Noisy brakes are a common automotive annoyance, but should you be concerned? Noisy brakes are worth taking a closer look at, as they might be alerting you to a deeper mechanical issue. Here are common reasons why your brakes make interesting sounds:
Hearing a grinding noise when you hit the brakes is similar to hitting a rumble strip on the highway; it’s a sign that you need to pay attention and, in this case, stop driving. A grinding noise usually is caused by a lack of brake pads, meaning that yours likely have worn down to nothing. In this case, your pads and rotors are working metal to metal, which is bad for your vehicle.
Many cars have drum brakes in the back, where a shoe stops/slows down the car by pressing on the inside of a metal drum. If the drum gets resurfaced, a new groove in the brake drum will appear; when the brake shoes ride on it, they will follow it. This is similar to how a needle follows a track on a record player. If this groove is interrupted, the shoes will snap back and hit the backing plate, causing the thumping noise.
The most common causes of squeaky brakes are low-quality or worn-down brake pads. Cheap pads have metal flakes in the material, which can be dragged along the rotor when you press the brake, creating the squeaking noise. The best way to avoid this issue is to invest in quality brake pads. Cheap ones are tempting, but you’ll regret it once the pads wear down and affect your rotors. Ask your mechanic for recommendations on quality pads.
If your car makes a scraping noise when you’re driving or turning a corner, and it sounds like something being dragged across a thin metal plate, you probably picked up a rock and lodged it between your rotor and backing plate. Even if you haven’t been on dirt roads lately, you can pick up rocks from hitting potholes. If you think this has happened, simply have the rock removed and go on your way.
Sometimes, noisy brakes are nothing to fear. Other times, they’re a wake-up call. Before you panic, take a break to inspect your brakes. If you’ve done your research, and still can’t figure out the cause, take your vehicle to an experienced mechanic. Here’s to smooth — and less noisy — cruising.
– Deidre Parker, owner-operator of Chloe’s Auto Repair, holds an ASE certification and has extensive experience in the area of automotive repair.