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I just paid $400 to replace the front brake pads and rotors on a 2011 Honda Pilot. Here is what the 4 brake pads look like: 3 are in great shape--maybe 50% usage?--and 1 is down to the metal, and I had metal-on metal contact to my rotor. The metal-on-metal pad was on the inside of the rotor--I think on the passenger side.

Here are the 4 pads:

enter image description here

A closeup of the metal-on-metal one:

enter image description here

2 good pads:

enter image description here

The 4 pads stacked together: the bare one is the 3rd one down, with no pad surface left:

enter image description here

Regular used rotor surface:

enter image description here enter image description here

And the rotor rubbing metal-on-metal on the bad pad (for only 1 or 2 days):

enter image description here enter image description here

What would cause only 1 brake pad to do this? All I can think is that maybe the last time I paid to have my brake pads replaced, the shop literally just forgot to replace one of the 4 pads, and so it started out already half-used.

See also:

  1. Replaced brake pads - one pad was full, the other was gone. Brakes now very hot after driving

Note: I compressed all images above to the required < 2 MB each by using jpegoptim at the command-line in Linux Ubuntu, like this:

cd path/to/folder_of_images

# Compress all jpeg images to <= 1900 KB
jpegoptim --size=1900k *.jpg
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    If the calliper is sticking still, there will likely be some heat build up. After a drive, have a smell of the wheels close to the callipers. You may be able to smell the effects of heat. You may even be able to feel that one wheel is warmer than the others.
    – HandyHowie
    Mar 29 at 20:07
  • @HandyHowie, thanks! I'll check that out next time I'm in that car! Mar 29 at 22:46
  • Another way of feeling if brakes are dragging; find somewhere where there is a very slight slope on the road and drive up the slope at low speed, then press the cluthc/shift to neutral and let the car roll to a stop (no touching the brakes) and then roll backwards. At that point where it transitions from forward to reverse, you''l know if the brakes are sticking. When you get used to it you'll even be able to do it on a level road; just roll to a stop and feel how the car halts; if it's imperceptibly smooth then no problem.. If there's a slight abruptness to the the halt, you'll feel it
    – Caius Jard
    Mar 30 at 11:34
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    It's like a very slight version of what it feels like when you're in with a learner and they bang the brakes on hard and hold them there til the car halts - the car stands on its nose and you butt the windshield, then get catapulted back into your seat as the rolling stops and the suspension expands again. The worse your brakes are sticking, the more like that catapult back it'll feel when the car halts
    – Caius Jard
    Mar 30 at 11:37
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    Lubricate your calipers one a year - this is right from the Honda recommended service and should have been done at least annually as part of your regular "B" service. This should also include inspection of the slide pins and boots and replacement if needed. Especially if you have salty winters or do a lot of driving in the wet or on dusty dirt roads - Honda calipers seem particularly prone to seizing up. Did you skip any maintenance?
    – J...
    Mar 30 at 17:39

4 Answers 4

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It's must likely down to siezed slide pins, if it's a sliding caliper setup (more likely), or a siezed piston if it's a dual piston caliper.

If it's the slide pins, it's a fairly easy fix - extract the pins (which can be more or less difficult depending on how stuck they are!), clean them up, clean up the holes they slide in, re-grease and reassemble with new gaiters (the little rubber boots that stop dirt getting in - chances are these will have split, which is a common cause of this problem). Last time I did this, at the same time as doing the pads, it only added half an hour or so to the time taken.

A stuck caliper can also be freed off, but is liable to stick again, so in that case it might be better to have them replaced or refurbished.

Did you ask the mechanic who changed them about it? They'd have had to do something to free it, otherwise they wouldn't have been able to fit the new pads in!

If they didn't sort it properly, get it fixed ASAP, as not only will the replacement be sticking too, and so wearing out, but your brakes will be dragging on that side as well.

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    Thank you. I just called the mechanic shop and he walked to the back work area and found the mechanic who did the work. The mechanic said the caliper pins were really dry so he greased them all up, but the caliper piston was not frozen. So, it sounds like a seized slide pin that he was able to grease up. They said they'd inspect and re-grease them for free if I come in again in a year and just want them inspected. Mar 29 at 20:14
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    That sounds like half a job to me @GabrielStaples. Greasing the pins is part of it, but really to be sure it's fixed the caliper has to come off, the pins pulled, etc just as this good answer says. Just greasing may solve your issue, or it may cost you another set of rotors.
    – GdD
    Mar 30 at 12:10
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A couple of typical causes for this are:

