Brake Pad Problems: Common Signs of Faulty or Worn-out Brakes

Your vehicle’s brakes are a vital part of the automobile’s systems. They’re the go-to safety measures in panic-stop situations and can often save you from accidents. Their essential nature means you should keep them in optimum condition through servicing and replacement when necessary. 

However, we’re sometimes guilty of neglecting the maintenance of our vehicle’s crucial components, and they can suffer wear and tear as a result.

Call Nationwide Report’s Car Genius™ from RepairPal at 1-877-671-3040 from 9am-6pm ET, Monday through Friday. 

Different Types of Automobile Brakes

Passenger automobiles often have two types of brakes: drum and disc brakes. Drum brakes feature friction material connected to half-moon-shaped brake shoes pressing towards the inside of a drum whenever you hit your car’s brakes. 

The friction created when the shoes connect with the drum reduces the car’s speed. On the other hand, disc brakes feature metallic or organic friction materials that press against a rotor whenever you hit the brakes to slow down the automobile. 

Modern passenger cars often have disc brakes on their front axles, although some may also feature these brakes on their back axles. 

Regardless of the brakes on your vehicle, they’re subject to wear and tear over time. As such, you should evaluate and service them regularly. If you neglect to maintain your brakes when due, they may develop costly significant brake pad problems. Driving with faulty brakes also endangers your passengers and other drivers. 

9 Common Signs of Faulty Brake Pads

You’ll experience frequent brake pad problems if you fail to service your vehicle’s brakes. These faults may even escalate to significant automobile issues if they linger for too long. 

Therefore, ensure you keep your vehicle’s brakes in peak condition through regular checks and repairs. That said, here are some common signs of brake pad problems you may experience with your automobile: 

1. Dashboard Warning Lights 

Every four-wheeler has a mechanism that alerts drivers of potential faults in the automobile system. These warning indicators are your car’s dashboard lights. When your vehicle’s parts are faulty, specific dashboard warning lights will come on to inform you of the problem. 

For example, your car’s dashboard brake lights will typically flash when there’s a problem with the braking system. Some common issues that could trigger the brake warning lights include faulty brake pads, low brake fluids, and damaged sensors in the braking mechanisms. 

The brake warning light may also come on when you’ve engaged the parking brake. If the indicator appears, release the car’s parking brake while in park mode to see if it’ll turn off. 

If it doesn’t, you have an issue with the braking system. It’s best to contact a mechanic as soon as possible to get your brakes’ components checked and replaced. 

2. Squealing Noises While Braking

Most vehicle braking systems come with wear indicators. These metal components function primarily to let you know when you’re having brake pad problems. When you hit the brakes, the wear indicators connect with the rotor to release squealing sounds. 

These noises let you know that your brake pads are faulty and require replacement. However, not all vehicles feature brake wear indicators. As such, you shouldn’t rely on them alone to know when your brakes are faulty. 

Also, you could sometimes hear squeals from your brake whenever there are pebbles in its components. Moisture from rain storms could result in vibrations in your brake pads. If you notice squealing noises in your brakes after a storm, it’s probably some water that got into its components and not a wear and tear indicator.

However, if the noises occur under normal conditions, it’s time to visit an auto technician for brake pad repair. 

3. Wobbling or Steering Vibrations While Braking

Lopsided or uneven rotors can result in a shaky vehicle or a vibrating steering wheel whenever you step on your brakes. Your car’s braking system features large discs within the wheels called rotors. 

These discs connect with your brake pads to slow down your wheels. 

However, the rotors can suffer wear due to heat and overtime use. As a result, you’ll notice vibrations in your steering or wobbling when you engage the brakes and the brake pads connect with the uneven rotors.

If left unattended, this issue can worsen over time. You’ll need a mechanic to smoothen the rotor’s surface to correct the unevenness or replace them altogether if they’re too damaged. 

4. Burning Smells While Braking

Overheated brakes can lead to burning smells whenever you engage your brakes. It’s best to stop the car immediately in a safe location to allow the brakes to cool. If you continue driving with an overheated brake, you risk heating the brake fluids to boiling point, which could lead to brake failure.

While waiting, you should check your parking brake to ensure it’s not engaged. If you notice smoke emissions from your wheels during this period, a brake caliper might be stuck or malfunctioning. In this scenario, it’s unsafe to continue driving. Instead, you should get a mechanic to look at the problem as soon as possible. 

5. Partial or Total Brake Failure

If your car fails to stop or slows down much slower than usual, you may be experiencing brake failure. When this happens, you may notice that the brake pedal feels either jammed or unusually free. 

In case of brake failure, you could try some emergency maneuvers to safeguard yourself and other drivers. For example, it helps not to panic in such scenarios. You should also turn on your emergency flashes, and honk your horn to notify other drivers of the problem. 

Furthermore, remove your foot from the accelerator so the vehicle slows down while you steer it to a safer lane. However, don’t turn off the vehicle, or you’ll lose power to the steering wheel. 

While these emergency procedures can protect you from an auto crash when your brakes fail, you should take steps to avoid the problem altogether. Brake components will wear out over time, and you should visit your mechanic regularly for brake pad maintenance to prevent any faults. 

