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Brakes are one of the most important parts of any vehicle. While it is important to handle any engine problems that come, there is a big argument that brake problems are even more critical since they depict whether or not your car can actually come to a stop.

When you press on the brake pedal, the front wheel brakes have a far bigger role in slowing down the vehicle than the rear wheel brakes because the weight of the car pushes forward when you apply the brakes.

This article will provide you with all the possibilities of what is going on when you hear a grinding, squealing, or scraping noise when braking!

Table of Contents

Brakes Making Grinding Noise – Why They Shouldn’t Be Ignored

You should never ignore grinding noise when braking but pads are fine because they could put the safety of the car and you in danger. Applying pressure to the brake pedal will cause the car to generate a lot of heat energy through friction.

And though your brake pads may seem fine, this action will cause the brake pads to wear over time, which can lead to a damaged rotor and calliper, which may eventually lead to complete brake failure.

If you were to leave your brakes faulty and not check them, this could lead to accidents that may take people’s lives. If you hear grinding, you will probably need to replace the brake pads so that you can avoid the pads grinding down to your rotors. Replacing your pads on time will help to keep your rotors safe.

How Long Can You Drive On Grinding Brakes?

Some car drivers have claimed to have driven on grinding brakes for up to two weeks, but I heavily recommend against this. You should try as much as you can to avoid driving your car with grinding brakes and act immediately as soon as you hear grinding to diagnose and fix the problem.

You don’t want to be driving the car for too long once you notice the grinding as you could be potentially putting your and other drivers’ lives at risk.

I recommend reading through the following common reasons as to why you hear grinding noise when braking but pads are fine and seek to resolve the issue immediately.

Most Common Reasons You Hear Grinding Noise When Braking But Pads Are Fine

Whether your brakes squeak when stopping slow or new breaks squeak when stopping slow, this indicates you may have a problem. However, sometimes it may be nothing and the sound will go away.

It’s better to understand what it could be and how to therefore diagnose and fix the problem. Here are the most common reasons your brakes start squealing after driving a few miles.

  • Poor quality brake pads
  • Worn brake pads
  • Worn shims
  • Worn brake rotors
  • Faulty wheel bearings
  • Debris stuck in brakes
  • Infrequent driving
  • Insufficient lubrication on brake parts

Let’s take a look at these in more detail!

Related: Brakes Squeak When Stopping Slow? Potential Causes and Solutions

Poor Quality Brake Pads

If you’ve recently replaced your brakes and you’re still hearing a grinding or squealing noise, there’s a high chance that you purchased low-quality brakes pads. This leads to more potential significant problems to worry about than a little noise.

You should not try to save money by purchasing the cheapest brake pads you can find. Skimping on low-quality brake pads can literally mean the difference between a near-collision vs a totalled car with serious injuries.

Cheap pads wear out way faster and offer less braking force than their higher-quality counterparts. They are poorly manufactured and can have defects such as metal chunks in the pad material which will scrape against the rotor and cause damage.

You should spend the extra money on high-quality brake pads whenever you need to replace them as this will allow you to save money in the long run. Some of the best brake pad brands include:

  • AC Delco
  • Akebono
  • EBC
  • Powerstop
  • Stoptech
  • Wagner

If you wish to replace or source the brake pads yourself, you can buy them directly from the manufacturer, or may even find some on Amazon. For instance, here’s an example of some very popular and highly rated brake pads:

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases

Worn Brake Pads

If you hear brakes squeaking when stopping slow, it could mean that your brake pads have become worn out. Behind every brake rotor, there is a backing plate that helps to protect your rotors and brakes from debris on the road.

As the backing plate loses its material, the metal will come into contact with the metal on the rotor causing squealing. Or the brake calliper itself may be forced into making contact with the rotor.

Regardless of which one it is, your brakes will become crucially damaged if the pads are not replaced. It’s possible that the rotor could be destroyed by the backing plate, resulting in damage and grooves.

Worn Shims

Any time brake pads are worked on or replaced, it’s crucial to also replace the shims. Behind every brake pad is a shim, which is where the brake calliper piston pushes against the pad.

Brake shims that are not replaced will wear down and if they become extremely rusted, you might hear some noise every time you press on the brakes. If they wear down completely, the brake shim will make contact with the rotor or other metal part of the brake system.

With metal touching other metal like this, you will hear brakes start squealing after driving a few miles as you drive the vehicle. Bad mechanics may avoid replacing the shim if they are trying to do their job fast, but you must make sure they are replaced.

Worn Brake Rotors

If you have brake rotors that are worn or deformed in any way, whether that is warped, gouged, or cracked, they will likely lead to brakes squeaking when driving slow sounds.

Rotors that become warped and are no longer flat will create these undesirable squealing or squeaking noises. If the rotors become too worn, there may be more severe damage at hand.

In addition to all this, the worn rotors will create a lot of vibration in the braking system, which will come in irregular patterns. Your foot will be able to feel these vibrations through the brake pedal.

It may be possible to have the rotors resurfaced if they are only slightly warped. Even if you’re getting the rotors surfaced every time you replace the pads, you will still likely run into problems.

Rotors have a minimum thickness, and every time you surface the rotors, you’re cutting into this thickness. Therefore, if they are beyond repair, it will be necessary to purchase replacements.

Faulty Wheel Bearings

This is probably one of the least likely reasons for having brakes squeak when stopping slowly. If you are experiencing vibrations that alternate from loud to quiet, then it’s possible you have a bad wheel bearing.

