Blog Car Care Advice Why Are My Brakes Grinding? (7 Causes + Solutions)
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Why Are My Brakes Grinding? (7 Causes + Solutions)

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Being faced with a situation where you hear grinding sounds from your brakes can be unsettling. 

But why are your brakes grinding?

And more importantly, is it dangerous?

In this article, we’ll answer those questions, offer an easy solution to sort out your grinding brakes, and take a look at some FAQs to give you a better understanding of this issue. 

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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 some may be more serious than others, you should always have your grinding 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 tend to be made from a mix of graphite, steel, copper, and brass. With time, the brake pad will wear thin, exposing the metal backing. 

Brake pads generally have a fairly long lifespan, but the padding 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 the brake shoes are wearing 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. 

If you need a new brake pad, let a professional handle it. 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 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 in, resulting in a rusted or warped rotor. 

Brake rotor disks that aren’t flat can create squeaky 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.  

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.

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.

4. You Might Have A Faulty Wheel Bearing

The wheel bearings are what allow your wheels to spin continuously without overheating. You may develop a grinding noise when one or more of these 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. 

The good news is that wheel bearing issues 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 anything like a small stone, a piece of gravel, or any small object. 

Leaving a foreign item in the brake system can cause severe damage to the brake disc. 

You can try and remedy the situation yourself by repeatedly moving your vehicle slowly backward and forwards in a safe place. But if this doesn’t work, your best bet would be to arrange for a professional mechanic to have a look 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 dying, tires can develop flat spots, and so on.

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. 

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. 

With all this in mind, what’s the easiest way to solve your grinding brakes?

An Easy Solution To Your Grinding Brakes 

If your car’s brakes are beginning to grind, the easiest fix is to contact a mechanic to investigate. As we’ve seen, there are tons of different reasons, and you’ll need to pinpoint the exact problem before fixing it.

However, instead of driving to a repair shop with your brakes grinding, rather arrange for a mobile mechanic to look at your vehicle in your driveway. 

But how do you arrange for a mechanic to come to your driveway?

Simple, just contact RepairSmith

RepairSmith is a convenient and accessible mobile repair and maintenance service. 

Here’s a brief overview of what they offer: 

For an accurate estimate of what a brake repair will cost, simply fill out this form

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

4 Brake Grinding FAQs

Here are a few common brakes 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 the drums for the rear brake setup.

2. Can I Prevent My Brakes Grinding?

This depends on what’s causing the grinding noises.

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 noises are 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 worn brake pads, 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 worn brake pads or faulty brakes can increase the wear on your tires.

When your brakes are compromised, you might find yourself having 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 your brake system inspected 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 someone had a look at your brakes, it’s best to make a booking as soon as you can. A new set of quality brake pads can make a world of difference and help avoid running into a brake problem 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 too much you can do to prevent it. 

When you start noticing a grinding brake, it’s best to book an appointment 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 brake system needs repairs or replacements, you can rely on RepairSmith. Contact them, and their ASE-certified mechanics will be at your driveway in no time to take care of any issues.