Blog Car Care Advice Top 10 Causes Of Brake Noise (With Solutions & FAQs)
Car Care Advice

Top 10 Causes Of Brake Noise (With Solutions & FAQs)

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Do you hear a squeaking, grinding, or rattling sound when you hit the brakes?

Strange noises in your brake system can affect your brake performance and put you at risk while on the road. If you’re concerned, always seek professional help to fix those noisy brakes!  

In the meantime, let’s explore brake noise in detail by looking at 3 common brake noises, 10 frequent causes, and their solutions. We’ll also answer some car brake noise FAQs to give you a better picture of brake issues.

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Let’s get started.

3 Common Brake Noises: 10 Causes And Solutions

Let’s take a look at the three common types of brake noises along with their causes and solutions:

Noise #1: Squealing Or Squeaking Noise

If you hear a squeaking or squealing noise, here’s what could’ve caused it and how you can resolve it:

A. Worn Brake Pad Material

Brake pads have a metal wear indicator — also known as a brake wear indicator. This metal tab rubs against the brake disc when the brake pads are worn out — causing friction and brake squeal.

Solution: Get a replacement for your worn brake pads before you get brake rotor damage.

B. Dirty Brakes

In a disc brake system, brake dust gets trapped between the braking pad and the brake disc (rotor) — causing uneven braking and a squealing noise. 

While in drum brakes, the sound could be a result of accumulated brake dust within the drums.

Solution: A mechanic should inspect the dirty brakes and remove any brake dust and foreign debris on every affected brake component.

C. Glazed Brake Rotor Or Drum

Both the brake rotor and brake drum wear over time — resulting in a glazed finish. Because of this, your brakes could make a squealing or squeaking noise.

Solution: A mechanic should inspect each disc rotor or drum for signs of damage such as cracks and heat spots to determine if the parts need resurfacing or a replacement.

D. No Lubrication On The Brakes

In a vehicle with rear drum brakes, you could experience a squealing sound if the backing plate and other brake components aren’t properly lubricated. 

Meanwhile, a brake squeal or squeak in a disc brake system could be the result of sticky movement on the caliper piston.

Solution: A mechanic should lubricate all the necessary components of your car’s brakes — such as the caliper piston, the backing plate, and the disc rotor and brake pad contact points.

E. Poor-Quality Friction Material (Brake Lining)

Brake lining that uses poor-quality friction material usually wears down quickly and could cause a loud squealing noise in your brake system.

Solution: Get brake pads with high-quality friction material from an auto shop and let a reputable mechanic fit it in for you.

Noise #2: Grinding Noise

Do your brakes make a loud grinding noise?

Let’s take a look at where that noise comes from and how you can get rid of it:

A. Worn Brake Pad Or Brake Shoe Material

Usually, a grinding brake noise means the brake shoe or brake pad is worn out. This causes excessive heat build-up from friction in the braking system as worn parts are less able to dissipate heat.

Solution: Get your brake pads or brake shoes replaced before the friction material undergoes extreme wear. However, don’t buy cheap brake pads or shoes as these will wear away sooner. 

B. Sticking Caliper Or Wheel Cylinder

In a disc brake system, a sticking caliper could continuously compress each braking pad against the disc rotor — causing brake grinding. You may also hear a loud grinding sound if the rotor disc is in contact with part of the brake caliper. 

Meanwhile, in a drum brake system, brake grinding is produced when a stuck wheel cylinder continuously jams the brake shoe against the drum.

Solution: If your car has a disc brake system, a mechanic should remove the caliper and grease its slides. For drum brakes, it’s the contact points of the wheel cylinder that need greasing. If this doesn’t solve the issue, these parts might need to be replaced.

Noise #3: Clattering, Vibrating, Or Rattling Noise

Do you feel a judder (vibration) or hear a rattling or clattering sound when you hit the brake pedal?

Let’s go through all these brake noises and find out how you can eliminate them:

A. Warped Rotor

If you’ve got a warped rotor, the rotor surface will make uneven contact with the brake pads — causing pedal pulsation, a vibrating steering wheel, or a thumping sound.

Solution: You should have the brake system checked and each warped rotor or drum replaced to get rid of the vibration or thumping sound.

B. Incorrect Adjustments Or Missing Brake Hardware

You could experience a vibration or hear annoying brake sounds if some brake system components — like the anti-rattle clips, anti-rattle shims, and brake lining — are missing or not correctly adjusted. 

Sometimes, a judder, pedal pulsation, or a vibrating steering wheel could be caused by other car parts like a worn-out ball joint or wheel bearing.

Solution: A mechanic should inspect your brake system and ensure that you’re not using the wrong brake material. They’ll also let you know if you need to replace missing or damaged hardware like the caliper bracket, wheel bearing, the anti-rattle clip, and other car parts.

C. Dirty Caliper Slides

Dirty brake caliper slides prevent the proper functioning of brake pads and cause the brake caliper to stick. This can end up creating a vibration or a clattering noise.

