Tool Review: OTC brake pad gauge

James Phillips, a technician at Lau’s Tire and Auto operating out of Milwaukee, WI, sometimes finds it’s hard to explain to a customer how worn their brake pads are on the vehicle. When he was sent an OTC brake pad gauge to put to the test, his mind immediately raced to the upselling opportunities with more brake work on vehicles.

“I try to use this on every vehicle I can, just as I do a quick battery test ... to sell more business,” Phillips explains. “While doing a no-profit job like an oil change, an upsell to a brake job makes everyone happy.

“For viewing brake pad thickness, oftentimes the wheel obstructs a good view, requiring removal of the wheel lock, and wheel to inspect,” Phillips says. “This tool allows access where otherwise (it) would be too restricted to see. It was very easy and quick to use; it displays in millimeters and it is color-coded for ‘pass,’ ‘marginal’ and ‘fail.’ "

He was concerned that the ‘fail’ margin still leaves a customer with at least 10 percent remaining. This was neither good nor bad, but because brake pads being ready for replacement is a criteria that is different between shops, he was afraid that some shops would think he was overselling brake work while others would sell brakes much sooner and accuse him of allowing the brake pads to get dangerously close to worn.

The main feature that stuck out to Phillips was that unlike brake pad thickness gauges of the past, this tool didn’t require the removal of wheels at all. “It is more precise and faster for external access,” he reports. “It’s a nice tool. Much thought and time has gone into its simplicity.”

Phillips' only recommendation for improving the tool would be to add a flash drive to it in order to save him time writing results. Nonetheless, he rates the tool a perfect 10 out of 10. When asked why, he responded simply, “It works!”


Product Description

The OTC brake pad gauge, No. 6596, allows for a definitive measurement of brake pads to determine remaining life. The unique design allows for measurement on the vehicle without the removal of any components in most cases (wheel assembly or brake caliper). The tool features a quick reference of brake pad condition via a color code scale. A barrel meaurement of 8mm or more shows as green (no replacement necessary), a barrel meaurement of 3mm to 8mm or more shows as yellow (replacement soon), and a barrel meaurement of 3mm or less shows as red (replacement now).