Got Grinding Brakes? Here’s How You Fix It

If you didn’t already know, an “onomatopoeia” is a term that sounds like its own name when spoken. Some of these include the words: achoo, bang, boom, buzz, or bark. What happens when the brakes in your car develop an onomatopoeia? Got grinding brakes? Here’s how to fix it.

Many things can cause your brakes to grind. Some of the more common ones include worn or low-quality brake pads, a damaged rotor, or a lack of lubrication. If you notice your brakes grinding, you should get them inspected right away. Otherwise, you increase the chances of an accident occurring.

Good news, in this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about grinding brakes. We’ll start by reviewing the many noises your brakes can make. Then, we’ll cover the top 6 reasons your brakes are creating awful grinding sounds – and how to fix them.

Are Your Brakes Grinding, Squealing, Or Rattling?

If you have never experienced the stares caused by noisy brakes – then count yourself lucky. But they don’t just provide instant fame, they’re also a safety risk.

According to a 2015 survey done by the NHTSA, faulty brakes caused 22% of the reported accidents between 2005 and 2007.

Thankfully, the sound they emit actually helps identify what the issue is.

Take rattling, for instance – like the shaking of a spray can. This often suggests a problem with your brake pads caused by thermal expansion. It is also possible that you have installed the wrong ones on your car.

Then there’s squealing, which is another onomatopoeia, and possibly the most annoying of them all.

Squealing isn’t always as terrible as it sounds, it may just be that there’s water on your rotors, which is easy to resolve. Though, it could also mean something more serious, like worn brake pads rubbing against a rotor.

Lastly, there’s grinding, which is the most alarming sound to hear. Why? Because it nearly always leads to repairs being needed, many of which are costly. Thankfully, we’ll now cover the top reasons your brakes might be grinding.

The Top 6 Reasons Behind Grinding Brakes

Reason #1: Your Brake Pads Are Worn

Brake pads are made of a friction-reducing material, usually consisting of a mix of graphite, steel, copper, and brass. If you didn’t know, they’re the parts that get squeezed against the rotors, creating the friction that slows the rotation of the wheels.

If your brake pads are worn, meaning they haven’t been changed for 25,000 to 60,000 miles, the padding is likely almost gone. This can lead to the metal surface underneath rubbing against the rotor, which will manifest as a loud grinding sound.

Changing your brake pads by yourself isn’t too bad, but it does require a bit of time. If you do end up letting a professional handle it, expect to spend as much as $300 per axle.

Reason #2: A Rotor Need To Be Replaced

These are the shiny metal discs you see in-between your wheel spokes. They’re the part that the calipers squeeze the brake pads against, which slows the vehicle.

Because they are close to the ground, they endure a lot of wear, which can lead to rusting or warping. Thankfully, they still last for as much as 30,000 to 70,000 miles, especially if you take care of them.

A reliable way to do this is to use a brake cleaner once per month and give them a good scrubbing. If they do develop rusting issues, though, there’s a good chance they cause a grinding sound.

The total cost to have rotors replaced is about $400 for each axle. Thankfully, you may just need to resurface them, which costs between $10 to $20 per rotor and should get rid of any grinding.

Reason #3: Your Brake Pads Are Low Quality

While it’s always nice to save a few bucks here and there, it’s not usually a wise choice when it comes to brake pads. A lower price almost always means lower quality. Meaning they might cost less at first, but lead to more frequent repairs or replacements being needed.

Lower quality brake pads also usually contain more metal, making them more prone to noise when compared to a costlier option.

What is the solution? Well, if you have already installed low-quality pads, the only real choice is to replace them or deal with it. However, if the noise made is more of a squealing sound rather than a grinding, you might just need to resurface your rotors.

Reason #4: The Brake System Needs Lubricating

Imagine running a marathon without having any water, sound fun? The same goes for the brakes in your car. If they don’t receive enough lubrication, there’s a good chance a grinding sound will eventually arise.

Mostly it’s the caliper bolts, which are in charge of holding the brake caliper in place. If they rust, it can lead to a grinding sound being made.

While you can replace them yourself for rather cheap, it might be easier to have a shop take care of it. Regardless, to prevent it from becoming an issue, be sure to lubricate them once a month.

Reason #5: You May Have A Faulty Wheel Bearing

Wheel bearings are what allow your wheels to spin for miles and miles without overheating. If there’s an issue with one of them, or if there’s debris inside, it can lead to a loud grinding sound.

You might also notice a vibration coming from your car, one that escalates to a high point, and then returns back down. It may feel similar to running over a rumble strip on the side of the road. Furthermore, another indication is if you notice uneven wear on your tires.

Thankfully, wheel bearing issues aren’t too common, since they usually last between 75,000 to 100,000. Though, when it does happen, expect to spend as much as $700 for a shop to replace them.

Reason #6: Your Car Has Been In Storage

Here’s an easy one – lack of use. If you’ve recently started using your car after it’s been sitting for a while, there’s a good chance the brakes grind. Why? Because if it’s been stored improperly, it may have developed rust issues.

Thankfully, if you make it a habit to take your car around the block about once a month, this shouldn’t become an issue.

You can also do your part to prevent rust while the vehicle is sitting. A few ways include using a car cover, parking on top of a tarp, and removing your wheels and wrapping the exposed rotors in plastic bags.

Is It Safe To Drive With Grinding Brakes?

car wheels

Your brakes are the single-most-important safety system in your car. So, what do you think, is it safe to drive with grinding brakes?

Grinding means something is happening that shouldn’t be. If you choose to ignore it, not only can the problem become worse, but so too can the danger.

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Joshua Barrett

Josh Barrett is a writer hailing from the great state of Alaska. While describing himself in the third person is not his forte, writing about any and all things automotive – is. After 13+ years hustling in the exciting world of car sales, he took off to travel the world with his dog Teemo.