Home Diagnosis and TroubleshootingBraking System Brake Pad Thickness – How Thick Should Good Pads Be?

Brake Pad Thickness – How Thick Should Good Pads Be?

by Jordan Harris
Brake Pad Thickness

Are you thinking of performing a brake job and you are not sure about it? You don’t know how much brake pad thickness you have left? If that is the case, then you are at the right place because there will be a lot to cover on this topic.

Doing the proper research before you do something serious as a brake job is a key aspect if you want to do this work as it should. And most importantly, when this work has to be done. Because as you know brake pads are not something that you replace every day and they should be replaced at specific intervals.

Having surpassed these intervals, you will start to face the bad brake pad symptoms that will haunt you until you sort them out. Namely, the noises and also the poor braking distance. And you don’t want your car to have a poor braking distance because it could alter your driving experience and your car will not feel safe as it should.

And here comes the brake pad thickness. Knowing how to read this thickness level will help you out determine if you need to perform a brake job. And we are going to help you out with that.

First, we are going to cover the basics of brake pads and learn why they are so important, then we will discuss the ideal brake pad thickness that you need. Later on, we will discuss how you can inspect the brake pad thickness and also the symptoms that are common when these brake pads wear off. So, if you want to learn more, follow along.

What Are Brake Pads?

Before we dive into more complex topics like the brake pad thickness. Let’s first discuss some of the basics when it comes to brake pads. Let’s learn what are brake pads in general. This would be quite useful for beginners who are not experienced and want to learn more about this. If you are well prepared, you can move on to the brake pad thickness. If not, keep up with us for a bit.

So, what are brake pads in general? Brake pads in simple words are components that convert kinetic energy into thermal energy with the help of friction. But what does all this means in the first place?

Well, this means that they help you stop your vehicle at the smallest distance possible. Meaning that they are an integral component in your brake system. Without pads, braking would be impossible.

Brake pads are components that can withstand so much friction and heat that is created whenever you apply your foot on the brakes.

Brake Pad Thickness

When this action happens the friction surface comes into contact with the rotor and this conversion of kinetic energy into thermal energy helps the rotor to stop spinning and can make the car stop.

Although now a commodity, back in the day, brake pads and rotors were an option. And not a lot of people could afford them. But as the years went by, the manufacturing processes have simplified and brake pads have become extremely cheap and affordable.

Not to mention that these disc brakes with pads offer incomparable performance when it comes to braking in comparison to their closest rival which is drum brakes. But more on that in the following chapter where we will learn how the braking system works and after we will then cover brake pad thickness.

Why Brake Pads And Their Thickness Are So Important?

Now before we dive into the topic of brake pad thickness, let’s see why these pads are of such great importance for you as a driver. What makes them so essential and why are they basically meaning life or death for owners?

The answer is quite simple, they make your car stop. Without pads, you will not be able to stop your car at all. Meaning that you will crash into something on the road.

That’s why thickness plays a big role when it comes to the braking ability of your vehicle. Without the right thickness, your brakes will not have enough material on them to stop your vehicle at the demanded distance.

The thinner the pads, the worse the braking. So, that’s why they are quite essential. You don’t want to wear them off completely and metal on metal friction.

As we said, there is a friction material that is installed on top of the brake pad backing plate. When this friction material is worn out, you basically do not have brakes anymore.

That’s why it is of great importance for you to learn the right brake pad thickness and see if they need replacing. And that’s what we are going to cover next in the following chapters.

What Is The Ideal Brake Pad Thickness?

So, what is the ideal brake pad thickness? What brake pad is a healthy brake pad and what brake pad can be considered to be worn out and in need of replacement? Let’s elaborate on this.

As you probably know, brake pad quality and size can vary from application to application and from manufacturer to manufacturer. But the minimum brake pad thickness for new front brake pads is about 12mm or ½’’ in inches. Anything below this is not recommended to install on your vehicle. Otherwise, replace your front brake pads.

Rear brake pads on the other hand are slightly thinner when new and can range from 8mm and up to 10mm or 3/8’’. This is the case because at the rear, you don’t need much braking power and rear brakes in some cars are even drum brakes. Since they do not feel so much stress like the front brakes.

But what is the minimum recommended thickness for brake pads? Well, the absolute minimum that you probably don’t want to go below is about 2mm or 3mm. Some people even go up to 1mm. But as soon you hit the bottom end you will start to experience some of the symptoms of worn brake pads that we are going to cover later in the article.

The important thing for you is to learn how to inspect your brake pads for the right thickness. By doing so, you will be able to tell when you need to replace your brake pads and drive safely. And in the following chapter, we will cover precisely where we will learn how to measure the thickness.

How To Inspect The Brake Pads For Thickness?

