It is absolutely important not to wait too long to change your brake pads. In fact, waiting to change your brake pads is positively dangerous. With brakes being repeatedly applied over many thousands of miles, the brake pads wear down gradually. This reduces its ability to stop the vehicle. For the safety of yourself and the others on the road, it is essential to replace brake pads as and when required.
Here is how to figure out when to replace brake pads.
Disc brakes mostly include a part called a wear indicator. This wear indicator is nothing but a small piece of metal which is attached to the brake pad and contacts the brake rotor when the pad material has been worn down to a certain point.
At this point, the wear indicator grinds against the rotor. This, in turn, makes a squealing noise as you apply the brakes. The moment you hear this noise, go ahead and get your brakes checked out.
Besides the above, while cleaning your car or checking on it, keep an eye out for the following signs as well.
Take a look at the brake rotor. On severe wear and tear, the brake pad can leave imprinted really deep, circular-shaped marks and grooves in the brake rotor. These marks are called scores and resemble grooves on a record. If it is deep, generally because you may not have noticed earlier or due to lack of timely maintenance, the rotor itself may need to be changed. If it's not that bad, you could have the rotor turned which would cost lesser. However, it is best to leave the decision to a seasoned and trusted car mechanic.
Other parts of the brake system must also be examined. Do inspect the brake lines as well for cracks and holes. If there seems to be something wrong with the brake lines there could be a loss of pressure and your brakes will end up not working properly and may fail. This is of course dangerous.
Check the fittings as the brakes are supposed to be always sealed at this end of the system and no brake fluid should ideally be seen anywhere near the wheel. If it is there, try to locate the source and get it fixed. Securing the brake pads correctly is absolutely essential.
Ideally, brake pads last many thousands of miles. However, this differs on the basis of maintenance, the vehicle you drive and your driving habits. The lifespan of the brake pads reduces with the higher usage of the breaks. So do get it checked from time to time. It is best to get the entire hydraulic brake system checked. This is because it is not just the brake pads that may require changing but other different parts. Together the brake system is integral for your safety and should not be compromised with.