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Wear Sensors

Another emergent value for today’s car customer relates to electronic brake wear sensors, This handy device, tells the driver it’s time to either investigate or replace the driver’s brake pads. Back in the day, minimal brake pad wear was usually accompanied by high-pitched squealing whenever the driver pushed the brake pedal down.

Today, however, all things being equal, many of today’s brands are equipped with some kind of electronic sensor to makes the work easier for both the driver and the mechanic to get the news early, and well before a larger brake problem occurs. Nevertheless, and as simple as all that sounds, there’s still quite a lot of information to understand when it comes to the whole process, so let’s get started.

A bit about the history of wear sensors?

In the past, most American cars rarely included electronic wear sensors as part of their brand option packaging, instead leaving European marques to alert their customers as part of the EUs more rigid driver safety policies. However, in the last decade or so, Japanese, Korean and American auto brands have begun to add electronic wear sensors as standard accessories, largely due to the emergence of the National Highway Transportation Safety Agency’s (NHTSA) interest in the digitally-driven ‘connected-car’ concept, in addition to the follow-on advent of real-time customer communications networks fostered by On-Star and others.

The wear sensor process

The phrase wear sensor relates to an electronic device that alerts the driver that minimum brake pad thickness has been reached, thereby calling for immediate pad maintenance and/or replacement. There are various types of sensor-related components available ranging from external elements co-located near each individual brake caliper, to more well-understood embedded components within brake pads themselves.

Regardless, if minimum brake pad thickness is reached, an electronic circuit is completed, and/or broken, thereby triggering an anomalous operating state within the car’s electrical backbone. In turn, acknowledgement of this internal fault condition is immediately followed by the illumination of a dashboard light.

So, know you know the basics of what wear sensors do, how they work, and where they came from as a general rule of thumb. Now, let’s take a deeper dive into what that really means at a practical level.

How are wear sensors are built?

While we have been focused on the phrase wear sensor as an at-large definition so far, it’s also helpful to understand how the internal processes work in more granular terms. In this event, most modern wear sensors typically apply two resistor-involved circuits running in parallel to get the job done.

The first electrical conductor triggers a fault when the resistive circuit contacts the surface of the brake rotor face, thereby ‘cocking’ the fault matrix. Subsequently, a secondary fault occurs when its circuit is tripped by breaking its circuit entirely, followed by an immediate alert illumination on the dashboard. Altogether, then, the entire electrical sequence is typically referred to as a two-stage wear sensor process.

What wear sensor brands apply best when it comes to street-performance cars?
When it comes to performance cars, also referred to as luxury cars, a number of excellent options apply. Some of these premier brake brands include:
What wear sensor maintenance is necessary?
In the case of a potential wear sensor maintenance concern, the solution is fairly straightforward. Since sensor packages alarm-trip by destroying the embedded pad’s internal circuitry, there is no real option available other than replacing an entire set of pad.
Can the customer maintain a set of brake wear sensors?
Unless the customer has access to a fitted-out shop, while being able to do a complete pad replacement, there is little the customer can do. As suggested above, in order to resolve a wear thickness alarm the first and most important element is to replace the pads from start to finish. Consequently, most of the time this effort will require service help from an experienced brake shop/technician.

How do you wear sensors work in the field?


What happens if a wear sensors fails?
As suggested above, when minimum pad thickness is reached, the two-stage sensor alarm is triggered, thereby causing the illumination of a ‘pad wear’ announcement.
Is a ‘long pedal’ an indication of wear sensor failure?
No. Depending on the maturity age and domestic or international brand, the customer will either experience a squealing sound caused by what are referred to as ‘wear tabs’, or in later vehicles the aforementioned alarm light will illuminate on the dashboard.

When it comes to wear sensors and related brake pads, in concert with our other brake how-to’s, it is important that customers engage in detailed discussions with an expert brake provider like Buybrakes.com. While these components are plentiful in the aftermarket, there is no replacement for solid information offered by a solutions provider committed to ensuring that the right part is offered at the right time, and most importantly, at the right price. This effort will make sure that the customer’s experience will resolve in a successful upgrade, while at the same time ensuring that any final product purchase will be suitable to its purpose.