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How to Thoroughly Inspect Your Brake Pads

Does your truck’s braking performance feel a little off? If so, it’s possible that your brake pads may have worn too thin.

The lifespan of your brake pads depends on several factors:

  • The type of pads and rotors you use
  • Your driving/braking style
  • Whether you have oversized wheels or regular sized wheels

We can’t give you a concrete number of how long your brake pads will last, but OEM brake pads on daily drivers last between 30,000 and 70,000 miles. If you run oversize wheels and tires, between 20,000 and 40,000 is more realistic.

Examine brakes
Image Credit: Marklar1

We recommend always keeping an eye out for the most common symptoms of worn pads. If you notice any, you should inspect them and replace them right away if needed.

The best DIY way to determine if you need new brake pads is to physically inspect your brake pads to see if they still have any life left in them. This guide has all the information you need about inspecting your brake pads.

The Most Common Symptoms of Worn Brake Pads

Routinely inspecting your brake pads on all four wheels is a chore no one wants to do. So we recommend just waiting until you experience some of the symptoms of worn brake pads. As soon as you notice any symptoms, you should inspect immediately, to prevent your wallet from buying rotors. Here are some symptoms of brake pads that have gone bad:

  • Low brake fluid (this could also mean that there’s a leak in the brake system)
  • Scraping, screeching, or grinding noise when brakes are applied. (Most brake pads have a wear indicator that makes noise when the pad gets low. But some of them are very quiet, and you probably won’t hear them over a stereo or with the windows up.)
  • Increased stopping distances

How to Inspect Your Brake Pads

Image Credit: iStock/BanksPhotos

First, measure the thickness of your brake pad lining.

  • If the thickness is 3mm or less, the brake pads are dangerously thin and they need to be replaced right away.
  • If the thickness is between 4mm and 7mm, the brake pads are wearing thin and they will need to be replaced soon.
  • If the thickness is 8mm or over, the brake pads still have a lot of life left.

Be sure to check the rotors too. You want to see if there are any scratches or grooves in the rotors. If the brake pads get thin enough, there will be metal-to-metal contact between the pads and rotor, and that can really damage the rotor and reduce your truck’s braking power.

What if You Find Uneven Brake Pad Wear?

Sometimes your brake pads aren’t too thin, but they’ve worn unevenly. This often means that there’s an underlying problem within the brake system, so it’s important to pay attention to the type of uneven brake pad wear your pads are showing. Here are some of the most common types of uneven brake pad wear and what each one could mean.

1. Inboard Pad Wear

When the inboard pad is thinner than the outboard pad, then this could mean a few different things:

  • Hardened square-cut O-ring seal (thus making it difficult for the piston to retract to the “at rest” position after the brakes are applied)
  • Corroded caliper guide pins
  • Brake pads stuck in the anti-rattle clips or pad slides
  • Damaged or corroded caliper piston
  • Residual pressure in the hydraulic system (thus making it difficult for the piston to retract to the “at rest” position after the brakes are applied)

2. Outboard Pad Wear

When the outboard pad is thinner than the inboard pad, then this could mean a couple of different things:

  • Corroded or seized caliper guide pins (thus making it difficult for the caliper body to release clamping pressure on the outboard pad)
  • Seized outboard brake pad in the slide

3. Tapered Pad Wear

Tapered wear
Image Credit: ChrisFix

Tapered brake pad wear could mean one of these issues:

  • The brake pads forced into the caliper slide area
  • A worn or seized caliper guide pin
  • Deteriorated rubber guide pin bushing

4. Cracking, Glazing, or Lifted Edges

Any cracking, glazing, or lifted edges in the pads means that there has been thermal distress. That can be caused by many things, including:

  • Low-quality brake pad material
  • Parking brake not fully retracting
  • Improper bedding procedure
  • Residual pressure in the hydraulic system
  • Poor-fitting pads, rotor, or shims
  • Seized caliper guide pins or pad slide
  • Overused brakes (especially while hauling heavy loads)

If you see uneven pad wear, you should inspect your calipers for proper operation. A caliper inspection guide can be found here.

Please contact us if you have any questions about inspecting your brake pads.

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