This is sometimes possible without removing the wheels but far
easier with the wheels removed.
Removing the Wheels
Place jack under car and jack the car partially up. With the
wheels still in contact with the ground remove wheel nuts. (If
the wheels are off the ground the wheels have a tendancy to
spin as you try to turn the nuts so it is easier to still have
the wheel in contact witht the ground.) Remove the wheel to
inspect the brake drums/disks.
As shown above the caliper has an inspection hole where you can
see how much brake pad is remaining. Failure to change a worn brake
pad can damage the brake disc and cause uneven braking and an MOT
For brake drum the brake pads need to be exposed by removing the
cover. Brakes at the front take most of the load when braking and
will wear faster than rear brakes so you may not have to replace
all pads if some are found too worn. Always replace both sides together
though. Either both front pads or both back pads or all. Never replace
one side only and only ever replace with brand new parts.
Examine brake pipes and hoses checking for splits damage and corrosion.
Chech back of hub plates for any signs of leakage.
With the wheels off the ground have your assistant sit in the car
and when you have spun the wheels, have them press the brake pedal
whil you check each wheel in turn. Check that each wheel stops and
that when the brake is released that the wheel can be spun freely
Check the handbrake linkage and cables for any signs of corrosion
Drive the car and make sure that when the brakes are applied that
the car brake in a straight line and does not pull to either side.