Wheel bearings keep the wheel’s internal mechanisms working smoothly, allowing you to roll down the road without any concerns. However, if you don’t properly torque the jam nut that holds your wheel bearing correctly in place, the wheel bearing may start to back out.

Also, if there isn’t sufficient lubrication on the wheel bearing, it can slowly start to fall apart. Either of these scenarios will ultimately lead to excessive play (vibrations) in the wheel and the sound of brakes grinding.

Debris Stuck in Brakes

It’s possible for debris, such as a piece of rock or gravel, to get into your brake system and become lodged in the calliper. This debris will then rest between the rotor and calliper, and cause irritable scraping or grinding noises to occur and possibly even vibration.

The thing here is that you’ll even when you’re not applying pressure to the brake continue to hear these noises. If the debris lodged in the brake is not removed, this could lead to the eventual damage of the rotor, as previously described, and this will need to be resurfaced and possibly replaced.

Having debris stuck in your brakes may even cause your brake pads to become unaligned and lead to uneven pad wear. The performance will be reduced and you’ll have to replace the pads a lot sooner than usual.

Infrequent Driving

Depending on the type of vehicle you have and your driving style, brake pads should usually last anywhere from 30,000 to 70,000 miles of normal driving. Another possible reason for having braking problems sooner is simply because you’re not driving your vehicle enough.

If the brake rotors don’t get used for an extended period of time like when a car is stored for the winter, rust will begin to form and they may even become slightly corroded.

This surface rust will result in the rotor no longer being smooth and can even cause areas where the rust forms to be slightly raised.

A simple action to take to avoid this problem is to not let your vehicle sit too long without driving it, even if you just take it around your neighbourhood enough to warm it up.

If a small bit of rust does form, however, you may be able to allow it to clear off by itself from the heat and friction of braking during normal driving. Too much rust, of course, will require resurfacing or replacement of the rotors.

Insufficient Lubrication on Brake Parts

When brake pads are installed, lubrication must be applied to the brake pads’ backside using a brake calliper lube. Without lubrication, the metal of the pads and the metal of the calliper piston will come together when you apply the brakes and cause a squealing or rubbing sound.

Furthermore, the calliper slider pins should be generously lubricated before being reinstalled. Brake calliper bolts should also be lubricated or else their slides will create sounds if they’re dry.

Here’s an example of brake lubricant readily available on Amazon suitable for disc brake calliper hardware, pistons, brushings, rubber sleeves and seals.

Signs of Poor Braking Pads

The problem with brake pads is that people often ignore the grinding noise when braking because they believe the brake pads look fine.

This is rarely the case, if there are grinding noises occurring then there is likely an issue, and so, here are some signs to look out for when driving that indicate you need some form of repair or replacement of the brake pads:

  1. The brakes make a grinding noise that can be felt in the pedal
  2. The car travels too far before coming to a stop in traffic
  3. The car pulls to one side of the road when you apply the brake
  4. The brake pedal thumps up and down when you come to an emergency stop
  5. The steering wheel shakes when you brake
  6. There is a rusty film on the front wheels

Here are some tips for dealing with these 6 issues:

1. If your brakes make a grinding noise that can be felt in the pedal you should stop driving immediately and have your vehicle towed to a brake repair store, otherwise, you risk damaging the brake discs and drums beyond repair.

2. It may be as simple as adjusting the brakes or getting new brake linings.

3. A brake fluid leak or stuck calliper is likely the cause of this problem for front disc brakes.

4. A thumping brake pedal is likely caused by excessive lateral run-out.

5. If your steering wheel shakes when you brake and you have disc brakes, your front brake discs will need to be replaced immediately.

6. Rusty dust on your front wheels and a rusty spray on the front doors is likely a result of worn pads on the disc brakes which results in metal on metal grinding. You should avoid driving your car in this situation and get it fixed instantly.


Grinding Noise When Braking – Final Tips

Grinding noise when braking is dangerous if left unattended. You shouldn’t ignore any warning signs and ensure you get the vehicle checked right away.

Driving with bad rotors is not ideal as they will lack the ability to absorb and disperse the heat caused during braking. You may be able to drive the car, but these bad rotors could lead to complete brake failure, endangering the safety of you and others.

If you are to go to a repair garage to get your brakes fixed, I would expect to spend anywhere between £200-750 including new callipers, pad replacement and new rotors. The price will vary typically depending on the make and model of the car and other factors.

Brake Grinding: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Why are my brakes still grinding after replacing pads?

If you’ve replaced your brakes and you’re still hearing a grinding noise, you likely purchased low-quality brakes pads. You should never try to save money by purchasing the cheapest brake pads you can find, as cheap pads wear out way faster and offer less braking force than their higher-quality counterparts.

Why does my car sound like it’s scraping when I brake?

If you’re hearing a sound like something is scraping when you brake, the brake disc and the calliper are likely rubbing together. The sound is usually heard when you stop your car, but you may also feel the brake pedal rumble a little as you put pressure on it.

Why is there a grinding noise when I brake hard?

The most common reasons for you hearing a grinding noise when you brake are likely because you have poor quality brake pads, worn brake pads, worn shims, worn brake rotors, faulty wheel bearings, debris stuck in brakes, insufficient lubrication on brake parts, or you’re simply not driving your car enough, allowing the brakes to rust.

Will a bad calliper make a grinding noise?

Yes, a faulty calliper without lubrication, will cause the metal of the pads and the metal of the calliper piston in the braking system to come together when you apply the brakes and cause a grinding noise.

Please leave a comment below if you have a question about the grinding noise when braking but brake pads are fine!

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