Now let’s see how you can check for brake pads thickness? There are two ways, the simple way, and the professional way. Both of these ways work and will deliver you the result you need and that is finding out the right thickness.

So, what is the first way to inspect the brake pads and rotors? The simple way is to do a visual inspection.

For this, you should know where the pad is sitting and see how much material it has on it. Find some reference photos on the web and compare them with your pads. If they are looking like they have a small amount of surface on them, it means that they should be replaced as soon as possible.

Another thing you can try is to check the rotor and see if it has any grooves in it. This tells a lot and when the pads are worn they will start to deform the surface of the rotor. Also, you can check if the rotor has a lip on the outside.

If the lip is too large, it means that you need to perform a rotor resurfacing as well. Because if you replace the pads only, your brakes will not work since the pads will not stick. Another way is to get new rotors as well. Which is the recommended route.

The professional method of measuring brake pad thickness is with a special tool. You can find these tools on Amazon for cheap. There are a variety of gauges on this tool.

This tool is quite handy because it will give you the right measuring of your brake pads and you will know exactly how much life you have in them.

Symptoms Of Worn Brake Pad With Low Thickness

We have covered the brake pad thickness and how you can measure it. Now let’s focus on other topics. Namely, the symptoms of worn brake pads. These are the symptoms that you need to be aware of if you want to avoid some bad situations on the road.

Brake Pad Thickness

Since brakes are one of the most important pieces of the puzzle called an automobile. They make your car stop and are integral when it comes to your safety and the safety of other participants in the traffic. So, you need to learn the brake pad thickness and also the symptoms of worn brake pads to be 100% sure that you drive a completely safe vehicle. So, what are the symptoms? Let’s elaborate.

1. Brake Light On

The first symptom that occurs when the brake pad thickness is low is the brake light on the dashboard. This light is very common on some cars that are driven with low or no friction material left on the pads.

As you know, modern cars are all computerized and this is a common thing. Every data that the sensors send is measured and evaluated by the computer of the car.

If there is some mismatched information received, the computer will get alerted and will decide to throw the brake light on the dashboard.

At first glance, you might not know why the brake light is on but after inspecting the brakes and seeing that the brake pad thickness is relatively low, you will come to the conclusion that there is a problem with the health of the pads and rotors and they need to go. After you sort out the problem with the low brake pad thickness, everything should get back to normal and the car will resume braking as it should. Now let’s move to the next symptom of low brake pad thickness.

2. ABS Engages More Often

Another thing that you will notice more often when you run brake pad thickness close to the minimum is the ABS system will love to engage more often than it should when everything is normal.

This often happens when you have worn pads, warped rotors, bad tires. Under heavy braking, there will be probably zero to no material left on the brake pads. So, the car might be needed to use this emergency way to stop the car on time.

And it shouldn’t be this way. That’s why you need to address the brake pad thickness and replace your brake pads if you want to return your vehicle to the OEM spec. Now let’s move to the next low brake pad thickness symptom.

3. Noises When Applying The Brakes

The third most common symptom when you use pads with low brake pad thickness is the noise that happens when you press the foot on the brakes.

You apply on the brakes and that annoying screeching sound happens that will literally annoy you like nothing else out there. So, whenever this symptom is felt, you should check your brakes.

Even though these noises also can happen because of low-quality brake pads or pads that haven’t been installed right.

So, if you have done a brake job recently and you hear these noises, it is often advised to address the issue and replace the pads again or check if you have installed them correctly.

If they have low brake pad thickness, this is a clear sign that you have to replace them with new ones. Replacing them will sort your problem and you will never have to listen to these screeching sounds again. Now let’s move to the next symptom of low brake pad thickness.

4. Vibrations Because Of Low Brake Pad Thickness

Another very common symptom of low brake pad thickness is the vibration that will be felt inside of the cabin under braking.

This vibration is most often caused by warped rotors. But also worn rotors and pads can cause it to happen. This is the case because there is no material left on the brake pads. Meaning that the backing plate is pressing to the rotor and this creates that screeching sound and also vibrations.

Whenever you feel these two symptoms, you know that there is something wrong with the brake pads and rotors on your car. Check for the brake pad thickness and see if this is what’s caused this problem. If the pads are worn, you found your culprit. If not, move on to the next low brake pad thickness symptoms.

5. Car Pulls To One Side

Another common symptom when you experience low brake pad thickness is the situation when the car pulls on one side. Meaning that the car under braking will pull left or right.

This is most often caused by uneven brake wear and the brakes are reacting to this. So, let’s say that one of your pads was replaced before 10,000 miles while the other one was replaced before 30,000 miles and is 1mm thin or the friction material is not there on the pad. This will result in the car pulling to one side of the brakes are applied.

