worn brake pads can cause severe rotor damage that can cost you many times what a simple pad replacement would cost.

Pads that are wearing unevenly need to be changed out early or they can easily lead to rotor wear or damage.

How often should you check your brake pads?

Well, that really depends on how you drive your car. If you’re an inner city driver who does a lot of stop-and-start driving, then every 3 months would be prudent.

If you’re a rural driver or most of your driving is on the highways, then once every 6 months should be sufficient.

If you happen to be a person who drives infrequently, then once every 12 months might be enough for you.

However, no matter how you drive, you should check them once every 12,000 miles as a general rule of thumb.

How to check your brake pads for excess wear

One way is to listen to your brakes. Brake pads are actually designed to make noise when they have begun to wear out. On many vehicle makes, this will sound like metal scraping as the car is moving, or in many cases, it may be that noise will increase while braking.

If this happens, take your car into a qualified brake mechanic and have them checked unless you have the proper tools and experience to do it yourself.

When you look at the wheel, look for copious amounts of brake dust. If you see this, it could be an indicator that your brakes are wearing down quickly.  Then, as the brake pad really wears thin, the amount of brake dust decreases substantially. So if you notice that a few days after washing your car that there is virtually no brake dust, then you should check the pads.

In most vehicles, you can see the brake pad through the wheel. If you see less than 1/4 inch of brake pad visible above its shoe, then it’s time to have them looked at for a replacement.

Your brake pads have a slot that runs through the middle of the pad that’s there to help indicate break wear. If that slot is virtually non-existent, then you should get the pads checked right away.

How to check your brake rotors for excess wear

Your brake rotors should wear smoothly. If you notice sharp ridges or grooves on them, it’s time to have a look at them to see what the problem is.

If you see a lip developing on the outer edge of the rotor and your pad is inside that lip, it’s definitely time to have them looked at.

When you reach a speed of 30mph and brake to a full stop and feel a vibration through the steering wheel, this is an indicator that your rotor has some warping going on and this should be looked into immediately; otherwise, it could potentially cost you more in the long run.

Don’t ever delay in checking your brakes. Your life, the lives of the ones you love, and other motorists are counting on your ability to stop your vehicle in a timely manner.

Schedule brake check-ups on your calendar throughout the year according to your driving conditions and frequency. When the date comes up, be sure and have a look. You’ll not only save money; your safety depends on it.

About Chad Ina



  1. Avatar

    Just scanned your free book and several of your blogs. As a father and shade tree mechanic (I have changed and rebuilt everything from engines to transmissions to rear ends, along with many sets of brakes and everything in between) I am impressed with the value and clarity of your blog and book. I am sending copies of both to my daughters and husbands and asking them to read once in a while. I am tired of “fixing” what could have been handled at a more convenient time with good maintenance. Thanks for the effort.

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