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How to Recognize Worn Brake Pads on Your Toyota

Until someone invents brake pads that last forever, your brake pads will wear out sooner or later. As a car owner, it’s your responsibility to monitor your brake pads and get them replaced as soon as they become too worn.

How can you monitor your brake pads and know when they need to be replaced, though?

It’s quite simple: give your brake pads the eyeball test.

Check pads

Image Credit: PaulsTravelPictures

Basically, the eyeball test involves removing the wheels and then physically inspecting the brake pads to see how worn they are. You can find a comprehensive list of steps near the end of this article. First, let’s talk about the symptoms of worn brake pads and the benefits of checking the brake pads yourself.

Symptoms to Look Out For

Some people check their brake pads in regular intervals (as shown in the owner’s manual). But others wait until they start experiencing the symptoms of worn brake pads. For those who fall into the latter category, we put together a list of the most common symptoms of worn brake pads:

  • Spongy brake pedal
  • Squealing, grinding, or screeching noise when stopping the car
  • Vibration in the brake pedal when pressed
  • Brake warning light coming on (this happens when the brake fluid is low, which is a result of worn brake pads)

If you hear a squealing sound while your car is moving, most likely that is the brake pad wear indicator on your Toyota. Brake pad wear indicators are small pieces of metal mounted to the brake pad. They rub against the rotor and create a squealing noise when the friction material is worn down.

Why Check the Brake Pads Yourself?

New vs old pads

Image Credit: Kieffer899

You can ask a Toyota dealership or repair shop to check your brake pads when you have your tires replaced or rotated. But they might charge you extra, or it may be too late when that time comes around. Let’s expand on the second point a bit. A set of brake pads that wears down too much can seriously damage your rotors. It also messes up your braking performance. That's why it isn't really a good idea to wait until your next service appointment to have your pads checked.

It’s just easier, safer, and cheaper to confirm worn brake pads at home as soon as you detect some symptoms. You don’t need any fancy diagnostic tools. All you need are your eyes, a car lift or jack, a lug nut wrench, a compass, a ruler, and this tutorial.

Checking your brake pads takes about 30-60 minutes, depending on your level of expertise.

Removing Your Wheels

In order to get to your brake pads, you’ll have to remove the wheel first. To do this:

  1. Loosen all of the lug nuts. Pick one wheel you want to work on. Using a lug nut wrench, turn each lug nut about a quarter counterclockwise.
  2. Lift your car. You can use a lift or you can safely jack up your car. In order to remove your wheels, your tires just need to be an inch or two off the ground.
  3. Remove the lug nuts. Be sure to place all of your lug nuts somewhere safe because you’ll need them again later.
  4. Pull the wheel off. Firmly grip the tire and then gently slide the wheel off of the stud bolts.

Checking Your Brake Pads

Once you have the wheel off:

  1. Find the brake pads. If your caliper has a window on the back, turn your steering wheel until you can see it. Or, you can just check the brake pads from the top side of the caliper.
  2. Measure your Toyota brake pad’s thickness. It’s a bit tricky to measure your brake pad’s thickness because you’ll be working with a small space, but a compass should do the trick. If the brake pad friction material is less than ¼” thick, then the pads need to be replaced soon. If it’s less than 1/8” thick, then they have to be replaced right away.

Repeat this process with the rest of the disc brakes on your Toyota.

Finding a Set of Replacement Brake Pads at Wholesale Pricing

New brake pads

It’s common for people to put off replacing their brake pads. They just don’t want to splurge on a set of OEM brake pads and oftentimes will resort to purchasing a set of cheap aftermarket brake pads (which is a bad idea for the reasons listed here).

Driving with worn brake pads will cost you a lot of money in the long run because it’ll mess up your rotors, which aren’t cheap to replace. That’s why we recommend replacing your brake pads as soon as they get worn to the wear indicator.

You don’t have to worry about spending a fortune on genuine OEM brake pads. We sell OEM Toyota brake pads at wholesale pricing. You can save up to 30% off the regular price for OEM brake pads at Toyota dealerships or other websites. For example:

  • Set No. 04465-07010 (for 2010-2017 Camrys and Avalons) usually costs about $100, but you can get it from us for under $75.
  • Set No. 04466-0E010 (for 2011-2018 Highlanders and Siennas) usually costs about $68, but you can get it from us for about $50.
  • Set No. 04465-35290 (for 2004-2014 4Runners, FJ Cruisers, Sequoias, and Tundras) usually costs over $90, but you can get it from us for $68.
  • Set No. 04465-0E010 (for 2010-2018 Highlanders and Siennas) usually costs about $65, but you can get it from us for under $50.

Check out our catalog to see the discounted genuine OEM brake pads we have available for your Toyota.

Written by Jason Lancaster