How To Diagnose A Failing Brake Pad

Even though brake pads last 30K to 70K miles, they’re still disposable parts. In your Volvo’s braking system, the brake pads are always the first parts to go. That is by design.

So when you start noticing a decrease in your brake pads’ performance, it’s worth taking some time to check them out.

Signs Of Worn Brake Pads

Worn pads

Image Credit: 850 Wagon Project

When your brake pads start to wear down, you’ll notice some symptoms like:

  • Less stopping power
  • Grinding noise when applying the brakes
  • Vibration or pulsation in the brake pedal or steering wheel
  • Car pulling to the left or right
  • The need to press the brake pedal down further to stop the car

If you suspect that your brake pads are no longer good, we urge you to check out your brake pads as soon as possible. The pads are very important to your Volvo's:

  • Braking system
  • Safety
  • Handling

Luckily, checking your brake pads is an easy task you can do at home. Read on to find out how.

Checking The Brake Pads In 4 Steps

Checking your brake pads is a diagnostic process that takes less than 30 minutes. Here's how:

  1. With a car jack, lift one end of your Volvo.
  2. Put jack stands underneath the jack points in a safe manner.
  3. Remove the tire.
  4. Look at the brake pads through the caliper hole or the front of the caliper.
    1. You can opt to remove the caliper and then take the brake pads out. This will let you see if there's any uneven wear on the pads.

Identifying Worn Brake Pads

Check pads

To determine whether your brake pads are worn enough to need replacing, you have to know what to look for. With one of the following measuring tools, measure the brake pad friction material:

  • Micrometer
  • Brake lining thickness gauge set
  • Ruler

You need to measure in millimeters. Once you have your measurement, take a look at this list to see what kind of shape your brake pads are in:

  • 0mm-3mm: Replace your brake pads right away! Even though 3mm of brake pad friction material looks sufficient, it's still fragile enough to crack from excessive heat.
  • 4mm-7mm: Your brake pads have some life left. Proceed with caution, though. Keep a close eye on your pads and replace them as soon as they reach 3mm.
  • 8mm or more: Your brake pads have plenty of life left. You don't have to worry about them wearing out for a while. If you're experiencing the symptoms listed above, there may be an issue with another part, like the rotors or calipers.

What If There's Uneven Brake Pad Wear?

Do you have a hunch that your brake pads aren't wearing out evenly? One brake pad may have more pad life than the one on the opposite side of the rotor. Or the wear on one brake pad may be lopsided. There are several causes for this:

  • Sticking caliper pistons
  • Worn guide pins
  • Wrong sized brake pads

Are you experiencing the following symptoms of uneven brake pad wear?

  • Squealing noise
  • Pulsation in the brake pedal

If so, take the time to remove the caliper and give the brake pads a thorough visual inspection. Don't forget to check the rotor too for uneven wear.

Do you have any questions about checking your brake pads? Get in touch with us and we'll answer your questions!