How to Check Brake Pad Wear

How to Check for Brake Pad Wear

This article refers to bikes equipped with hydraulic disc brakes.


As with all bicycles, some of your bike parts are consumable. The brake pads are probably among the first parts you'll need to replace. But how do you know when it's time for new brake pads? This article will explain why and how to check for brake pad wear.

What are brake pads?

Brake pads provide the friction necessary to stop a revolving wheel. When you pull the brake lever, the brake pads are pushed against a disc-shaped rotor near the center of the wheel, which stops the wheel.

Why do I need to check for brake pad wear?

Over time, repeated braking wears down the brake pad material. Brake pad wear is a safety issue, as brakes with worn pads don't work as well. Riding with worn brake pads can also damage other parts of the brake system, such as the rotor.

How do I check for brake pad wear?

Let's take the Magura MT5 brake pads on the GSD as an example. They are considered "worn" and in need of replacing when there is less than 2.5 mm of pad material remaining.

If you're not confident checking for brake pad wear yourself, you can always take your bike into your local bike shop for help. If you want to inspect your brake pads at home, here's a method that doesn't require removing the wheel or the brake pads.

Visual Inspection With a Flashlight

A simple visual inspection of the brake assembly should allow you to determine how much brake pad material remains. Shine a flashlight or other bright light onto the brake assembly so you can clearly see the brake pad backing, brake pads, and rotor.

How to Check Brake Pad Wear

If very little brake pad thickness remains and the brake pad backing is almost touching the rotor, it's time to replace your brake pads.

When should I check for brake pad wear?

How fast your brake pads will wear down depends on many factors that are unique to your situation. For example, riders who often ride downhill carrying heavy loads will likely need to change their brake pads more often than those who stick to flatter routes. 

Make checking your brake pads regularly a habit, and you'll get a better sense of how long you can safely go in between brake pad changes.

What are some warning signs of advanced brake pad wear?

There are a few warning signs of advanced brake pad wear to be aware of. These include:


  • A grinding or squealing sound when applying the brake. (But note that some noise when brakes are wet is normal).
  • A noticeable reduction in braking ability.
  • A feeling of shuttering when applying the brakes. This sometimes means the pads or rotor are dirty or contaminated with oil.

If you notice any of these signs, it's best to take your bike into your local bike shop for assistance. The mechanic there can check your brake pads and look for rotor or other brake damage caused by riding with worn brake pads.