Home
Blog Car Care Advice What’s The Ideal Brake Pad Thickness? (2021 Guide)

What’s The Ideal Brake Pad Thickness? (2021 Guide)

February 1, 2021

Curious about the ideal brake pad thickness?

Your car’s brake pad thickness is a measure of how much brake material it has to perform braking actions. It’s an easy way to determine if your brakes are effective, or if they require a replacement.

In this article, we’ll look at what brake pads are and what their recommended thickness is. We’ll then help you identify thin brake pads and suggest a convenient way to replace your brake pads.

This Article Contains:

(Click on links to jump to specific sections)

Let’s get started.

What Are Brake Pads?

A brake pad is the part of your car’s disc brake system that pinches the wheel rotor to cause friction, which in turn, stops your car.

What’s a disc brake system?

A disc brake is the modern day equivalent of the traditional drum brakes assembly. 

In a drum brake assembly, a brake shoe pushes against a brake drum that rotates with the wheel to cause friction.

However, a disc brake system works a little differently.

When you push down on the brake pedal, the following should happen: 

Now, imagine what happens if your brake pad material wears out entirely…

Your brakes won’t work because you don’t have enough friction material to exert any pressure on the wheel rotors

And no friction means no slowing down!

What’s The Ideal Brake Pad Thickness?

Brake pad thickness is simply a measure of the thickness of your brake pad. 

More accurately, it’s a measure of the thickness of the materials that make up your brake pad. 

These materials typically include:

What’s The Standard Thickness Of A New Brake Pad?

When you purchase a new brake pad, it has a standard thickness size of around 8-12 millimeters (½ inch)

Over time, as your brake pad engages with the wheel rotor, the friction material will experience deterioration — resulting in pad wear.

Ideally, your brake pads should be thicker than 6.4 mm (¼ inches) for proper functioning. 

If it’s thinner than this, consider getting a replacement soon.  

Most car mechanics also agree that the bare minimum brake pad thickness is 3.2 mm (⅛ inches). Any thinner than this, and you’ll need an immediate brake pad replacement to avoid brake failure.

What Determines Brake Pad Deterioration?

The level of brake pad wear that occurs depends on your vehicle, driving style, and road conditions.

For example, if you usually encounter heavy commuter traffic that involves a lot of starting and stopping, you’ll probably press down on your brake pedal more often. 

As a result, most city-dwellers face increased brake wear and end up replacing brake pads more often than their suburban counterparts.

When Exactly Should You Replace Your Brake Pads?

There’s no hard and fast rule for this. Brake pads can last anywhere from 25,000 miles to 70,000 miles. However, a good rule of thumb is to consider replacing your brake pads after 30,000 to 40,000 miles, to be on the safe side.

Some car owners might find themselves needing a brake pad replacement after 25,000 miles, and others might find their brake pads lasting more than 50,000 miles. It really depends on a number of factors, such as driving conditions and styles as well as the material of the brake pads.

That said, get in the habit of checking your brake pad thickness every five months or 5,000 miles.

What Are The Symptoms Of Thin Brake Pads?

Thin brake pads can compromise your vehicle’s performance, and more importantly, they can compromise your road safety

That’s why you must make it a habit to check your brake pads’ condition regularly.

To help you out, here are a few noticeable things that can warn you of thin brake pads:

1. You Hear Noises When Braking

If you hear a high-pitched squealing or groaning noise from the tires whenever you brake, chances are, your brake pads need replacement. 

Usually, modern brake pads have little metal tabs that come in contact with the rotor when 75% of the brake pad has worn out. The metallic grinding sound is a sign that your friction material has severely deteriorated and that you must replace the brake pads soon.

What happens when the metal tabs fade?

Once these metal tabs fade, the brake pads’ backing plate eventually starts grinding on the discs, damaging them.

This usually generates brake dust that sticks to your car’s wheels — which is another easy-to-spot sign that your pads need replacing.

2. Your Brake Warning Lights Are On

Some cars have a built-in dashboard indicator light that lights up when your brake system is compromised.

It’s important to note that this warning light is for your entire braking system — it isn’t just a brake pad indicator. 

Your warning light could be notifying you of anything, from an engaged parking brake, to the car running low on brake fluid. However, it could also indicate that you have a worn brake pad.

To be safe, when in doubt, consider checking all of your brake components whenever the warning light flashes.

3. Your Car Veers To One Side When Braking

At times, your car’s brake pads might wear out unevenly.

This might result in your car veering off to one side whenever you apply the brakes. 

This happens because the brake material on one side of your car is far thinner than the other — resulting in lower stopping power on that side. As a result, whenever you apply the brakes, your vehicle will veer off in that direction as there’s not enough friction in place.

It’s important to note that even if you’re facing brake thickness issues on just one side of your car, you should always replace your brake pads in pairs.

For example, even if just one of your rear brake pads needs replacement, you must change both the pads on your rear axle. Changing these rear pads in pairs ensures that they remain evenly thick and provide consistent braking performance.

How To Inspect Brake Pad Thickness

Checking your pad thickness from time to time can help you avoid brake failure and unsafe driving conditions.

While you can conduct a visual inspection of brake thickness on your own, we don’t recommend it as you have to be very careful to ensure nothing goes wrong.

Additionally, you might need specific tools such as a brake pad measuring gauge.

So it’s always a good idea to get a professional to do it for you.

However, if you don’t have access to a professional and urgently need to check your brake pad thickness, follow these steps: 

Step 1: Park your car on a level road.

Step 2: Use a jack to slowly elevate the side of your car you want to examine. Your owner’s manual should indicate the best position to place the jack.

Step 3: Use a lug wrench to loosen and remove the bolts on the wheel.

Step 4: Carefully remove the wheel to expose the brake rotor and caliper (the piece that houses the brake pad).

Step 5: Look into the hole in the caliper, and you can see both the inboard pad (or inside pad) and outboard pad (or outer pad).

Step 6: Measure the thickness levels of your brake pads with a brake measuring gauge, Vernier caliper, or compass.

If your pad thickness is less than the minimum thickness of 3.2 mm, opt for an immediate replacement. 

How To Easily Keep Your Brake Pads In Check With RepairSmith

Let’s say you’ve figured out that your brake pads need to be replaced.

What now?

Since the brake pad is such a critical component of your car’s disc brake system, it’s best to hire a professional mechanic to do the job for you.

And when you’re hiring a mechanic, verify that they:

Fortunately, there is a super-easy way to find a mechanic that fits these criteria and offers great quality and value for your money.

RepairSmith is the most convenient car repair and maintenance solution, with services currently available in the following locations: 

Here’s why you should turn to RepairSmith for all your brake pad needs: 

How Much Does Brake Pad Replacement Cost?

Usually, a brake pad replacement can cost you anywhere between $180 and $350 — with OEM pads generally costing more. 

It also depends on the type of brake pad your car uses.

For an accurate estimate, fill out this online form to let them know your car’s model, engine, and make.

Thicker Brakes = More Safety

Your brake pad is a critical part of your car’s brake system that generates the necessary friction to slow down and ultimately stop your vehicle.

However, over time, your brake pads will start to wear out.

And when your brake pads are thinner than 3.2 mm (⅛ inches), they’re no longer reliable. 

Luckily, with RepairSmith, you can easily prevent this from happening. 

You no longer have to take your car to the repair shop to get your brake pads replaced. Certified professionals will come to you and replace your brake pads — right in your driveway!


So, if you’re looking for a convenient and accessible repair service to replace your brake pads, try RepairSmith.