Are you hearing a rattling, grinding or a thud sound when you hit the brake? It can be unnerving and worrying, not to mention that these mysterious noises can reveal some major mechanical issues. In this article, you can find out what may be trivial and when to take action. The most important thing is not to ignore car brake noise!
How do brakes work?
First, let’s look the brake system. When you push the pedal, a lever forces a piston into a narrow cylinder of hydraulic fluid. This squirts the pressurised fluid to the car’s brakes.
- In disc brakes: the pads push against ie. squeeze the brake disc (rotor) to slow and stop the wheels. Because of the friction, the pads wear out most frequently.
- In drum brakes (in old cars often at the back): the brake shoe is forced outwards against the rotating drum to slow and stop the wheel. Due to friction, the brake shoe wears out.
It’s a good idea to check your car brakes regularly and be aware of any unusual noises.
My brakes are making a scraping sound
If you can hear a scraping noise, an object may be stuck between the rotor and the caliper. When you drive, tiny stones and debris from the road can fly up and get lodged and the resulting frictions can damage the brake parts. To try and dislodge it, you could drive your car in reverse. If this doesn’t solve the problem, you should contact your garage.
My brakes are making a squealing noise
The brake wear indicator is a metal tab located on the brake pad. Its role is to indicate the condition of the brake pads. If you hear a horrible high-pitched squealing or hissing noise from your tires when you hit the brakes, this is probably because the brake pad wear indicator is rubbing against the rotor to alert you. You should plan to change your brake pads as soon as possible – and watch for a red dashboard light which may also turn on.
My brakes are making a grinding sound
Hearing a grinding or crunching noise from your brakes, like metal against metal? That’s never a good sign. Look into the problem urgently, as brake grinding tends to indicate extreme wear of the brake pads. Sometimes, the disc comes into contact with the caliper and if this not sorted, you may face a bill for expensive new parts – like the caliper or discs.
My brakes are making rattling noise or vibrating
When the brake pads are too worn, the calipers can grind against the rotor and damage it. Your rotor becomes warped or distorted and so, when you hit the brake, you can feel brake thumping or on-off contact. Immediately speak to a mechanic to get all the brakes checked.
Other important symptoms of failing brakes
- It’s not only noises that can alert you to trouble with brakes and the prospect of a breakdown or accident. Along with noise, you should also pay attention to these signs:
- Car takes longer than usual to stop
- Car pulling to one side when braking
- Brake pedal is too hard or easy to push
- I smell burning from the tires
Modern car brake systems are complex and a failure can be fatal. If you notice any of these braking issues, then call a garage immediately to make sure everything is fine.
Still confused about brake noise? Read our technical tips to see what’s going on:
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