This post contains affiliate links. Read the full disclosure here.
it is a common problem encountered by both beginners attempting to do their repairs and some auto repair shop, the issues of misdiagnosing a brake shim problem. The shims are as important as other parts when indicated for the brake type.
So, do brake pads need shims? Not always. This is an example of a car part that has changed over time. with the new brake system design, the shims are no longer needed in some types of vehicles and another form of engineering has replaced the brake shims.
In where they are indicated, their absence will bring about the manifestation of signs that are often thought to be due to the rotors or pad. This is because most people do not think beyond these two brake parts in an event of brake signs.
Often time, this may lead to delayed diagnosis as your mind is focused on other than the problem, and all the required testing is aimed at confirming either the rotors or brake pads as the cause of the brake signs.
You may not have this sort of experience unless the brake pads are such that the manufacturer specifies shims. Most such pads will already have a shim present right from the manufacturing line while others will have the kit with it and glue or pin to be used to fix the shim.
Why the diagnosis of a shimming problem is often missed because the presenting signs are usually the same as those seen with problems with other brake parts such as the calipers and rotors. They often come to mind when such signs are experienced. The shims are commonly an afterthought.
They can be in the form of a rubber material or metallic, usually thin and fits between the caliper. You are not to fix one when it is not specified that you need one as not all brakes do. Not much skill is needed, you can glue or fix it with a pin, only do this when the manufacturer okays it.
Table Of Contents
What is the role of shims in brake pads?
In the same way, some go ahead to apply some form of spray when the brakes rattle, vibrate or become noisy, the shims are what make sure you do not need the spray to keep the brake operating smoothly. Although sometimes, even with the shims, you may have to apply such spray.
Often tiny, shims are not seen as relevant parts of the brake by those who are unaware of the mighty functions performed by the rubber or metallic material lodged in between the caliper and pad. Nature abhors space, the shims ensure that whatever small space existed is filled, to avoid noisy braking.
The significance of this tiny little part of the brake system is only appreciated when it is absent. the noise is often unbearable and can be heard upon applying the brakes until the foot is lifted again.
Can a brake pad be without shims?
After understanding the role of the shims, you may be thinking of getting one for your brake at this point. Well, slow down a little, it is also possible that your car may not need the shims, especially if it is the old model.
Two types of shims are commonly used in brakes, the metallic and rubber kind. If you are sure your brakes are allowed to be installed with shims, then go for the metallic type if you can. They are much more durable and will protect against wear. You can also grease them up to further reduce the noise performance.
Why shims may not deny the brakes stopping power, their relevance cannot be ignored. It is hard to ignore the amount of noise you may experience without them, each time you apply the brakes. forgetting to install the shims account for the major reason.
The first step with the installation of brake shims is to do the needed research, and find out what your manufacturer’s recommendation is. If the shims are indicated for you, then install them along with the pads. If not, do not attempt to install one.
For those who require one, learn the type that is okay for your type of vehicle, be it the heavy-duty or light-duty type, similar to what we have with brake pads.
How do you know your brake pad shims are bad?
How do you feel when you discover the cause of all the disturbing noise you’ve had to deal with is something as tiny as the brake shims? No matter how small any car part is, its absence is always symptomatic. The presenting symptoms may not depict the size of what is missing, but the greater role it performs.
Hence, the brake shims although tiny are one of the commonest causes of brake noise. “Tiny stuff sometimes time causes the most problem”. You may end up running diagnostics without discovering the problem has always been right in front of you. When you suspect the common bigger parts such as the pads or rotors or calipers you are likely to miss what is right in front of you.
It is okay to think about the brake pad or rotors as the possible cause of the brake noise. What is unacceptable is to assume they are the only known causes. The shims cause as many problems as these parts. When you refuse to acknowledge that, you may never get to fix your noise problem.
When the worn or scored pads or rotors are still put to use, you may have a similar noise from the brakes. if there are no pad wear or rotor cracks that are similar to rotor or pad problems, then you may move on to other possible explanations for the noise. This includes the absence of shims in a brake system that requires one.
One of the temporary ways of dealing with this noise is the use of a special spray. It does however replace the role of the shims 100% and should be used together with it. Friction between two surfaces explains the squeal or click noise. Reducing this with a shim or spray will ease the noise.
Those unfamiliar with brake installation or attempting the brake pad installation for the first time or absent-minded during the installation are more likely to forget the shim even when it is part of the kit. Such a diagnosis is easy to make, especially if the noise starts right after the new pads wear installed.
You are lucky if you never had to deal with break noises. They make you apprehensive about applying the brakes. the brake pad can be without a shim, with a shim, or require you to get one for it. Either of these situations can be seen with a brake pad.
Where should your attention be focused when suspecting the brake shims problem? The noise that comes with braking.
The timing of the noise, the type of noise, its association with braking, when it was first noticed, what aggravates or makes the noise worse, and what reduces the noises are important in diagnosing the brake shim as the cause of the problem.
It is usually a click or squeal sound, heard commonly when the foot is used on the pedal. It can be present following the installation of the new pad or developed later. When you forget the install the shim with the pad, then it may present with noise from that point onward.
When the pad is not new but has been in use for some time, the shims may be the reason for the noise as well. They deteriorate the same way as the pad over time. they can therefore cause similar noise as the pads.
How to decide on the type of shim to install on your vehicle
It is up to you to determine what type of shim to install. Mostly, this decision is often based on what you can afford. If you are okay with the rubber shims, you can go ahead with this, if not, replace the manufacturer rubber shim with the metallic type once you can.
Of the metallic type, the titanium brake shim is a step ahead of the others. has been shown to provide a better performance and has worn the heart of many especially car race drivers. The rubber type is however more than capable of getting the job done. If you do not race or haul, you may not need these upgrades.
How much you think you are willing to spend on the brake shim dictates what you will later end up with. The rubber type is perfectly okay. You may not have to install the metallic type as long as you maintain the rubber brake shim.
Do Brake Pads Need Shims – Conclusion
So, if you were unaware of what the brake shims were or what they did, this article has clearly explained why some may find themselves needing it while others may not.