For those who suffer a daily commute through heavy traffic, your vehicle's braking system can bring thousands of pounds of metal, plastic and empty Timmy's cups to a stop hundreds of times before you get to work. It goes without saying that these pieces wear out, but they do so slowly, meaning you may not notice they need attention until it's too late.
Neglecting your braking system can lead to increased repair costs, or worse, no brakes at all. Fortunately, paying attention to some of the signs of brake wear can keep you on top of stopping maintenance, saving you some money and keeping your car from bouncing off of the guy in front of you.
The most obvious indicator that your vehicle's brakes need attention is an incredibly high pitched squeal when you come to a stop. Most brake pads include a little piece of metal called an indicator on the pad itself. When the material wears down to the point where it is less than a couple of millimetres, the metal piece begins to touch the vehicle's rotor, doing a pretty good impression of your high school science teacher writing on a chalkboard. Every so often, the indicator corrodes and falls off, leaving you with no irritating noise to warn of brake wear. Additionally, Some low-cost Economy pads don't come with a wear indicator at all.
For the more observant, there are other signs that your pads need attention. If it takes you longer to stop than it used to, or if your brake pedal travels farther than it did a few months ago, it might be a good idea to get your brakes checked. Regular pad checks are a good idea and require little more than removing a wheel and knowing what to look for.