If the pads on your car's brakes wear down, you need to have them replaced. Driving with compromised braking ability can be extremely dangerous, and it's important to know the signs that you need a replacement. Here are some of the issues you should pay attention to.
1. Lack of Responsiveness
If you're hitting the brakes and your car is responding more slowly than usual, that could be a sign that you need new brake pads. The pads cushion the metal of the brakes, and without the right amount of padding, the brakes may be slow to respond. As a result, your stopping time may increase.
From the driver's perspective, the brake pedal itself may feel like there's no resistance. It may be easier to push and may hit the floor with relatively little pressure.
2. Squealing or Grinding Sounds
When the brakes aren't responding as usual, you should turn down the radio or eliminate other noises. Then, you should listen as you apply the brakes. If you hear a squealing sound, that may be a sign of trouble.
Listen for a few days. If the squealing continues, you may need new pads. If it goes away, it simply indicates that your pads were dirty. If you start to hearing a grinding sound, that is metal rubbing against metal. That is a late sign of trouble, and it means you need to make an appointment with a brake specialist as soon as possible.
3. Excessive Dust on the Front Rim
Ideally, you should check your rims on a regular basis. When you brake, dust from the brake pads settles on the rims. In most cases, your front wheels do more braking than your back wheels. As a result, you typically see more dust on these wheels.
As you own the vehicle, get used to how much dust is on all of your rims. That gives you a basis for comparison. Ultimately, if you start to see a greater buildup of dust, that may indicate that your pads are starting to really wear down and need to be replaced.
4. Thin Pads
In some cases, you can also visually check on your brake pads. If you have traditional brakes, you should be able to see the brake pad through the hub of your wheel. Your car's manual should have guidance on what width indicates that you need a replacement.
If you aren't sure, take your car to a brake specialist. They have gauges that can measure the remaining thickness of different types of brake pads. Based on the reading, they can let you know if you need new pads or not.
Note that these tips are just related to replacing brake pads. If your brake lines or other parts need replacing, you may see different symptoms.