Break pad replacement time

our local garage said we needed both sets of brake pads replaced. - so, i looked at them with a friend of mine who knows a thing or two about cars. we found that the front had about 25% of the pads left and the rear had about 50% of the pads left. is it time to find a new garage?

It depends on a lot. I might also suggest that there is a minimum wear level and at that point it may well appear that you still have a fair amount of pad remaining, but don’t. I would suggest replacing the fronts and getting a second professional opinion on the back.

That depends. With disk brakes, you can easily be misled. The last time I changed mine, I first inspected them. When I looked at them mounted, they looked fine because all I could see were the outside pads and there was plenty of pad left. When I removed the brackets and looked at the inside pads, one of them was almost completely worn. Did your friend just look at the pads or did he remove them for a complete inspection?

Rather than wonder, why didn’t you just ask your local garage to show your the brake pads while they had them off? Any time my mechanic tells me something that sounds iffy, I say “show me.”

Joseph - I’ll likely replace the front “soon” (we drive very little - 86K on an 11 year old car). Also, according to my 97 Subaru Outback owner’s manual, a wear indicator (sound) will let me know it’s time. Is it foolish to wait that long? How can I find out the minimum wear level? I understand that there used to be a wear marker indicator that you didn’t want to surpass. It seems to be a judgement call these days.

Jeremy - We didn’t look at the inside of the pads. Is it possible that the inside would be worn and not the outside of the pads?

I really appreciate the comments! David

“Jeremy - We didn’t look at the inside of the pads. Is it possible that the inside would be worn and not the outside of the pads?”

Yes, it is common for front wheel drive to have uneven brake pad wear. Each brake disk has two pads. One for each side of the disk. Since each wheel has its own independent suspension and turns from side to side, applying the brakes will lead to uneven wear based on your driving habits. I am guessing that your mechanic pulled all four brake pads out form the front wheels when he did his inspection.

Now that brake pads are made of metallic compounds and ceramic compounds instead of asbesdos, it is common for them to squeek under normal use. Wear indicators that make noise are no longer common. You might not hear the difference. A regular inspection where the pads are removed is the only real way to know when they need to be replaced.

It is quite normal for the fronts to wear faster than the rears. I’ve read that 70% of your car’s braking action conmes from the front wheels. As you brake, the weight of the car shifts forward, causing the fronts to need to apply more pressure. There is a proportioning valve in the system that makes it happen.

If your friend took off the wheels and peered into the outer edge of the calipers at the pads, he’s probably right about their wear. He could see the outer edge of both the inner and outer pads at that point. As little as you drive annually 25% will PROBABLY carry you quite a ways. The spec we use is 1/8" of an inch thick or down to the rivets (which your disc pads probably don’t have)

Note that once you start to hear a grinding noise when you brake, it’s too late. You will probalby have to replace the brake discs too. SOME cars still have the wear indicators that squeel (all the time) when pads need replacement. They wll actually get quieter when you step on the pedal. I don’t know about yours.