What Does the Brake Pad Wear Indicator Warning Light Mean?

Date Posted:14 February 2022 

Brakes are an active part of your vehicle, and each time you use them the components slightly wear down. Part of the design of disc brakes systems that the brake pads will wear in order to save the other parts it comes in contact with, so brake wearing is actually an effective part of the design. Here, the team at VMAX explain what the brake pad wear indicator light means, how they work, and if it's safe to drive while it is illuminated.

What the brake pad wear indicator light means

The brake wear indicator light is a feature that notifies drivers and vehicle owners when these pads have worn thin and need to be replaced soon. Brake pads are made of a material weaker than the brake rotors, so the pads wear down instead of the brake rotors, as pads are much easier and cheaper to replace. When the indicator light comes on, it’s a warning to drivers that the pad wear has passed safe thickness and they need to have their brakes checked and pads replaced.

The light comes on before brake pads have completely worn, so they provide a buffer time to get your brakes checked while remaining operational. Your owner manual should explain how many kilometres you can travel before they completely wear out once the light comes on. However, you should always make arrangements to have them checked as soon as possible to prevent damage.

Take your car to a certified mechanic to have your brake pads replaced professionally. Once installed, your brake pad wear light should turn off automatically. When the light stays on, there is the possibility of an issue with the sensors. While a mechanic will be able to give an accurate diagnosis, you will need to replace your brake pad wear sensors, too.

How do brake pad wear indicator lights work?

The brake wear indicator light activates when the sensor detects that the pads have worn down past a minimum threshold. The sensors work in two common ways. The first is when the brake pad material itself is embedded with a small sensor in a precise location within the pad. When the material wears down far enough for the sensor to be exposed and contact the brake rotor, it becomes activated and triggers the light on the dashboard.

The alternative method consists of a sensor built into the vehicle electronics and measures how far the brake pads have to travel to apply a particular amount of force. When this distance reaches a maximum threshold, the sensor activates the brake pad wear light.

Can you drive while the brake wear light is on?

The light comes on when there’s still some material left in the pad and the brakes still function at high efficiency, so you can still drive for a short distance. This amount of distance and time will vary from one car to another, but all drivers should act to have their brake pads replaced quickly to be on the safe side. When the brakes are completely worn down, they’re much less effective and will struggle to slow the car, while also causing damage to the rotors and other brake components, resulting in expensive damage.

VMAX Brakes stock premium materials that help your car perform better for longer. Browse our collection of brake pads wear sensors to ensure your wear light indicator operates effectively and warns you before expensive damage occurs.

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