Solution: A mechanic will clean the caliper slides and any other dirty brake component that might end up causing an annoying noise or vibration.

Now that you’ve discovered what might be causing noisy brakes and how to get them fixed, let’s take a look at some brake noise FAQs.

7 Common Car Brake Noise FAQs

Here are some common car brake noise FAQs and their answers:

1. What Are The Main Signs Of Failing Brakes?

In addition to brake noise, here are the other top warning signs of failing brakes:

A. Illuminating Brake Light And Increased Stopping Distance

If the brake warning light is illuminated and your car takes too long to stop, your vehicle could be due for a brake service.

B. Leaking Brake Fluid

If your car leaks brake fluid, it might not have enough power to force the front and rear brake pads to clamp hard to each brake disc. And in case the brake fluid continues leaking, you might end up experiencing brake failure.

C. Hard Or Soft Brake Pedal

Bring your vehicle for immediate brake servicing if the brake pedal is too soft or hard to push. There may be air in the brakes, or your brake booster could be faulty.

D. Car Pulling To One Side When Braking

This could be a brake caliper problem where one brake caliper is applying a lot of pressure during braking — causing unbalanced stopping.

E. Burning Smell While Driving

If your car’s brakes start overheating, you could start noticing signs of light squeaking when you hit the brake pedal. This would usually be accompanied by a burning smell while you’re driving. 

When you notice any of these problems or have other brake performance issues, take your car for a brake service and get a brake check right away.

2. How Does A Mechanic Fix A Squeaky Brake?

Here are the three common methods solutions to fix your squeaky brake:

A. Applying Brake Grease To The Brake Pads

A quick fix for squeaky brakes involves applying brake grease to the backside of the braking pad and the contact points of the brake caliper. 

This should strictly be done by a professional. That’s because applying brake grease wrongly to components like the rotor surface and brake pad friction surface could cause issues in the brake system.

B. Installing New Brake Pad Shims

Fitting new brake pad shims can be an ideal fix for squeaky brakes. Brake pad shims have a small layer of rubber that absorbs any judder that would cause a squeak.

C. Replacing The Brake Pads, Friction Material, And Rotors

If the brake pad friction material wears down, you could experience brake squeal from metal-to-metal contact between the pad and brake rotor. In this case, you might need to replace the friction material, worn brake pad material, brake rotor, and other damaged brake components. 

Additionally, if you have warped rotors, the brake pads will make uneven contact with the rotor surface during braking. For this, you could replace the brake rotors and both the front and rear brake pads.

3. Can My Brakes Squeal When I Am Not Applying Them?

Both your front and rear brakes can squeal even when your foot isn’t on the brake pedal. This happens anytime the brake pad wear indicators touch the rotors.

If your car’s brakes squeal or make any type of noise, even when you’re not applying them, schedule a brake examination with an ASE-certified technician.

4. How Much Does A Brake Job Cost?

A brake job can range between $120 and $680 per wheel axle, depending on the brake component that needs replacement. You might actually spend less than this if the brake job involves resurfacing the rotor or any other part instead of getting a replacement.

5. Why Do New Brake Pads Squeak?

Your new brake pads could be squeaking because of a lack of lubrication on the caliper and brake pad contact points. You could also experience brake squeaking if you’re using the wrong brake pads.

Your new brake pads could be noisy if they weren’t fitted properly. Each brake pad needs to be installed correctly into its caliper bracket to avoid uneven braking and strange noises.

6. How Often Do I Need to Change My Brake Pads?

Your brake pads should be replaced regularly and your brake system should be inspected at least once a year. This will help you quickly notice issues with the brake rotor and any other braking component.

If you’re not using cheap brake pads and have good driving habits, you may require less frequent brake service. 

If you usually drive on the highway (with minimal braking), your brakes could last up to 100,000 miles. When you usually drive around the city (with lots of braking), your brakes could last up to 15,000 miles.

However, if you ever experience brake squeaking, pedal pulsation, a vibration, or any unusual noise, get your brakes checked immediately — irrespective of how old they are.

7. What Is The Easiest Way To Have My Brakes Repaired?

Car brakes, unlike bicycle rim brakes, are too complicated to fix on your own and require the expertise of a qualified technician.

And when you’re searching for a mechanic to fix your car’s noisy brakes, always ensure that they:

Fortunately, finding this kind of technician is easy with AutoNation Mobile Service.

AutoNation Mobile Service is an affordable mobile automotive repair and maintenance solution with ASE-certified technicians.

With AutoNation Mobile Service, here are the benefits you get:

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Closing Thoughts

If you notice strange sounds coming from your brakes, or any changes in brake performance, schedule a brake inspection with a reliable mechanic.

Remember, a car with noisy brakes is dangerous to drive and could require more expensive repairs in the long run.

And if you’re wondering who you should contact, give AutoNation Mobile Service a try!

Once you do, our ASE-certified technicians will be at your driveway, ready for all your brake issues!