That’s why you should avoid replacing your pads one by one. Replace them always in pairs so they would wear off in the same manner and avoid having problems with low brake pad thickness on one of the sides and situations like this. Now let’s move on to one of the last symptoms of low brake pad thickness.

6. Less Stopping Power

Another very common symptom of low brake pad thickness is reduced stopping power. If for example, your car stopped much sooner when the pads were in good condition. Now when they are on their minimum or even below the minimum the stopping distance will increase and your car will not want to stop.

This can be frustrating in bumper-to-bumper traffic because the car will not like to stop and you could rear-end someone really easily. That’s why whenever the brake pad thickness gets very low, it is crucial to measure it and then try to sort out the rotors and pads if they are worn out. That’s how you will not experience any low brake pad thickness symptoms in the near future.

Diagnosing Bad Pads And Rotors

Now after we covered the brake pad thickness, let’s learn how you can diagnose bad brake pads based on their thickness.

The only way to diagnose a worn brake pad is by visual inspection or with those levels that we covered before on Amazon. That’s how you will be 100% sure that the pads are for replacement.

But even if you don’t have one of these tools, it is very easy to make an estimate on how much meat does a brake pad has. Just go online and look for images of new brake pads versus worn and you will get the idea. You can learn more in our guide on how to replace brake pads.

If they have less than 5mm of meat, replace them right away. Don’t wait for them to fail completely and you be left with the low brake pad thickness that we covered above.

Another thing you need to address is the wear of the rotor. If it has grooves that are too large and a big lip on the edges it means that the rotor also needs to be replaced or resurfaced. We recommend replacing the rotor as well. Just to be on the safe side, we don’t live in the past century to resurface simple things like rotors which are relatively inexpensive these days. Now let’s move to the replacement process of brake pads with low thickness.

How To Replace Brake Pads?

We covered the brake pad thickness and the diagnosing process now let’s see what could we do about replacing them. Replacing the pads is a relatively simple process. But you will need a tool to compress the pistons of the caliper.

Compressing is necessary for you to be able to install the calipers in the right manner. This tool fortunately can be rented from your local Autozone or a similar store that is selling car hardware. Then you can do the work on your car and return it.

In order to pull this job, you will need to lift the car in the air and remove the wheel. Then you need to remove the bolt that is holding the caliper at the bottom and then lift the caliper in the air.

Then you can just pull the brake pads and replace them with new ones. Just make sure that you put some assembly lube on the backing plate before you mount them. Also, make sure that you mount them in the right manner.

Then you will have to compress the caliper with the tool. Then mount the caliper back in place and tighten up the bolt. In the video that we attached above, you can see how this procedure is done at home.

New Brake Pad Cost

So, we covered the brake pad thickness. Now let’s see how much it will cost you to replace the brake pads.

And the answer to this question is, not a lot. Why is this the case? Well, brake pads are really inexpensive and you can get them for $30 a piece. Meaning that for the fronts, you will pay less than $120. If you replace them by yourself.

Brake Pad Thickness

If you decide to do it at a shop, you will pay a bit more since the labor involved in this work is expensive. But overall, will not going to cost you more than $220. The best thing would be to replace the rotors as well if you want to save some money in the long run. And replacing the pads and rotors will cost you about $400 for the front axle.

Brake Pad Thickness Facts:

  1. Brake pad thickness measures the amount of brake material a car has to perform braking actions.
  2. Brake pads are the part of a car’s disc brake system that pinches the wheel rotor to cause friction, which in turn stops the car.
  3. A new brake pad has a standard thickness size of around 8-12 millimeters (½ inch).
  4. The recommended thickness of brake pads for proper functioning is thicker than 6.4 mm (¼ inches).
  5. The bare minimum brake pad thickness is 3.2 mm (⅛ inches).
  6. Brake pad deterioration depends on a vehicle’s driving style, road conditions, and material of the brake pads.
  7. Brake pads can last anywhere from 25,000 miles to 70,000 miles, but they should be checked every five months or 5,000 miles.
  8. Symptoms of thin brake pads include noises when braking, brake warning lights, and veering to one side when braking.
  9. Checking brake pad thickness can help avoid brake failure and unsafe driving conditions.
  10. Brake pad replacement can cost anywhere from $180 to $350 and some mechanics even offer convenient mobile brake pad replacement services.

Conclusion To Brake Pad Thickness

In this article, we have covered quite a bit when it comes to the brake pad thickness. First, we learned what are brake pads and why they are so important. Then we learned the brake pad thickness and how you can measure the thickness of your brake pads with a visual inspection and by using a special tool.

Then we covered the symptoms of low brake pad thickness and these include the screeching sounds and poor braking performance. Lastly, we covered how you can diagnose bad brakes and also how you can replace the pads and rotors. Overall, a simple job if you have the right tools.

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