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Brake pads consist of friction material that is bonded to a sturdy steel backing plate. When you push on the brake pedal, the friction material on the brake pads is forced against the inner and outer surfaces of the steel brake rotor under tremendous pressure. The resulting friction causes the wheels on your car to slow rapidly allowing for a quick, safe and controlled stop. After thousands of miles, this friction material eventually wears away, and the brake rotor wears away as well, requiring replacement.
Here are several indications that you need new brake pads:
Normally, pad replacement requires these steps:
Driving a vehicle with a known deficiency in the braking system is unsafe and consequently is not recommended. Worn out brake pads can increase stopping distances and so for your safety, it is always advised that worn out brake pads be replaced promptly. Further driving is not recommended and you should request service at your earliest convenience if any of the following circumstances exist: stopping distances are much greater than what you are accustomed to; the brake pedal is not firm or is low; there is loss of braking power assist; the vehicle pulls severely to one side on braking; or the brake system warning light is on.
If you detect unusual noises, such as squealing or grinding, but stopping distances are close to what you are used to, and the brake pedal is firm, and there are no warning lights, it may be safe to proceed to your destination but schedule service at your earliest convenience. When it comes to the brakes on your vehicle, always err on the side of caution and have a mechanic check your brake pads and braking system at the first indication of a problem.
Brake pads must always be replaced as a set, that is both wheels (driver and passenger side) on an axle, front or rear, must be serviced. If brake pads on only one side of the car were replaced, your car might pull to one side when you apply the brakes. Often, resurfacing or replacement of the brake rotors is necessary and a competent mechanic will always measure for wear and damage to the brake rotors and advise you as to whether rotor replacement or re-surfacing is needed.