Blog Car Care Advice Brakes Grinding: 7 Possible Causes (+Solutions)
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Brakes Grinding: 7 Possible Causes (+Solutions)

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The sound of your brakes grinding can send uncomfortable vibrations down your spine and set your teeth on edge.

But what could be causing your brakes to grind?
Is it dangerous?

Fear not. 
We’re here to answer these questions on grinding brakes. We’ll also address some burning FAQs to give you a better understanding of this unnerving issue. 

This Article Contains 

Let’s dive in.

Top 7 Reasons Why Your Brakes Are Grinding 

There are lots of things that can result in your car’s brakes grinding. 
While one brake issue may be more serious than another, you should always have your grinding or squeaky brakes checked as soon as possible. 

Here are some of the most common causes for grinding brakes: 

1. Your Brake Pads Have Worn Out

This is the most likely reason for your brakes grinding. Brake pads have friction material made from a mix of graphite, steel, copper, and brass. The brake pad will wear thin with time, exposing the metal backing. 

Brake pads have a reasonably long lifespan, but the friction material is bound to wear out if you haven’t replaced them for around 25,000 to 60,000 miles. When this happens, the metal backing plate underneath the pads will rub against the brake rotor, producing a loud grinding noise.

However, before they start grinding, your brake pads will often make a squealing sound. This squealing sound is referred to as brake scrubbing and serves as a sign that it’s time to replace the pads. If they aren’t replaced, the squealing will eventually graduate to grinding. 

Note that your brakes may also make a squealing noise when a brake shoe wears down. A squealing noise is reasonably common — however, squealing is also synonymous with brake dust buildup. 

If your brakes are squealing but still working fine, there’s likely some dirt or metal particles on your brake pads.

The brake calipers can also rub against the rotor disc, scraping the metal surface. This can happen if there’s worn, broken, or missing caliper hardware, especially the mounting bolts and shims. If a brake caliper comes loose from its support bracket, it can drag along the rotor disc, manifesting as a grinding noise. 

Additionally, if there’s a lack of brake caliper lube or missing shims between the brake pads’ backing plate and the caliper piston, the two can rub against each other, resulting in a grinding noise when braking. 

How to fix:
If you need a new brake pad, let a professional handle this brake job. You can expect to pay about $300 per axle, but this can vary depending on the make and model of your vehicle. 

2. Your Brake Rotor Needs a Replacement

Your brake rotors are the shiny disks that the calipers squeeze against to slow your vehicle down. Since they’re so close to the ground, dirt and water can get on them, resulting in a rusted or warped rotor

Brake rotor disks that aren’t flat can create squeaking brakes, whereas a worn-out rotor disc will often make a scraping sound. You’ll also be able to feel a warped rotor through your steering wheel. 

You’ll also know that you have a worn-out rotor when you brake, and there are lots of vibrations that you can easily feel through the brake pedal and steering wheel.  

How to fix:
If you need a replacement, brake rotors cost about $400 per axle. Luckily, you can often have them resurfaced for much less, about $10 to $20 per brake rotor. This should get rid of any unpleasant brake noise.  

3. Your Braking System Needs Lubrication

Your braking system is deceptively complex with lots of moving parts, and, with time, these brake parts will need relubrication. If not, it can lead to a grinding sound in your car’s brakes. 

Most often, the caliper bolts are the culprits. 

It’s their job to ensure the brake caliper is held firmly in place. However, they may start rusting, which is what creates the grinding sound.

How to fix:
You can extend their life by lubricating them once a month, but caliper bolts are inexpensive to replace, with the parts costing only around $10 – $20 plus any labor costs for this brake repair.

4. You Might Have a Faulty Wheel Bearing

The wheel bearings are what allow a wheel to spin continuously without overheating. You may develop a grinding noise when one or more of these wheel bearings start wearing out or if debris has worked its way inside.

If you suspect you have a bad wheel bearing, there are several signs to look out for. 

You may feel vibrations that escalate before slowing down again. It’s often similar to driving over a rumble strip on the highway. Another indication of a bad wheel bearing is uneven wear on your tires. 

How to fix:
The good news is that issues with wheel bearings are quite uncommon, as they typically last between 75,000 and 100,000 miles. However, when you need a replacement, you can expect to pay about $700.

5. Something’s Lodged in Your Caliper

If you hear a constant screeching or grinding sound, even while not braking, it could mean you have something lodged in your brake caliper. It could be debris or any small object. 

