Worn Brake Pads – Common Causes, Signs, and Solutions

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Worn brake pads can easily lead to issues like screeching or heavy vibrations while driving. The worn pads are majorly caused by corroded slide pins and caliper failure. Worn Brake Pads In this article, you’ll learn about the causes of brake pads wearing, how to identify the problem, and how to fix it.

What Can Cause Your Brake Pads To Be Worn?

The factors that can cause your brake pads to be worn are corroded slide pins, driver errors, torn piston seals, caliper failures, and abnormal rotor wear. Natural causes, low-quality pads, hard braking, frequent sudden stops, and driving at high speeds can also cause the pad to wear faster.

Poor Braking Habits

Driver error, such as poor braking habits, is one of the most common reasons the pads wear easily. As the name implies, this kind of wear occurs due to an error on the driver’s part, such as poor braking habits. Brakes can easily wear if the driver leaves their foot slightly on the pad. Resting your foot on the pedal while driving can cause them to remain in light contact with the rotor, resulting in premature wear. This is because the slightest pressure on the pad can engage the brake.

Slide Pin Corrosion

Corroded slide pins are another common cause of the pads wearing. The slide pins allow the caliper to move and apply pressure to the pads. When the slide pins become corroded, they can stick and prevent the caliper from fully retracting, even after releasing the brakes.
When the slide pins are constantly in contact due to corrosion, they will eventually cause your pads to wear unevenly and quickly. The corroded slide pins can also drag or rub against the rotor continuously, resulting in faster wear of the pad. If not identified quickly, this issue could cause further mechanical problems in your vehicle. It could also lead to road accidents.

Torn or Broken Piston Seal

The pistons are responsible for the smooth running of the brake, and when their seals get torn or broken, it can cause the pedals to wear easily. The piston seal keeps the brake’s fluid within the caliper and ensures smooth movement of the piston. Signs of Brake Pads If the seal becomes torn or damaged, it causes the fluid to leak out, leading to a loss of hydraulic pressure. This can cause the pads to engage only partially with the rotor and reduce the functionality of the piston. These will result in uneven wear or reduced performance.

Uneven Rotor Wear

Many worn pads are also caused by abnormal or uneven rotor wear. This issue can occur due to various factors, including uneven pedal contact, improper brake installation, and rotor warping. If the vehicle has unevenly worn rotors, it can cause the pads to wear unevenly and more rapidly. The abnormal wear occurs when the pads do not make even contact with the rotor. This is because certain areas of the rotor where the brake’s pad touches will wear faster than others. This uneven wear can lead to an uneven braking surface, causing the pads to wear quickly.

Caliper Failure

Caliper failure can occur due to various reasons, including seized or stuck pistons, damaged slide pins, or worn-out caliper seals. When the caliper fails to operate correctly, it can cause the brake’s pads to wear unevenly or make continuous contact with the rotor, resulting in excessive wear. Caliper failure can lead to wear on brake pads by causing constant pressure on one pad. This will result in excessive friction and faster wear on that particular pad. It may also apply uneven pressure on the pads, causing one side to wear faster than the other. A stuck caliper can also cause dragging brakes, as the pads continuously rub against the rotor even when you are not pressing the brake pedal. If the caliper fails to release properly, the continuous contact between the pads and the rotor will generate excessive heat and further accelerate the wear.

Contaminated Brake Fluids

Another cause of the wearing of your pads could be if the brake’s fluids are contaminated. Dirty or contaminated fluid can cause the pads to wear quickly by reducing the friction. Also, oil, grease, or other substances on the braking surfaces can reduce friction and cause uneven wear.

Component Misalignment

Misalignments within the braking system can contribute to brake pad wear. Proper alignment is essential to ensure brake components work harmoniously to provide efficient stopping power. When the brake components, such as the calipers and pads, are not properly aligned, uneven pressure is applied to the pads during braking. The uneven pressure can result in uneven wear, with some areas of the pads experiencing more friction than others. Over time, this imbalance leads to premature pad deterioration. These component misalignments can also cause the brake pads to make partial or constant contact with the rotor, even when not braking.

Rusted or Dirty Rotors

Dirty or rusty rotors can contribute to brake wear and compromise braking performance. The condition of the rotors directly affects how the brake pads make contact and engage during braking. When rotors accumulate dirt, debris, or rust, they become uneven and less smooth. The uneven surface can lead to inconsistent contact with your brake pads, causing them to wear down unevenly. Additionally, the presence of rust can create a barrier between the rotor and the brake pad, which will reduce the effectiveness of braking. Rusty or dirty rotors can also increase friction and heat during braking. This excessive heat can cause the brake pads to deteriorate faster and reduce lifespan. In severe cases, dirty or rusty rotors can lead to brake noise, vibration, and reduced stopping power.

