Aside from your car totally failing to start, there may not be a car problem as concerning as those concerning your brakes. Malfunctioning brakes may lead to accidents because you won’t be able to stop your car in time. You can obviously tell if your vehicle’s brakes have a problem if their making a grinding or a squeaking sound. However, most car owners don’t know how to interpret these grinding sounds, since they could mean a bunch of different things. We’ve made this guide for you to find out what the sound your brakes are making mean.
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What Sound Do You Hear?
Alarming brake problems can be categorized into three groups – rattling, fading, and just flat out grinding. Rattling usually occurs when you release the pedal as you’re driving. Vehicle owners who have experienced this sound coming from their car’s brakes have compared it to that of can of spray paint being shaken before use. The most common reason for why brakes rattle is heat expansion – anti-rattle shims are extremely important. If you think your brakes are rattling, it should happen rather inconsistently and not while your foot is on the pedal.
When we talk about brakes fading, we’re talking about when your car’s brakes begin to lose their efficiency. This could be a problem if you’re going down a steep incline, such as driving down mountain roads, or if you’re travelling at high speeds. Brake fade happens when the brakes begin to heat up due to overuse, which used to be a common issue among old automatics. It also happens gradually. Bit by bit you’ll start to notice that you need to put a little more effort to bring your car to a full stop. It may be harder to step on the brakes, you may need to step on the pedal for longer, or even both. The best course of action would be to pull over and wait for the brake temperatures to lower.
Lastly, we have brake grinding. When you hear a grinding noise coming from your car’s brakes, you should refrain from using it and contact a certified mechanic as soon as possible. If this happens when you step on the brake pedal, then the cause is most probably the rotor disc making contact with some parts of the brake caliper, which is in turn caused by too much or inappropriate use of the brakes. Getting grinding brakes repaired can cost a pretty penny. So if you want to save your hard-earned money, get your brakes serviced as quickly as you can when you begin to notice just the faintest of grinding sounds.
What Causes Brake Grinding?
There are plenty of reasons why a car’s brakes would be making a grinding sound. You’ll come to find out that it could just be one of the reasons that we’re going to be mentioning, or it could be a combination of them that’s been causing the squeaking sound whenever you step on the brakes. Either way, you should always get your brake pads checked at the earliest sign of wear and tear. Of course you wouldn’t want your brakes to give out on you while you’re in the middle of a drive, especially if you have friends and family riding with you.
You can still drive your car with worn-out brake pads, but we highly advise against it. This is why you should bring your car to a certified auto body shop for routine checkups. Plus, if a problem is detected early, you’ll get to keep more of your hard-earned money. If you let problems with your brakes get worse, it’ll cost more to get them fixed. For instance, just getting new rotors can cost anywhere between $300 to $800. If you need more parts replaced, the figure will surely soar past the $1000 mark.
You Haven’t Used Your Car for a Long Time
The first reason why your car may be making that annoying squeaking or grinding sound is because you don’t use it enough. A car that’s been in storage, especially if it’s stored improperly, could have collected rust over time on many of its parts – the brake pads included. Even as you start using your car again, this corrosion has a tendency to spread to the other parts of the braking system and damage those as well. Like how you should stretch to avoid getting an injury, you should drive your car even for short distances to get rid of that pesky rust.
Your Rotor Discs Need to Be Replaced
You may be driving your car on an everyday basis, but the grinding sounds still persist. This could be because your rotor discs have gotten worn out from multiple years of use. An average braking system has a lifespan of around 20,000 miles. If you get a top of the line version, this number may be a bit higher, but in the end they still wear out. No brake lasts forever. One way to know if this is the reason for those annoying sounds that happen whenever you brake is if they resemble more of a scraping sound as opposed to grinding. Although this doesn’t happen in all cases, you may also feel some vibrations when you press on the brake pedal with the car in motion.
You Need New Brake Pads
The same principle applies to your brake pads. You may not think of this part as much as your engine, for instance, but you definitely should. Brake pads should also be changed in or around the 20,000-mile mark. Damage to the brake pads is caused by constant contact with the rotors and caliper. The backing plate may also come into contact with your brake pad, which also causes considerable damage over time. Grinding or squeaking noises are signs of worn-out pads. It’s one of the most common reasons for those sounds.
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Your Car Uses Low Quality Brake Pads
Your brake pads may not be overused, but they could be of low quality. Poorly constructed brake pads may look and perform well fresh out of the box, but they don’t last as long as high-quality ones. Brake pads are an investment because, as we’ve said before, a malfunctioning brake can cause accidents on the road. You’ll end up saving more money if you get good brake pads now instead of going cheap on yourself and trying to get a “bargain.” You may spend more changing these again and again. You may even need to spend on repairs.
There’s a Problem with Your Wheel Bearings
If the grinding or squeaking noises are coming from near your car’s wheels then the problem may be a faulty wheel bearing. Another sign of this is if your car vibrates from soft to loud and back again as you drive it. A wheel bearing is another part that many car owners may not be familiar with. This is actually a set of intricately placed steel balls held together by something known as a “race.” If this part gets broken or damaged, the noise may also resemble going through a rumble strip on a busy road. You may also notice your tires getting worn out in patches if your wheel bearing has gone bad.
Something May Be Stuck in Your Brakes
A loud squeaking or grinding sound may also be caused by a stone or some other foreign material getting stuck in between the calipers. If this were to happen, then the grinding sound will pop up not only when you step on the brakes; it will happen the whole time the vehicle is in motion. If you can, try moving your car back and forth in a safe and open space to try and dislodge whatever it is that’s gotten stuck in your brakes. If this doesn’t work, then of course the next thing you should do is to get your vehicle checked out at an auto shop.
There’s Not Enough Lubrication
If you’ve ever heard of the expression “a well-oiled machine,” then you’ve probably already come to realize that there are few better examples of that than your car’s brakes. When you fail to give ample lubrication for parts as small as your brake’s caliper bolts, even if you’ve done so for every other part, these grinding sounds will still occur. Luckily for you, it’s rare the caliper bolts don’t get as much lubrication compared to the other parts. It’s quite an easy problem to fix, too. All your mechanic needs to do is install new bolts and you’re good to go.
The Shims are Damaged
Like with caliper bolts, something as small as the brake system’s shims can be responsible for that annoying grinding that you’re hearing in your car. A brake shim is a bit of metal or rubber that’s attached in between the rotors and brake pads. It actually serves to even out imperfections between the two that could cause unnatural noises while driving. Obviously, if this part fails, those sounds will start to appear. This is something that even mechanics may gloss over. We advise that you have your mechanic change your car’s brake shims every time you bring it in for repairs. It doesn’t take that much time to get this extra work done. It doesn’t cost much either.
Again, these warning signs may appear individually or at the same time. However, you shouldn’t have to wait for them to appear for you to have a reason to bring your car to a mechanic. As soon as you feel your brakes becoming more inefficient, bring your car in immediately. You’ll be quite thankful you did.