In a perfect world, brake wear would be flat as a fritter and the sun would always shine. We do not live in a perfect world.
Nick works at a shop in DeKalb, Illinois, and said a customer came into his shop last month with noisy rear brakes from a mid-2000s Nissan—at least, that's what he can remember. (He's probably a busy guy right now.) Nick said the brake pedal felt fine on a test drive, but the brakes sounded far from fine. Very far from fine. When he put the car up on the lift to inspect it, a bigger problem came into view.
“We regularly see stuck pads and pins causing odd wear, but this was the most extreme one I’ve seen,” he told me. As you can see from the picture above that Nick took of the pad, one side of the pad was extremely worn, almost all the way into the back plate. The other side? Plenty of material, almost to the point of being completely new. The wear indicator may have packed up and left town a while ago.
The culprit? The rear brake pads on the single-caliper rear pinchers weren’t greased correctly. The slide pins were both free, and the caliper wasn’t seized, but one side of the pad was stuck in the caliper bracket, causing the rear brakes to be pushed in at an angle.
“The shop I work at is in northern Illinois … so it’s in the middle of the Rust Belt,” he says. Nick said he cleaned out all the rust from the bracket, added new pads and rotors to the car, and sent it on its way.
It’s a cautionary tale of proper greasing when replacing pads and rotors but also a reminder that bad brake wear isn’t always apparent—until it is. Proper grease, proper seating, proper wear; better brake installation is always the sunnier side of car maintenance.
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