Why Are My Brakes Grinding: Causes & How To Fix It
If you’ve got brakes grinding in your vehicle, you’re running the risk of further system damage, jeopardizing your safety (and the safety of others). Fortunately, you can spare yourself the drama and liabilities that come from grinding brakes with the correct advice and service from our Subaru dealership. This page was put together by our master technician, who reveals symptoms and strategies to fix your brakes the right way.
Brakes Grinding, Nail Biting, & Hair Pulling 101
Let’s face it – there’s nothing like that high-pitched, dish-smash, brakes grinding sound to make you feel better about everything coming your way in life. The good news is, we’ve all been there. Every car will have grinding brakes at some point. So take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone.
Here’s the reality: most passenger cars, trucks, and SUVs weigh over two tons. That’s 4000 pounds. Think about your shopping cart in the grocery store for a second. The more you fill it up ( especially if you’re the supermarket sweep type shopper), you know that it gets harder and harder to slow down. And that’s with about 100 pounds of groceries. Imagine your poor little brake pads at about 8mm thickness (barely the tip of your pinky), trying to stop 4000 pounds moving at 75 MPH. Our brakes have a hard job. So let’s cut them some slack and realize that at some point, for various reasons (and degrees of severity), you’ll hear your brakes grinding no matter what.
Ye Olde Grinding Noise When Braking Guide
“Car brakes” & “grinding noise” are two sets of words that go together, like “tooth extraction” & “no anesthesia.” Nobody likes it. However, identifying how & why your brakes are grinding will save you time, money, & possibly your life. Here’s a list of symptoms by degree of danger, starting with the least dangerous.
Brakes Grinding Reason #1: They’re Just Dirty
Let’s say your new brake pads are grinding. Annoying, yes, but normal? Also yes. As the protective coating on new brake pads fades away, dust will collect in the calipers (the part that holds & applies pressure to your brakes). The next time you wash your vehicle, spray water into your brakes. You’ll notice a lot of black run-off. This is brake dust build-up. Rinse until clean.
Brakes Grinding Reason #2: They’re Supposed To
In older vehicles, brake pads are equipped with internal or external metal wear bars. This wear bar is designed to contact the rotor as the pad material wears down. The resulting sound is designed to alert you that it’s time to replace your pads. Newer vehicles are equipped with brake pad wear sensors. In those cases, worn grinding brakes will accompany a warning lamp on your dash. The latest vehicles will have an alert that says “brake pads low” or something similar.
Brakes Grinding Reason #3: Rust & Other Problems
If contact surfaces have not been properly lubricated, brakes grinding will be a fact of life until they’re replaced. Similarly, abrasive contact with rusted components can also cause this. Road salts primarily found in northern climate vehicles will rust brake components in cars just a few years old. So if you’ve got a 20-year-old vehicle, rust could be a factor. Additionally, a vehicle that hasn’t been driven for a few months will also have grinding brakes. However, symptoms subside in a drive cycle or two if everything else is normal.
Brakes Grinding Reason #4: Your Rotors Are Scored
If it’s time for new rotors, you’ll likely experience grinding brakes at low speed, highway speed, or average speed. You might even experience a pulsing sensation at the brake pedal, and in some cases, your steering wheel will shimmy from side to side. Rotors wear out in time, and you can easily determine this for yourself. Look through your wheel. Try to identify a “silver-looking plate” that sits directly behind your wheel. If this “plate” is scored and etched like the surface of a vinyl record, your rotors are a factor.
A word about surfacing rotors: some shops might measure the thickness of your rotors to see if they can be “turned” or resurfaced. While this might be ok once, you don’t want to make a habit of turning your rotors. Rotors worn too thin are responsible for ejected brake pads, broken wheels, damaged hubs, lines, calipers, and more.
Brakes Grinding Reason #4: You’ve Ignored All Of The Above
No judgment here, we’re all friends – and besides, we can’t see you anyway. Raise your hand if you’ve ignored all of the above symptoms at one point or another. One, two, three, 12, 647 of you. Hey, it happens. Whatever the reason is, sometimes people ignore all signs, and then dangerous things can happen. Brakes grinding as a result of neglect can cause your wheel to seize. When a wheel locks, you will lose control and skid off in the direction of the offending wheel.
Another unfortunate situation is when neglect causes you to hear (or even smell them) grinding brakes when stopping. In extreme cases, worn brakes and rotors will have damaged your hubs and CVs. If those joints and bearings give up, you might have what mechanics (and Police) call a “wheel off” situation. Consider yourself very lucky if your wheel falls off while stopped at a light (because it can happen on the highway, too).
The Ultimate Solution to Brakes Grinding
As you may have guessed, a routine brake inspection can prevent any of the above. Schedule service today and get a jump on savings. Savings? You bet. We’ve got valuable brake pad and brake rotor service coupons designed to help keep you and yours safe (and your vehicle happy).
If you’re unsure when to come and see us, we recommend calling our service department. Speak to one of our service advisors; while they can’t make a precise diagnosis over the phone, they can often give you a pretty good sense of the severity of your issue. You might also want to follow your car maintenance schedule outlined in your owner’s manual. Most manufacturers will point out specific mileage intervals where brake system components must be inspected, serviced, or replaced.
We hope that you’ve enjoyed learning a little more about brakes grinding, severity, and steps to take. When in doubt, just give us a call for service with savings that won’t break the bank (yeah, you probably knew that one was coming). See you soon!
Why is my car grinding when I brake?
You’ll typically hear metal-on-metal when your brake pads are worn past minimum thickness. This issue is relatively inexpensive to fix if you catch it early on. Remember that failed wheel bearings can also cause a similar sound.
What happens if your brakes are grinding?
When your brakes grind, your equipment makes contact with non-serviceable metal surfaces. Failure to renew worn braking components can lead to ejected pad remnants, blown caliper pistons, broken rotors, and possibly injury.
How long can I drive on grinding brakes?
If you do not see metal shavings on your wheels, give your car an undercarriage rinse. If the problem persists, come for a brake inspection as soon as possible. Failure to change grinding brakes within just a few weeks can result in costly repairs.