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How to check and change your car’s brake pads

when brake pads need replacing

Rob Keenan runs a BMW 2 Series.
Find him on Twitter @zorba_t_greek

Never done a brake pad change before? It's a straightforward job and Haynes will hold your hand every step of the way, thanks to our comprehensive range of Manuals.

Learn about your car's brakes and how they work here.

First, you'll need to check the condition of your pads. Your vehicle will have them on the front axle and possibly the rear, too. Wondering when brake pads need replacing? When new, brake pads are around 10mm thick. In the UK, they're illegal when they're less than 1.5mm thick, but we recommend you change them when there's 3mm of material left, to ensure you still have maximum braking efficiency.

Find out how to check the thickness of your brake pads here.


Watch this video to see how to change your pads

Every Haynes manual shows you how to change your vehicle's brake pads in easy-to-follow steps


So you've established that the pads need to be changed. It's important to renew all of the pads on the same axle. So if the offside front brake pads are worn, you'll also need to change the nearside front pads. Never replace the pads on one side of the car. Also make sure you have the right tools for the job before you start – the links below will show you what you need.

Click here to see how to change the front brake pads.

On most vehicles, the front brake pads need to be renewed more often than the rears because the extra weight of the engine sits over the front axle. However, if they are fitted (instead of brakes drums and shoes), the rear pads should also be checked and replaced when they wear to the same thickness mentioned above.

Click here to see how to change the rear brake pads.


Which brake pads do I need


Perhaps you have a different issue with your brake system. Is the brake pedal too hard or too soft? Is there a burning smell when you're on the move? Are the brakes squealing and squeaking whenever you use them? Is the brake pedal vibrating? Does the steering wheel shimmy about when you're bringing the car to a halt? These symptoms could indicate that something is wrong with your pads or discs.

Click here to find out about common brake issues and causes.

brake pads vs drums
which brake pads are best


Got brake drums and shoes? Haynes can help you with those, too.

Find out how brake drums differ from discs here.

Changing the brake shoes is a slightly more involved job than replacing brake pads, but Haynes has all the information you need.

Find a summary of how to change your brake shoes here.

how brake drum works