Automotive

Can you check brake pad thickness without taking the tire off?

  • Last Updated:
  • Dec 4th, 2018 4:20 pm
[OP]
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Dec 27, 2011
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Waterloo

Can you check brake pad thickness without taking the tire off?

So I went to my dealer to get an oil + winter tires change and they told me my rear brakes only had 3mm left but I said I'll do it next time. On my invoice it says they recommended "replace rear brake rotors and pads" and it costs $495. I'm wondering if there's a way for me to check the thickness myself without taking the tire off? I'm just skeptical that they're actually at only 3 mm left.

My car is a 2015 Elantra with ~80,000km. Now I imagine it's not unreasonable for brakes to be worn by 80k, but I figured mine would have lots of life considering my driving is different than most people with 80k on it.
1) Half of that mileage is from commuting to work but the commute itself is a long distance where it's almost entirely rural highway so there's no traffic and essentially no need for braking. I set my cruise control on and that's basically it. What little braking I do is usually when I'm not on the highway...which isn't very much since I live right by the highway and my workplace is right off of it.
2) The other half of that 80k mileage is from lots of long distance trips I take within Ontario (1,000km+ round trips)...but again the vast majority is highway with very little traffic so all I'm doing is setting the cruise control and there's very little need for braking.

And even when I'm not on the highway, I drive with fuel economy in mind, meaning I don't speed or accelerate hard which usually ends up with you braking more. Plus I coast as much as possible to decelerate when I know there's a red light ahead.

In summary: I honestly believe I brake so little that my 80,000km car has probably braked less than the average car with 1/3 of that mileage. I'm wondering if the dealer is mostly just looking at what mileage I'm at and thinking they can make some quick money on brakes/rotor replacement. They also wanted me to do a fuel induction service done for $180 which I declined. Lastly, before they pulled my car into their garage and gave me all their recommendations, the paperwork they gave me for my oil + tire change was for some special package for $105. I asked them why it's $105 since it should only be ~$80 and they said they raised their prices because Hyundai now requires them to put in fuel additives. I told them I only want an oil + tire change and they changed it back to $80. I'm only going to the dealer until my car is past warranty. In the meantime, is there a way to check myself how much life is left on my brakes without taking the wheel off? All I've got is basically a jack.
23 replies
Newbie
Dec 11, 2014
53 posts
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potato
crank your tire hard to one side and get in there with a hand mirror and a flashlight
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Mar 1, 2005
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Ltpenguin wrote:
Dec 2nd, 2018 4:04 pm
crank your tire hard to one side and get in there with a hand mirror and a flashlight
Didn’t know an Elantra had rear wheel steering.


At 3mm I’m sure the indicator would be squealing by now.
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Member
Jun 10, 2008
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Halton Hills
If you have spoke wheels it would be easier. It would be hard with steel wheels. I have a 2013 elantra with 145000km and just did my rears for the first time. If they are close you might as well change them. What do you really save over the long term by waiting.
Deal Expert
Mar 23, 2004
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Outboard pads on disc brakes are easy to check, the inboard can be more difficult. On the rears you'd have to be under the car, on the front you can probably turn the wheel all the way and reach your hand in there, on some cars, and get a good idea.

BTW the stealer saying you have stuff like "2mm left" or are "close to metal on metal" it's just nonsense talk. They haven't checked anything they just want to sell you on an overpriced brake job because most people think, "Gosh really, I guess I should get you guys to change them before I get in a wreck!" :lol: Seriously that's probably one of the most commons stealer scams in the book!

Way back when I was young, a stealership tried this on me but it didn't work (even when I was young and not that knowledgeable) because...I'd had the brakes changed to new pads just a couple weeks earlier outside the stealer! What a bunch of clowns. Wasn't long after experiences like this I never went back to stealerships in general.

Another story, a buddy of mine they told him the same crap a year or two ago about his Accord. Guy knows next to nothing about cars so he believed them; but he didn't want to pay the high prices of the stealership. So I told him to buy the pads and a bottle of fluid and I'd do it for him. So he orders the pads off RockAuto and everything, comes over to my house and I jacked it up took off the wheels and laughed my ass off. I showed him the new pads and what was on there and you could barely see any difference. Lining them up with one of the "close to metal on metal" pads : snicker : and the old pads were about 80% the thickness of the new ones. Jokes. So we just flushed out his front brake fluid, lubricated things a bit, put it back together. I told him to save his pads for a few years from now LOL.

