Car Sounds: Grinding Brakes

Disc Brakes Grinding When You Stop

Mechanic fixing brakes
Grinding sounds from your brake are telling you it's time for service!. Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Brakes that are making a grinding sound could be bad news. Some noise from your brakes is no big deal. For example, some brakes are squeaky and complain because they need a little brake pad lube between the brakes pads and the carrier or holder. Other sounds mean that your brake system is eating itself because the brake pads have either worn too much to smoothly stop the vehicle or, in some cases, the brake pad was defective and has fallen apart, leading to a premature failure of your recently replaced brake pads!

Brakes are nothing to fool around with. Your car or truck is equipped with at least one, if not many, systems to let you know when your brake pads are reaching their worn point. Every vehicle's brakes will emit a squeal and a whine when your pads get low. Brake pads are designed to get noisy when they are nearing their worn point, so even your basic, bare-bones model will give you this hint. Newer, advanced vehicles are equipped with sensors that measure how much brake pad is left and will actually alert you via a dashboard warning light if your brakes need to be replaced soon.

Those are the early warning signs. If your car is making a grinding sound when you apply the brakes, you should look into the matter quickly. Leaving disc brake repair until later can result in costly brake component replacement. There have even been cases of calipers needing to be replaced!

If your brakes are making a grinding sound when you come to a stop, you are at the very end of the life of your brake pads.

By the time you hear this sound, you may have to replace your brake discs. The good news is there aren't any other possibilities. Grinding, crunching, chewing metal sounds from your brakes always mean that you've gone too long without replacing your pads, or in some rare cases a pad has failed and the friction surface leaves you all at once.

Either way, the wheels are coming off, the brakes are coming out, and you may have to go a little deeper even, like to the brake discs. 

You'll definitely have to replace your brake pads, so be prepared to make this repair. A quick brake inspection will let you know whether you have damaged your brake discs.

If your brakes reached the point of grinding, there's a lesson to be learned here. Maintenance that is deferred to this degree will almost never end well. Even if you don't plan on keeping the vehicle much longer, you should keep up with regular maintenance like oil changes and brake pads. It can take very little time at all for an ignored maintenance issue to rear its head and turn into a serious money problem. Try selling a car that makes a grinding sound every time you touch the brake pedal, you'll probably have few takers until you drop the price be far more than the amount you thought you were saving by skipping brake pad replacement. 

Front brakes usually need replacement far more often than rear brakes, so if you are hearing a riding sound it's probably the front brakes. But never assume it's the simplest answer. Inspecting your brake pads will reveal the answer. Some things to look for include excessive brake dust, especially if it seems to be focused on one wheel.

Metal shavings visible anywhere around the wheels are a serious indicator of your pads beginning to eat into your brake discs, and this is a sure way to turn what might have been a simple repair like brake pads into a costly full servicing and replacement. Lucky for you, you can save some money if you decide to make these repairs yourself. Hey, you got yourself into this mess, why not come out like a hero?