Carrying Heavy Loads

Carrying heavy loads can contribute to accelerated pad wear. When your car is loaded with a significant weight, such as cargo or passengers, your brake will be directly affected. This is because the increased loads in your car place more demands on the braking system, increasing the force. Braking generates heat, and heavier loads require more force to decelerate the vehicle. This increased stress can lead to higher temperatures in the brake components, including the pads. Over time, excessive heat can cause brake pads to wear down faster, reducing their lifespan.

How Can You Fix Worn Brake Pads?

You can fix worn pads by replacing the worn pad. Other ways are by cleaning or changing the contaminated or dirty brake fluid and lubricating the slide pins. The action you must take depends on the cause of the worn pads and the extent of the wear.

Change the Brake Pads

The easiest way to fix worn pads is by replacing them. Once you start hearing strange noises when applying the brakes, you should check and replace brake pads if necessary. Also, it is recommended that you should always try to replace them after driving for 30,000 – 70,000 miles. To change the brake pad, lift the vehicle and remove the wheel. Locate the brake caliper and remove the bolts holding it in place. Next, gently remove the worn pad and replace it with a new one. You should make sure it is properly seated before reattaching the caliper. After replacing the pad, you should check to confirm that it is firmly placed, and that the caliper is rightly attached. Repeat the process to replace the other pad and check the caliper. Once you’ve fixed the pads, put the wheel back on and start the vehicle to test the pads. Brake pad replacement is a bit technical, so you must pay close attention when replacing the pads. If done rightly, you will fix the clicking noise coming from the brakes and make your brake pads work perfectly.

Clean the Brake Pad’s Mounting Bracket Surface

If you notice any signs of a worn outer pad, you should first check the mounting bracket for any sign of rust or dirt, as that is a major cause of worn pads. If the mounting bracket is dirty, you can fix the pad by simply cleaning it. Fix Brake Pads in Car To clean the sliding surface, remove the caliper and pads. Use a wire brush or sandpaper to remove corrosion or debris from the bracket’s surface. Clean it thoroughly and apply a thin layer of high-temperature brake grease to prevent future corrosion and ensure smooth movement of the pads. Auto repair and brake maintenance, or even general car maintenance, involves more than simply replacing worn or damaged parts. You should also maintain your car by regularly cleaning any dirty surfaces.

Grease the Slide Pins and Brake Discs

If the brake pad’s wear is a result of an unlubricated slide pin or brake discs, you should check and lubricate them immediately to ensure the smooth running of the caliper. To lubricate the slide pins, remove the caliper and pads. Next, inspect the pins for signs of wear or damage. Clean the slide pins with a rag and a brake cleaner. Apply a light coat of synthetic brake grease to the pins and ensure they move freely. This will help the brake pads to engage and release properly. You should also apply a thin layer of lubricant on the discs.

Change the Bad Brake Rotor

If you notice a warped brake rotor, you should check and replace it immediately. To replace a warped rotor, you can start by lifting the vehicle and removing the wheel. Next, you should loosen and remove the caliper mounting bolts and set the caliper aside. Remove the old rotor and replace it with a new one. Next, secure the caliper back in place and tighten the bolts. Finally, put the wheel back on and repeat the process for the other side. This will ensure even braking pressure and prevent further damage to the braking system.

Resurface the Rotors

Resurfacing rotors, also known as rotor machining or turning, is a precision process employed to restore the braking surface of brake rotors to an optimal condition. This method is used when the rotors exhibit minor wear, such as light scoring or surface imperfections, and remain within manufacturer-specified thickness limits. You can either use an on-car brake lathe or a conventional bench lathe. Clean the hub’s face and the inside of the rotor hat using a drill-powered brush before installing the rotor. This ensures the removal of dirt, rust, or particles that might create gaps between the rotor and hub.

FAQs

Can You Drive With Worn Brake Pads?

No, you cannot drive with worn brake pads. Driving with worn pads can be dangerous and is not recommended, no matter how urgently you need to drive the vehicle. As the pads wear down, their ability to grip the rotors decreases, which can lead to several safety concerns. Warped Brake Rotor

Can Worn Brake Pads Cause the Steering Wheel to Shake When Braking?

Yes, worn brake pads can lead to steering wheel shaking when braking. As the brake pads wear out, they become less effective in gripping the rotors, causing vibrations that can be felt through the steering wheel. It’s important to address this issue promptly to ensure safe driving conditions.

Conclusion

While a worn brake pad can be scary, you don’t have to worry, as you can now fix it. Here’s a recap of what was discussed in this article:
  • Worn pads are caused by poor braking habits, corroded slide pins, uneven rotor wear, caliper failure, and broken piston seals.
  • Signs of a worn pad include indicator light blinking, screeching or squealing sounds, spongy pads, and grinding noises.
  • The most common way to fix worn pads is by replacing them with new ones. You can also fix them by lubricating or cleaning dirty or rusty parts.
  • Cleaning the surface of the brake’s mounting bracket and the brake shoes can also fix the problem of worn pads.
Now that you know the causes, signs, and fixes of worn pads, you can handle the problem whenever you encounter it.
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