Brake grinding is a sound that occurs when the caliper and brake disc come together while braking. The brake grinding sound usually happens as you step on the brake pedal.
Brake Grinding Situations
There are 3 main situations that could cause brake grinding:
- Brake Grinding When You Press On Your Brakes
If you notice your brakes are grinding while slowing down, it's probably due to a lack of thickness in your brake pads. Your brake pads must be thick enough to provide adequate performance and halting power. Over time as you use your brake pads, they will eventually wear out.
When your brake pads are thinner than the suggested thickness, they will begin to screech every time you press the brake pedal. This uncomfortable sound is known as brake scrubbing, indicating that it is time to upgrade the brake pads. If you ignore this noise, the brake pads will continue to wear out, and the squealing sound will become a grinding noise.
If your brakes make a sharp grinding noise while decelerating, the brake disc and caliper are likely scratching together. The sound often appears when your vehicle comes to a complete stop, but you may also hear it as you step on the brake pedal. The best way to resolve this problem is to have your brake pads replaced as soon as possible, but you may also need to replace both your discs or rotors at this point.
- Brake Grinding While Driving
If you hear your brakes grinding when traveling at a steady speed that may be due to rocks or pebbles lodged between the caliper and the rotor. In this case, you'll want the debris removed from the system as soon as possible. Lack of immediate action can severely damage the brake pedal and other performance components.
While you can remove rocks and debris from your brakes, it's always best to hire a professional, especially if you're new to working on cars. If you hear any brake grinding noises, you should schedule a service appointment with a car mechanic and have them inspect your vehicle.
- Brake Grinding When Your Vehicle Comes To a Sudden Stop
Another common reason for a grinding noise from your brakes is when you suddenly slam the brakes. When you hit the brakes suddenly, you might hear a grinding noise and feel the brake pedal rattle. However, if your brake pads are sufficiently thick, you should not need to replace your brake pads.
If you hear grinding when you come to a sudden stop, it's most likely caused by your Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS). In a panic stop, the ABS will start automatically to stop wheel lockups and vehicle skidding. The system operates by pumping the brakes to maintain stability and control, resulting in the grinding noise and rumbling brake pedal.
Reasons Why Your Brakes are Grinding
Here are some reasons your brake pedals make a grinding noise:
- Your Brake Pads Are Worn
Wearing out brake pads is the most likely cause of brake grinding. Brake pads usually come with a perfect combination of graphite, metal, copper, and brass. However, with extensive use, the brake pad will wear down to nothing and the metal backing plate underneath the pads will rub against the brake rotor. Prior to any grinding sounds, your brake pads will frequently make squealing noises. This screeching sound is also known as brake scrubbing and indicates that the brake pads need to get replaced.
If you do not replace your brake pads quickly, the squealing will progress to grinding. Remember that your brakes may also squeal as the brake shoes wear away. Screeching is another common noise, but it is also associated with brake dust buildup. If your brakes are screeching, but still working accurately, dirt or alloying elements are most likely on your brake pads.
Although brake pads have a relatively long lifespan, the brakes will wear out if you haven't replaced them in 25,000 to 60,000 miles.
- Your Brake Rotor Needs a Replacement
Your brake rotors are the shiny discs against which the calipers squeeze to slow your vehicle. Since they are so low to the ground, dirt and water can enter to cause a rusted or contorted rotor.
Squeaky brakes can be caused by non-flat brake rotor discs, whereas a worn-out rotor disc will often make a piercing shriek felt through your steering column. When you brake, you'll also notice that you have a worn-out rotor because there are a lot of sound waves that you can feel through the brake pedal and driveshaft.
- Your Vehicle Might Have a Faulty Wheel Bearing
The wheel bearings allow your tires to spin indefinitely without excessive heat. When one or more bearings wear out and debris gets inside, you may hear a grinding noise from your wheel bearings. Here are several signs of bad wheel bearings:
- Vibrations in the steering wheel increase in intensity and then decrease
- Uneven wear on your tires
Wheel bearing problems are uncommon as the service interval is typically between 75,000 and 100,000 miles.
- Low-Quality Brake Pads
Although low-quality brake pads have a cheaper price point, they often lead to more frequent repairs and increase wear and tear on other brake parts. Cheaper brake pads also contain large amounts of metal which make them more likely to make grinding and scraping noises when braking.
- Your Braking System Needs Relubrication
The braking system is usually complex, with many working components, and these brake parts will require relubrication over time. Without proper lubrication, there can be a grinding noise from your car's brakes that is caused by the caliper bolts.
The caliper bolts keep the brake calipers securely in place. However, over time they may begin to rust which causes the grinding sound. You can stretch the life of your caliper bolts by oiling them once a month, but caliper bolts are cheap to replace, with parts costing between $10 and $20 plus labor.
- Your Car Has Not Been Driven in a Long Time
If your car has been idle for months, rust can be the source of your brake noise. In addition to brake noise, you should also check your brake fluid, battery life, tires, etc. By driving your vehicle at least once a month, you can avoid most major problems listed above.
- Your Brake Caliper Has Debris Inside
A continual screeching or grinding noise could indicate that something, such as a small stone, a piece of crushed rock, or any other small object, has become lodged in your brake caliper.
Foreign objects getting stuck in the brake system can cause considerable damage to the brake disc. You can try to remove the object by gradually moving your vehicle back and forth in a safe location and fishing out the object. If this doesn't work, your best bet is to have an expert mechanic look at it as soon as possible.
If your car's brakes start to grind, the simplest solution is to have a mechanic inspect them and replace your brake pads, rotors, or both. There are numerous causes for grinding noises, and you'll need to identify the exact issue before you can fix it.
If you are concerned about driving with brake problems, at NuBrakes, our technicians come to you so you can choose a repair date and time that works best for your schedule without having the risk of brake failure. Contact us today and receive a free brake repair estimate.