  1. Binding of the calipers in the caliper brackets. Often caused by messed up slider pins.

  2. Stuck caliper pistons on one side of the caliper.

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  • Do you think it is possible the last people who did my brakes just forgot to change this one pad? Mar 29 at 19:48
  • If one of these issues was the problem, do you think the problem is resolved now that the brakes were just redone, or should I call the shop and ask if they fixed the slider pins? Should I take it in somewhere to get the pins replaced or greased? Mar 29 at 19:48
  • @GabrielStaples my answer crossed this in the ether, so hopefully answers that- yes, best to call them and ask
    – Nick C
    Mar 29 at 19:52
  • In my opinion any brake job should include cleaning, inspection, possible replacement, and lubrication of the sliders. It should also include inspection and rebuild/replacement of the calipers if they are damaged or binding.
    – jwh20
    Mar 29 at 19:53
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The other answers discuss the caliper mechanisms (pistons, slide pins) being stuck.

There is one more possibility - low quality brake pad that at some point became spliced into a metal part and a friction material part. The remains of the friction material had simply fallen off.

p.s. while you are at it, check the rear pads and rotors.

If a mechanic does a substandard work or sources low quality parts, one can reasonably expect failures at the other points he touched.

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  • Good points. I don't think the pad fell off though. 1) The brakes felt like they were slowly having weird symptoms over the course of a few weeks, as the pad wore through to the metal underneath, and 2) once we were full metal on metal and had a solid scraping sound, I could hear the brake pad was almost continually contacting the rotor even when the brakes were not pressed. It sounded like a slightly warped rotor with the scrape scrape scrape sound as the wheel rotated with the brakes not pressed. That seems to validate the idea the slide pins were stuck and the pad was always contacting. Mar 31 at 0:46
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They replaced all pads.

It's extremely unlikely that they would have failed to replace one pad. Due to the way pads are replaced, you have to undo a set of hooks, clips and pins to release the 2 pads, and then, they slide out together. It's no more work to do both than 1.

Especially if only the pads are being exchanged, and the rotors are not being turned.

Speaking of that.

Rotors should be resurfaced when replacing pads

When changing pads, it is very easy to inspect the outer rotor surface. But the inner surface is up against a splash guard, so it can't be visibly inspected without removing it. Removing the rotor is a minor chore because it involves removing the caliper - just a couple of bolts and hang it by a coat hanger so you don't have to disconnect the hydraulic line... but I could see a shop not wanting to bother.

So they may have missed hidden damage on that rotor.

As you can see from the other 3 surfaces, rotor surfaces do wear somewhat, and the rotor should be re-surfaced with every pad change. This is called "turning a rotor", and many garages and auto parts stores have a machine in the corner which does that job alone. When I get it done at the friendly neighborhood O'Reilly's, they charge me $15-25 per rotor.

A lot of garages won't bother turning rotors, because most replacement rotors cost about what turning does. But your rotors aren't. I can certainly see you balking at $200 to replace rotors!

My theory

I agree with others that this is likely the caliper failing to float freely left and right, causing excessive pressure on the one pad.

However if your pads hadn't been turned at your previous brake service, perhaps the rotors were not inspected on the inside. Perhaps that rotor had surface damage which caused it to chew up the pad prematurely. If the rotor had been turned, this defect would have been caught.

Anyway, while I agree with the "make sure the caliper can float freely" advice -- my additional advice here is to have rotors turned everytime you replace pads. Since your rotors are expensive, pick a garage that does turn rotors.

And have common sense: if your brake action suggests a warped rotor, turning won't necessarily fix that, and play it safe with a new rotor. And if the rust is bad and is starting to affect balance or the cooling passages, that too needs to go.

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    In the grand scheme of things, rotors are not expensive. Replacing the rotors makes far better sense logically than does turning them, especially if it's a DIYer. There is a cost involved in turning rotors. New rotors are usually just a bit more expensive than. New rotors bring several advantages. Clean, flat, unwarped, rust free, new rotor. The only positive for a turned rotor is it's flat. It can still be warped, doubtful its clean, and will be rusty. It has less thermal mass than a new one will. Really, just replace the rotor and be done with it. Apr 1 at 12:06
  • @Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 I think that's a judgment call based on cost and availability. Warped rotors, the driver should notice the wubba-wubba brake action. Every rotor rusts within 30 days of being installed, so rust is a nothingburger unless it's been on salted roads enough to scale up the vent passages. This for sure: a turned OEM rotor is better than a new cheap Cheese rotor from that popular auto parts store that doesn't have any delivery trucks. Apr 1 at 23:16
  • Your "this is for sure" is not and completely opinion. Also, coated rotors do not rust so readily, so not "every rotor" rusts in 30 days. There are plenty of good reasons to go with new rotors over re-cut old ones. These good reasons outweigh your opinion. However, as you stated, this is a judgement call. Apr 2 at 0:59

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