Furthermore, it’s good practice to cross check them regularly for issues before hitting the road. Neglecting brake diagnosis or servicing puts you and other road users at risk.

6. Vehicle Pulls to One Side While Braking

You may experience this scenario due to a faulty caliper or brake hose. When it happens with the front brakes, one of the calipers may be functional while the other isn’t. 

As such, the working caliper applies all the braking pressure, pulling the vehicle towwards one direction. You should contact a mechanic as soon as possible whenever you notice this problem. 

Your auto technician will evaluate your front and back brakes, as this issue is hardly noticeable when it happens with the back braking system. 

7. Leaking Fluids

If you notice the pressure in your vehicle’s brakes has gone soft, you may need to visit an auto repair shop to check for any leaking fluids around the master cylinder. The master cylinder holds the brake fluids that provide the hydraulic pressure for your car’s brakes. 

When you hit the brakes, the brake fluid from the tank in the master cylinder flows via a thin piping to create a hydraulic force against the calipers. However, when there’s a leak in the master cylinder, you’ll notice a lack of pressure when you press the brake pedals. 

8. Soft Brakes 

Soft brakes are also one of the brake pad problems you’ll experience due to moisture or air in the brake system. When you hit your car’s brakes, it shouldn’t sink to the floor completely. 

Brake pedals in automobiles featuring power brakes should stop at least 1 inch from the floor. For manual brake cars, the resistance should suspend the pedals 3 inches from the vehicle’s floor mat. 

If this scenario isn’t the case, you should visit an auto repair shop immediately. 

9. Less Than ¼-inch brake Pad

If you own a vehicle with disc brakes, you may need to visually evaluate them to determine if they’re due for replacement. Remove the tire wheels and look at the caliper connected to the brake pads. 

You’ll see the pads pressed against the brake rotor. If you notice that the pad’s friction material isn’t more than or up to ¼-inch thick, it’s time to visit a mechanic and replace them. 

How to Execute a Brake Inspection

It’s crucial to evaluate your brakes for potential brake pad problems frequently. You should execute a quick and short test drive in a safe location to determine the performance of your brakes. 

Pay attention to noises, smells, or vibrations you experience while applying the brakes. 

You should also take note of your brakes’ feel. Do they feel soft or possess the ideal amount of pressure? It’s good practice to also monitor your brake lights while test driving. 

If you notice anything unusual, visit your mechanic and mention any smells or noises you experienced. It also helps to contact your mechanic to execute the test drive since they’ll know what to look for and have more professional expertise in case of an emergency. 

How Often Should You Service Your Brakes

Since brake servicing is vital to safe driving conditions, how often should you take your vehicle to a mechanic for brake pad maintenance? 

While it depends on the car’s manufacturer, it’s ideal to have your brakes checked every 10,000-30,000 miles or every six months. 

Brake systems consist of metals subject to corrosion over time when exposed to moisture. Driving in rainy conditions exposures your car’s braking system to water which could corrode its parts. 

Even parked cars aren’t spared. Air moisture could also cause rust in your brakes’ components which makes them unsafe while driving. If your brakes have suffered wear and tear due to corrosion, you should have them replaced immediately. 

Besides rainy conditions, dirt and dust could also accumulate on your brakes’ calipers, slider pins, bolts, and rotors. These substances can affect your braking system’s performance and cause significant long-term damage. 

Therefore, ensure you visit an auto technician regularly to clean and service your braking components. 

How to Choose the Right Brake Pads for Your Car 

Replacing your brake pads when they’re faulty is necessary; however, how do you choose the perfect brake pads for your vehicle? Here’s our buyer’s guide to picking the ideal brake pad to solve your car’s brake pad problems: 

  • Weather Performance 

The ideal brake pads for your vehicle should provide durability in various weather conditions, including thunderstorms, extreme snow, and muddy terrains. 

  • Maximum Operating Temperature (MOT) 

A brake pad’s MOT is the highest temperature it can attain before it begins to disintegrate and invariably becomes unsafe for use. 

Different brake pads offer varying operating temperatures. Ideally, you don’t want a brake pad that overheats too quickly. You should consult your auto mechanic and your car manufacturer’s manual to determine what’s ideal for your vehicle. 

  • Cold and Hot Bite 

The best brake pads for your car should provide optimal friction, regardless of whether it’s hot or cold. 

  • Brake Pad and Rotor Lifespan

Brake pads and rotors are subject to wear and tear based on quality and several other features. Your driving style, driving conditions, and brake pad material are crucial to your brake pad’s longevity. 

However, it’s good practice to only purchase brake pads and rotors that promise durability and longevity. Seek your mechanic’s professional opinion before purchasing components for your car’s braking system. Your vehicle’s manual could also provide some helpful insight. 


Your vehicle’s braking system plays a crucial role in your safety while driving. Functional brakes can safeguard you and other road users from auto accidents during panic-stop situations.

However, you should monitor the health of your brakes regularly to ensure they’re in ideal conditions to guarantee your safety. It’s best to avoid driving with faulty brakes or leaving your brakes’ servicing to linger for months. 

Ideally, you should visit your mechanic every 4-6 months to maintain your vehicle’s braking components.  

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