Leaving a foreign item in the brake system can cause severe damage to the brake disc and eventually lead to brake failure. 

How to fix:
You can try and remedy the situation yourself by repeatedly moving your vehicle slowly backward and forward in a safe place. But if this doesn’t work, your best bet would be to book a brake service as soon as possible. 

6. You Haven’t Driven Your Car in a While

If your car’s been idle for months, there’s a chance that rust is the reason for any unusual brake noise. 

However, rust isn’t the only issue with leaving a car idle for too long. 
Brake fluid can pool and go stale, your battery could be dying, tires can develop flat spots, and so on.

How to fix:
You can help avoid this by driving your vehicle about once a month. It doesn’t have to be far; a drive around the block will be enough. 

You can also take steps to avoid rust building in your braking system. A few ways you can do this include parking on top of a tarp or using a vehicle cover.

7. Low-quality Brake Pads

Buying cheap brake pads usually means their quality is inferior. They may represent a short-term saving but can often lead to more frequent repairs or increased wear and tear on other brake parts. 

Additionally, cheap brake pads usually contain higher quantities of metal, which makes them more prone to making grinding and scraping noises when braking. 

How to fix:
Buying quality brake pads will ensure you remain safe on the roads. With better quality brake pad material, high-quality brake pads can help minimize braking distance while offering a quieter braking experience. 

Now that we’ve covered some common causes for grinding brakes, let’s take a closer look at some FAQs. 

4 Brake Grinding FAQs

Here are a few common brake grinding questions and their answers: 

1. What Are the Different Types of Brakes?

There are two main brake categories — disc brakes and drum brakes

Today, most cars use a disc brake system as it’s far superior when it comes to slowing your car down. 

A disc brake system uses a rotor and a caliper. Within the caliper are two brake pads that grip either side of the brake rotor that engage when pressing the brake pedal. 

Drum brakes are an older form of brakes and aren’t as efficient as brake disc systems.

Inside the drum is a set of brake shoes, also called brake linings, that press against the drum when applying the brake pedal. This design worked for a while but had one major flaw: in high braking situations, such as when driving down a steep hill, drum brakes would begin to lose effectiveness as a result of heat buildup in the brake parts. 

Some cars use both braking systems, with disc brakes in the front and drums for the rear brake setup.

2. Can I Prevent My Brakes Grinding?

This depends on what’s causing the grinding noise.

For example, lubricating your brake system regularly, ensuring that nothing’s lodged in your brakes, and regularly driving your car are all easy ways to avoid grinding noises.

However, if the grinding noise is due to regular wear and tear over time, there’s not much you can do. Items like brake pads are considered “common wear” items designed to wear out as you use them. 

3. Are Grinding Brakes Dangerous?

Yes, driving with grinding or squeaky brakes can be dangerous and can lead to brake failure. 
Aside from the potential damage a grinding brake can do, it may also have a slow response time. 

If you think you have a worn brake pad, pay special attention to the response time. 

Driving with glazed brakes may feel like you need to push the brake pedal harder to stop. 

In cars with a disc brake system, worn brake pads can increase your stopping distance, cause brake slipping, and pull your vehicle to one side when braking. The latter occurs when the brakes don’t properly engage or disengage the brake rotor. Since the brake pads cannot grip both sides uniformly, your vehicle pulls harder to one side.

In addition to that, driving with a worn brake pad can increase the wear on your tires.

When your cars brakes are compromised, you might have to brake a lot harder to slow your vehicle down. Eventually, enough hard braking can cause your tires to wear down more quickly or to wear unevenly. 

4. When Should I Have My Brakes Checked?

Ideally, you should have a brake inspection every six months. A good way of remembering is to have them checked while you have your tires rotated.

If you can’t remember the last time you had a brake job done, it’s best to book a brake service as soon as you can. A new set of quality brake pads and replenished brake fluid can make a world of difference and help avoid faulty brakes down the line. 

Wrapping Up

Grinding brakes are a relatively common issue. The most likely reason for your brakes grinding is your brake pads wearing thin. This happens over time, and there isn’t much you can do to prevent it. 

When you start noticing a grinding brake, it’s best to book a brake repair with a professional mechanic as soon as you can. 

Remember, ignoring a brake problem can result in severe damage to your brake system.
Grinding brakes may also represent a reduction in braking power which can compromise your road safety.

But don’t worry. If your faulty brakes need a repair or replacement, you can rely on AutoNation Mobile Service

Contact us, and our expert mechanics will be at your driveway in no time to take care of your brake problem.