What Causes Uneven Wear on Brake Pads? Find Out the Symptoms and Solutions

Brake pads are essential components of your car’s braking system.

They help you slow down and stop your vehicle by creating friction with the brake rotors.

However, brake pads can wear unevenly over time, which can affect your braking performance and safety.

In this article, I will explore the causes and symptoms of uneven brake pad wear, and how to fix it.

An image to illustrate my title "What Causes Uneven Wear on Brake Pads"
Uneven brake pad wear is a problem that can compromise your braking efficiency and safety | PHOTO: Freepik

Why are my brake pads wearing uneven?

There are several possible reasons why your brake pads are worn unevenly.

Some of the most common ones are:

  • Stuck or seized brake caliper

The brake caliper is the device that holds the brake pads and squeezes them against the rotor.

If the caliper is stuck or seized, it can cause the brake pads to drag on the rotor constantly, resulting in faster and uneven wear.

  • Stuck or corroded slide pins

The slide pins are metal rods that allow the caliper to move back and forth.

If the slide pins are stuck or corroded, they can prevent the caliper from releasing properly, causing uneven pressure on the brake pads.

  • Bad or misaligned brake pads

The quality and alignment of the brake pads can also affect their wear.

If the brake pads are made of low-quality material, they can wear out faster and unevenly.

The brake pads are not installed correctly, they can rub against the rotor at an angle, causing a wedge-shaped wear pattern.

  • Rotor thickness variation

The rotor is the metal disc that rotates with the wheel.

The rotor should have a smooth and even surface for optimal braking.

However, the rotor can develop variations in thickness due to rust, corrosion, warping, or damage.

This can cause the brake pads to contact the rotor unevenly, resulting in uneven wear.

What can cause uneven brake pad wear on each side of the same rotor?

Sometimes, you may notice that one brake pad is wearing faster than the other on the same side of the vehicle.

This can be caused by:

  • Caliper piston failure

The caliper piston is a cylindrical part that pushes the brake pad against the rotor. If the caliper piston fails or sticks, it can cause one brake pad to apply more pressure than the other, resulting in uneven wear.

  • Brake hose collapse

The brake hose is a flexible tube that carries brake fluid from the master cylinder to the caliper.

If the brake hose collapses or gets clogged, it can restrict the flow of brake fluid to one side of the caliper, causing uneven braking force and pad wear.

  • Improper bleeding

Bleeding is a process of removing air bubbles from the brake system.

Air bubbles can reduce the effectiveness of braking and cause spongy or soft pedal feel.

If one side of the brake system is not bled properly, it can cause uneven braking pressure and pad wear.

Uneven brake pad symptoms

Uneven brake pad wear can cause various symptoms that indicate a problem with your braking system.

Some of these symptoms are.

  • Pulling to one side

If one side of your brakes is more effective than the other, your car may pull to one side when you apply the brakes.

This can affect your steering control and stability.

  • Squealing or grinding noises

If your brake pads are worn down to their metal backing plates, they can make squealing or grinding noises when they contact the rotors.

This can damage your rotors and reduce your braking power.

  • Pulsating or vibrating pedal or steering wheel

If your rotors have thickness variations or are warped, they can cause your brake pads to pulsate or vibrate when they squeeze them. This can make your pedal or steering wheel shake when you brake.

  • Increased stopping distance

If your brake pads are worn unevenly, they cannot create enough friction with the rotors to stop your car effectively. This can increase your stopping distance and risk of accidents.

How do you fix uneven wear on brake pads?

The best way to fix uneven wear on brake pads is to replace them with new ones.

However, before you do that, you should also inspect and repair any other components that may have caused or contributed to the problem, such as:

  • Brake calipers

Check if your brake calipers are working properly and not stuck or seized.

You may need to clean, lubricate, rebuild, or replace them if necessary.

  • Slide pins

Check if your slide pins are moving freely and not corroded or damaged.

You may need to clean, lubricate, or replace them if necessary.

  • Brake rotors

Check if your brake rotors are smooth and even and not rusted, corroded, warped, or damaged. You may need to resurface or replace them if necessary.

  • Brake hoses

Check if your brake hoses are in good condition and not collapsed, clogged, cracked, or leaking.

You may need to flush, bleed, or replace them if necessary.

What causes excessive brake pad wear?

Excessive brake pad wear is when your brake pads wear out faster than normal.

This can be caused by several factors, such as:

  • Driving habits

If you drive aggressively, brake hard, or ride the brakes, you can cause your brake pads to wear out faster.

You should drive smoothly, brake gently, and avoid unnecessary braking to extend the life of your brake pads.

  • Driving conditions

If you drive in harsh conditions, such as heavy traffic, hilly terrain, or extreme weather, you can cause your brake pads to wear out faster.

You should adjust your driving speed and frequency of braking according to the road and weather conditions.

  • Brake system maintenance

If you neglect your brake system maintenance, such as changing the brake fluid, bleeding the brakes, or inspecting the brake components, you can cause your brake pads to wear out faster.

You should follow your manufacturer’s recommended service intervals and perform regular brake inspections to keep your brake system in good shape.

Driver side brakes wear faster than passenger side

Sometimes, you may notice that your driver side brakes wear faster than your passenger side brakes.

This can be caused by:

  • Uneven weight distribution

Your car may have more weight on the driver side than the passenger side, especially if you often drive alone or with a single passenger.

This can cause more stress and friction on the driver side brakes, resulting in faster wear.

  • Uneven tire pressure

Your tires may have different air pressure levels on each side of the car, due to leaks, punctures, or improper inflation.

This can affect the alignment and balance of your car, causing more drag and wear on one side of the brakes.

  • Uneven wheel alignment

Your wheels may be out of alignment due to hitting potholes, curbs, or other obstacles.

This can cause your car to pull to one side and put more strain on one side of the brakes.

Conclusion

Uneven brake pad wear is a common problem that can affect your braking performance and safety.

It can be caused by various factors, such as stuck calipers, bad pads, rotor variations, caliper piston failure, brake hose collapse, improper bleeding, driving habits, driving conditions, brake system maintenance, uneven weight distribution, uneven tire pressure, or uneven wheel alignment.

To fix uneven brake pad wear, you should replace your worn pads and inspect and repair any other components that may have caused or contributed to the problem.

You should also follow proper driving practices and perform regular brake system maintenance to prevent uneven brake pad wear in the future.