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How Do I Know When to Replace My Brakes?

Your vehicle will tell you when it’s time to replace your brakes. Learn the warning signs.

Trying to determine the right time to replace critical car parts can seem like a mystery. For instance, if your brakes are more than two years old, you should have them checked every six months to see if they need to be replaced.1 However, there are warning signs you can look out for to know when it’s time for a brake or brake pad replacement.

Listen for recurring screeching, squealing or whining noises

When you press your brake pedal, do you hear a squealing noise? Any noise could be the first sign you need a brake pad replacement. The noise comes from a small indicator built into brake pads to alert you that they’re wearing down.2 If you hear the sound just once or twice, it might not be anything to worry about. However, if it happens regularly, it may be time to have a professional mechanic look at your brakes.

Pay attention to vibrations

In addition to making sounds, braking may also start to feel different when your brake pads start wearing down. Vibrations and shaking sensations can alert you to problems with your brakes.3 This pulsating feeling during regular braking can also indicate that you have a warped brake rotor – the disc that brake pads press to slow down your car – and it may be wearing unevenly.4 If so, it’s time to get them replaced.

The brake warning light comes on

It’s normal for the brake light to come on when you start your car, but if it comes on and stays on while you’re driving, you should have the brakes checked.5

Your car pulls to one side

If your car pulls to one side when you have the steering wheel straight, your braking system might be responsible. This pulling can be caused by:6

  • A stuck caliper, which stops a wheel from turning when you brake
  • A collapsed brake hose, which may make your calipers move unevenly when you step on the brake pedal
  • Uneven wear on brake pads, which can apply unbalanced pressure on different wheel

It could also be caused by something unrelated to the brakes, such as tire pressure or wheel alignment. So if you notice pulling, you should take your car in for a full inspection.

Your car is taking longer to stop

You know your car, so you know how long and how hard you should have to press the brake pedal. If your car takes longer to stop or if you have to press the brake harder than usual – you guessed it – you may need your brakes repaired.5

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1 How Do I Know When to Change My Brake Pads and Rotors?,, 2018.
2 When to Replace Brake Pads, Bridgestone, 2021.
3 Is It Time to Replace Your Brake Pads?, Meineke, 2017.
4 Why Does the Pedal Vibrate When I Hit the Brakes?,, 2016.
5 Brake Repair, Jiffy Lube, 2018.
6 5 Signs That You Need Your Brakes Checked, How Stuff Works, 2022.

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