I just bought a used car with soft/squishy braking so I'm trying to figure out if I need brake pads. I'm looking at my brake pads and having a hard time telling how much material is left - to me it all just looks like the shoe, so it either has no material left or I am looking at it incorrectly.

Here are the pics of my front brakes:

front right brakes front left brakes

Do I need to replace brake pads?

As for the feel, my brakes feel "soft" and don't bite until I push down a fair amount and I'm also getting what feels like a soft abs pulse when braking, not a full on hard pulse but a very subdued soft pulse.

  • Year, make, model of the vehicle? Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 11:48
  • Subaru Forester 2006 XT Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 13:14
  • How many miles? The Forester needs some pretty big maintenance work at 105,000 miles (timing belt related) - check if that's been done. Failure can be expensive - as in, new engine expensive...
    – PeteCon
    Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 19:07
  • Soft pulse is warped rotors, its time for pads and rotors replacement.
    – Moab
    Commented Sep 25, 2016 at 0:04

1 Answer 1


Your brakes are pretty much done. You won't truly be able to tell how much friction material is left until they are pulled apart, but really, there isn't much left. One thing you can look at is there should be an indicator on one end of the brake pad which is affectionately known as a "squealer". When the brake pads get worn enough, the squealer comes in contact with the rotor face and starts making a squealing noise which would get your attention. You can look at the squealer and see how far off of the rotor it is. If it's in contact with the face already, it's time to change the pads.

Now is a good time to change them as there isn't any damage to your rotors. You can take a wire brush to these (whether manual brush or rotary brush attached to a drill) and break the glaze which is on them, then reuse. There doesn't look to be any significant wear to them, which would mean they should still be in spec. The light pulsing you are feeling is probably just the rotors and not the ABS. Once the glaze is knocked off of these and the fresh pads are bedded, you probably won't feel this anymore.

If you really wanted to, you could get a fresh set of rotors for your brakes while replacing the pads. This is probably the easiest way to ensure you'll not have any issues with the pulsing you are talking about. Either busting the glaze on the current rotors or getting new ones are both perfectly acceptable ways to do this work.

  • 1
    is breaking the glaze the same as "resurfacing" rotors at places like pep-boys? Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 13:14
  • Resurfacing will do the same thing, but that process actually takes metal off of the surface of the rotor. It will make the surface be brand new. The "glaze" I'm talking about is the shiny surface where the pad has been riding now. If you don't get rid of that, the new pads will not work correctly and will most likely never perform at optimal. Either way should work just fine, but leaving them alone and just putting new pads on will not be optimal. Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 13:22
  • Also bleed the brakes and replace all the brake fluid - it's probably never been done.
    – PeteCon
    Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 19:06

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