It might be hard to realize when you should replace your brake pads, however there are several easily noticeable signs that can indicate when you need to change them. It is not a good idea to ignore them, as they can cause more trouble in the long run.
Here are the most common signs of something wrong with your brakes:
• Brake light on
• Ridges on brake rotors
• Squealing / squeaking / grinding noises
• Wobbling / vibration or scraping when braking
• Spongy or soft brake pedal
• Car pulling to one side when braking
• Bouncing feel when you stop short
Be sure to notice if there are any signs of these when you are driving!
Once you notice any of these problems you should then have your car inspected, which should reveal that your brakes are worn and need to be replaced. Even for someone inexperienced, the symptoms of bad brake pads are usually always going to be obvious. It’s just one of those things that we sometimes find ourselves putting off for weeks, possibly even months at a time. If you’re considering doing it yourself, don’t be intimidated, as changing brake pads can be a fairly easy task, as long as you have the proper tools and correct socket sizes. Whenever doing work under your car, ALWAYS secure the vehicle properly on jack stands. Also, be sure to check that the jack stands are rated to support the weight of your vehicle. NEVER DEPEND ON THE JACK ITSELF TO HOLD YOUR CAR UP WHILE YOU ARE UNDER!! With that said, if you are considering a D.I.Y. brake job, you can find jack stands here.
I would hate to advise you to change your brake pads without you knowing what tools are needed! As every car is different, most cars, whether European, Japanese, or domestic, all function from the same general mechanism. As for tools, the main difference will be wrench and socket sizes.
Here is the minimal list of tools required to get the job done:
- Torque Wrench and Socket Kit – In order to fix almost anything on your vehicle, you must have a socket set. A torque wrench is a must for almost any repair.
- Brake Pad Spreader or C-Clamp – Keep in mind, your new brake pads will be much wider than your thin worn out brake pads. This tool allows you to easily retract the piston, pushing the pressure of the brake fluid away so that the new pads will fit. This will allow you to reset the piston and therefore, you will be able to fit the new brake pads.
- Torx / Allen Set – Often the brake caliper bolts are held in place with Torx or allen bolts. My car requires a socket and not an allen wrench. You can quickly identify what your car uses by looking at the two bolts on the back of the caliper.
- Brake Bleeder Wrench – You will not need this unless you disconnect the brake hose which is not necessary unless you change the brake caliper. Bleeding the brakes ensures that there is no air trapped inside the hydraulic lines and brake caliper. Bleeding brakes typically requires two people, however, if you don’t have the help you can get it done by yourself using a one-man brake bleeder kit.
- Jack and Jack Stands – For any auto repair underneath your vehicle, including replacing the brakes, you should always secure the vehicle with jack stands. They are inexpensive and will save your life.
- Lug Nut Wrench – You already have a lug wrench in your car. It’s usually stored in the trunk, under the spare tire cover.
Gloves – If the look of oily hands after working on your car gives you a sense of achievement, feel free to leave the gloves out!
Besides that, be sure to wear gloves if your car has been recently driven, which will cause your brake components to still be hot.
If you find yourself searching for a mechanic, depending on your vehicle, brake pads are really not very expensive; it’s going to be mostly labor that you’re paying for. The next step would depend on how much knowledge, time, and money you have to invest. If you look around you can probably find a garage that will offer free brake inspections, which can help you determine what exactly is wrong with your brakes. You can ask your mechanic for a complete diagnosis of your braking system. They will likely give an estimate of how much it will cost you, as well as exactly what parts need to be repaired.
If you feel confident enough to do the job yourself, you can save quite a bit of money. You can not only save money on the labor but on the parts as well. Before shelling out your hard earned money, you should shop around online to get a good deal on parts. The first place to check out would be the internet, as there’s more variety online than in any physical store. Also, you’ll have the patience to read reviews on the parts themselves, and receive unbiased feedback without the influence of a salesman. Shopping online can give you more selections and save you a lot of money.
Here are my top 3 recommendations on where you should shop online for new brake pads:
You can save hundreds or even thousands by working on your own vehicle. You probably already know this, but mechanics charge a lot. At least once, you should try doing it yourself and use a repair manual to guide the way. You will have all the service information you could ever need for your vehicle. It will help you fix the brakes, engine, suspension, steering, drivetrain, electrical problems, heat, air conditioning, etc. You’ll be sure to have this repair, and all future repairs covered in a single book. Anything can be fixed!
In the end, all that matters is that you have your brakes fixed, so you can get on the road again.