Sad part of this story is, as I said this guy knows very little about cars, so after taking his cars to various "mechanics" and stuff I guess this scam eventually worked on him. Places kept telling him that and then he got all paranoid and started going on about how the brakes were "making noise" and he got told again about his "2mm" or whatever pads. Because he lives far and I never had the time and he had those new pads with him, eventually he paid someone else to change them within a few months :rolleyes: Old brakes were still probably perfectly fine. I mean he drives Uber but still he should have had at least 2 years left in the pads (probably like 3-4 years as a normal driver) but yeah he gave in and paid someone to change them. Needless to say, I gave up on trying to tell that guy about cars now.
Deal Addict
Apr 6, 2008
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Hyundai's and Kia's are known for poor rear brakes. You need to have them serviced every 12 mos to make sure the pins stay lubricated. I had a Sonota and didn't have them serviced often enough. It causes the rear brakes to seize up prematurely and wear the pads out. Less use actually accelerates this problem. I had a set of rear pads done at like 30,000km. I would shop around to get a better price but I do think the brakes do need to be done.
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Sep 8, 2017
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Not really. You gotta take the wheel off to get a good look. And even then you're only gonna see the pad thickness, not get a measurement. You need to take the caliper off for that.
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Feb 11, 2007
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Oakville
OP, no offence, but if you're not capable of removing a wheel to check your brakes, you're not capable of checking your pads. You probably can tell the difference between the pad itself and the pad backing plate.
No reason to ever to the dealer. Oil changes anywhere wont void your warranty. Dealer is always trying to rip you off, but no way to know for sure in this case without removing the wheels and checking. If you're pads aren't gone, then you're calipers are still in bad shape because you haven't maintained them.
Take them to a reputable indy mechanic to have them checked.
Newbie
Jun 16, 2018
11 posts
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You need to look at the inner pad. They tend to wear quicker than outside pad. The best way is to remove wheel and inspect it. Rear Brakes need regular servicing anyways. Even if pads are not needed you should remove lubricate and reinstall at least every 30K or in some cases yearly. The Sliders tend to rust and cause inner pad to wear a lot quicker. I work on European cars and VW Rear Brakes need constant servicing due to rust formation between components.
Newbie
Nov 18, 2017
65 posts
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Ugh. Hyundai dealerships. My local one wanted over $1000 to do all the brakes, including front rotors and rear grinding for rust (?). Turns out I only needed front pads, which I happily replaced myself for 50 clams. It's ridiculous. They said my front rotor was down "significantly". It looked practically new. I never take our cars to dealerships for service anymore. Our local mechanics are way more honest.
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Nov 10, 2015
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fusion2k2k wrote:
Dec 2nd, 2018 5:53 pm
Hyundai's and Kia's are known for poor rear brakes. You need to have them serviced every 12 mos to make sure the pins stay lubricated. I had a Sonota and didn't have them serviced often enough. It causes the rear brakes to seize up prematurely and wear the pads out. Less use actually accelerates this problem. I had a set of rear pads done at like 30,000km. I would shop around to get a better price but I do think the brakes do need to be done.
Had the same problem with my Snota. Rear caliper seized and ended up replacing the whole rear brake system. Then it happened again about ten months later. Fortunately I had the work done at an independent garage and they replaced it again, this time for free.
Some parts of the Snotas are crap.
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Newbie
Oct 25, 2018
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I have a 2011 kia sportage that wife drives most of the time. The rear brakes started to make the metal on metal noise so i had them replaced for the fisrt time at 132000 kms. Not at dealer and they cost $840 plus taxes.
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Sep 8, 2017
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fusion2k2k wrote:
Dec 2nd, 2018 5:53 pm
Hyundai's and Kia's are known for poor rear brakes. You need to have them serviced every 12 mos to make sure the pins stay lubricated.
persaifi wrote:
Dec 2nd, 2018 8:22 pm
Rear Brakes need regular servicing anyways. Even if pads are not needed you should remove lubricate and reinstall at least every 30K or in some cases yearly. The Sliders tend to rust and cause inner pad to wear a lot quicker.
This goes for Honda Accord's too. The rear calipers are notorious for seizing up, so a yearly brake service is essential.
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Feb 23, 2008
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Brampton
I look at the brake fluid level in the reservoir. Brake pads are near done when the fluid is at the low mark. But this won't tell you if it's only the rear brakes. Usually indicates front wear.
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Aug 22, 2011
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cheapmeister wrote:
Dec 3rd, 2018 11:04 am
I look at the brake fluid level in the reservoir. Brake pads are near done when the fluid is at the low mark. But this won't tell you if it's only the rear brakes. Usually indicates front wear.
I also check the blinker fluid to see how much longer I have before the bulb burns out.

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