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How To Identify & Fix Worn Or Cracked Brake Pads + FAQs

October 15, 2021

Do you hear a brake squeal or grinding noise when you hit the brakes?

Chances are you have some cracked brake pads.
But how do you tell if that’s true and that it’s time for a brake pad replacement?

In this article, we’ll show you how to identify worn or cracked brake pads, when to replace them, and give you the answers to six brake pad-related questions.

This Article Contains:

Let’s start.

How To Identify & Fix Worn Or Cracked Brake Pads

It’s not easy to identify a worn brake pad, no matter what the brake noise sounds like.
That’s why it’s always a good idea to ask a mechanic to do it for you.

However, with that said, let’s go over some common wear patterns and types to help you identify worn brake pads.

1. Outer Pad Wear

Outer pad or outboard pad wear happens when the brake pad leans against a rotor after the brake caliper is released. 

Outboard pad wear can often happen due to malfunctioning brake components such as bushings, caliper guide pins, or slide pins.

If your car brake has outer pad wear, it’s best to let a mechanic replace every caliper and brake pad that has issues. They’ll also check for damage to the piston boots and seals.

2. Cracks, Glazing, Or Lifting

Glazed or cracked brake pads with lifted edges are often related to:

These kinds of brake problems or pad wear mean the brake pad or the faulty caliper needs to be replaced, and the parking brake (e brake) needs to be adjusted.

3. Tapered Wear Or Uneven Wear

With tapered pad wear, you’ll see an uneven wear pattern on the pad surface.
This kind of wear indicates that one of the following is true:

It’s quite easy to resolve this kind of uneven wear issue. 
Just get the caliper and the brake pads replaced by a professional mechanic.

4. Inner Pad Wear

Inner pad wear is when there’s excessive wear on the interior side of the brake pad.

It occurs when the pad rubs against the rotor after the caliper is released or when the caliper piston won’t return to its rest position. 

Inner pad wear often results from a faulty brake caliper, corrosion (rust), or worn seal.
To fix this wear, just like outer pad wear, get a mechanic to replace it.

A problem with the master cylinder can also cause inner pad wear.

Your mechanic may inspect the hydraulic brake system and the caliper for residual pressure and look at the holes of the guide pins. They may even look for piston boot damage. 

If the holes of the guide pins or piston boot have rust or damage, you should get them replaced.

5. Overlapping Friction Material

With this kind of pad wear, the top edge of the pad overlaps with the top of the rotor.

This can happen due to wear on the guide pins, caliper, caliper bracket, or just by having the wrong rotor or brake pad on vehicles.

Get new brake rotors and ensure the mechanic installs them with OE (Original Equipment) specifications to fix this type of brake pad wear.

6. Friction Surface Contamination

Friction surface contamination is the kind of pad wear where the friction material is contaminated with oil, grease, or brake fluid.

This can result due to spillage during maintenance and can affect your car in multiple ways. For example, your car may pull to one side, or your braking performance may be reduced.

The only way to fix friction surface contamination is by getting replacement brake pads.

Now that you know why you may have worn or cracked brake pads, let’s find out when exactly you should replace them.

When Should I Replace My Brake Pads?

It’s recommended to replace your brake pads every 50,000 miles to avoid severe brake problems. 

However, this typically depends on multiple factors such as:

The ideal scenario is that every brake pad on both sides of the axle should wear evenly across the inside and outside on each wheel. 

However, this isn’t always the case.
In a disc brake, even the smallest difference in the thickness of your discs on any side of the axle will cause the brake pad to wear down unevenly over time.

And waiting too long to replace brake pads can be quite dangerous.
Severely worn brake pads reduce your ability to stop your car.

So it’s best to replace your brake pads as recommended by your manufacturer or find out from your mechanic when you go for regular maintenance checks.

How does a mechanic know it’s time to replace your brake pads?
There’s usually a wear indicator on your brake pads that will inform them when you should go for a replacement.

It’s a small piece of metal attached to the brake pad that comes in contact with the brake rotor once the brake pad has been worn to a certain level. 

Here’s an idea of the brake pad damage levels:

Now that you know when to get a brake pad replacement, let’s answer a few FAQs.

6 Brake Pad FAQs

You probably have a bunch of questions related to brake pads, so let’s answer some of them:

1. What Causes A Brake Pad To Crack?

If you have cracked brake pads, you can perform a visual examination. 
Check the pads for small surface cracks in the center of the pads.

Here are some common causes for the cracks:

Note: The caliper piston can bend in the backplate due to cracked brake pads. To fix the issue, contact a mechanic for a caliper piston replacement.

2. How Does A Brake Pad Work?

Brake pads are constructed with a steel backing plate on one side, with friction material on the other side. 

When you press the brake pedal in your car, the brake pad clamps down onto the rotor to slow or stop the vehicle.

3. What Is A Rotor?

A brake rotor or brake disc is a circular disc connected to each wheel (two in the front and back). This brake disc is responsible for turning motion into heat energy in the braking system and is held in place with the wheel bearing. 

As the calipers squeeze your brake pads together, the large surface area of each rotor creates friction. This friction results in resistance against the spin of the wheel, which in turn slows its rotation and the car’s movement.

Note: If you notice rotor damage, get it fixed or replaced by a professional mechanic.

4. How Can You Identify Brake Pad Problems?

Your brake system tries to communicate with you through certain sounds and sensations that indicate potential brake pad problems. 

Keep an eye out for the following:

5. Drum Brake Vs. Disc Brake: What Are They?

An older automotive brake system often used a drum design at every wheel of a car. 

In this braking system design, the components are housed in a round drum that’s rotated along with the wheel. The inside has a brake shoe made of heat-resistant friction material. 

A fluid would transfer the movement of the brake pedal into the movement of the brake shoe. When you hit the brake pedal, it forces the brake shoe against the drum and slows down the wheel.

The disc brake relies on the same basic principles (friction and heat) as a drum brake, but its design is superior. Instead of keeping the major components within a metal drum, disc brakes use a slim rotor and small caliper to stop wheel movement.

There are two brake pads in a caliper — one on each side of the rotor — that clamp together when you hit the brake pedal. In this brake system, too, brake fluid is used to transfer and amplify brake pedal movement into braking force. 

6. What’s The Easiest Way To Fix A Cracked Brake Pad?

You’ll want a trustworthy mechanic to diagnose your cracked or worn brake pads situation and conduct thorough repairs.

Fortunately, you have RepairSmith

RepairSmith is a mobile auto repair and maintenance solution that can fix your brake problems and replace your brake pads with the highest quality equipment.

Here’s what they offer:

Wondering how much this may cost you?
You can find out the estimate for RepairSmith’s brake pad replacement service here.

Final Thoughts

Damaged or cracked brake pads can be very dangerous. It’s important for your safety to ensure they’re in good condition for optimal braking performance and to avoid that annoying brake noise.

That’s why you should reach out to RepairSmith

Their ASE-certified mechanics can examine and inform you when your worn brake pads need an immediate replacement. Contact them, and don’t let your brake pad problems stop you from stopping your car!