Brakes are one of the most important parts of a car, and it goes without saying that they have to work properly.
So, when your car tries to tell you something is wrong, you need to pay close attention. Most of the time, your brakes are acting up if they grind, squeal, or scrape when you use them.
Most noises mean you need to change your brake pads, but what do you do if you hear a grinding sound when you brake but your pads are fine?
We’ll go over some of the most common reasons why your brakes might be grinding, even if your pads still have a lot of life left.
Start by Taking a Look
Brake systems are really easy to understand. If you hear grinding sounds when you brake, take the wheels and callipers off to see what’s going on.
It’s exactly what the mechanic will do to find out what’s going on. The only difference is that they’re going to charge you top dollar to do it.
Poor Quality Brake Pads
If you just got new brakes but are still hearing grinding or squealing sounds, it’s likely that you were given low-quality brake pads. And if you use cheap brake pads, you have bigger problems to worry about than just a little noise.
Cheap brake pads wear out much faster and don’t stop the car as well as better ones. You can always ask the mechanic what kind of brake pads he or she used on your car if you don’t know. But there isn’t much you can do if they won’t tell you what they used or if you don’t remember what you installed.
To figure out if the noise is caused by cheap brake pads, you should rule out all other possibilities. It’s not rocket science, but it’s one of the many reasons you should spend a little more money and get high-quality brake pads whenever you need to replace them.
Every brake pad has a shim behind it. When you change the pad, you also have to change the shim. The brake calliper piston presses against the pad where the shim is. If the shim is old or has a lot of rust on it, you may hear a noise every time you hit the brakes.
Even worse, it could wear out completely, causing the piston to hit the brake pad directly. Your brake pads can’t handle this, and they may wear out and stop working before they should.
Faulty Self-Adjusting Mechanism
There is a self-adjusting mechanism on each brake pad that pushes the brake pads against the rotors. If this mechanism is broken or rubbing against the rotors when it shouldn’t, you might hear a grinding sound when you hit the brakes.
Even worse, this will keep your brake pads from staying at the right distance from the rotors. This can lead to uneven braking, which is a major safety issue.
Brakes and Rotors Mated Improperly
When you change the brake pads, you must either replace the rotors or sand them down. If you don’t do this, the pads and rotors might not fit together right, which means that when you press the brakes, they will squeak and grind. More importantly, it means you won’t be able to stop as well as you could, which can cause an accident.
Even if your rotors and pads are brand new, you need to make sure they fit together properly after you put them on. You should let your car get up to 20 to 25 miles per hour before applying the brakes quickly and evenly. When you put on new brake pads, you should do this at least four or five times to make sure you get a good match.
But it’s too late if your brakes are already squeaking and grinding. Once your brake pads have mated, you can’t go back and fix it. Your brakes can glaze over, which is even worse than grinding or squealing. If this happens, you won’t have enough force on the brakes to stop.
Debris Stuck in Brakes
Various things can get stuck in the rotors when you’re driving down the road. Some of this debris can sometimes get stuck between the pads or between the backing plate and the rotor. The easiest way to check is to take off the wheel and brakes and look for anything that could be stuck in them.
Sometimes, all you have to do to fix a problem is take off the callipers and put them back on.
Worn Brake Rotors
Most of the time, people change their brake pads to save some money. So, even if the pads are still in good shape, the rotors themselves may have worn out. Old rotors often start to rust, which can make a lot of noise when you brake.
Even if you get the rotors polished every time you change the brake pads, problems can still happen. This is because rotors have a minimum thickness, and every time you smooth the rotors, you cut into this thickness.
When you consider that rotors wear down every time you hit the brakes, it’s not surprising that you have to replace them every so often.
Rusted Pads or Rotors
If you haven’t been driving your car very often, the brake pads or rotors may start to rust. Even though this may seem like a big problem, the rust can be easily worn away by driving the car.
A little bit of surface rust on the pads and rotors isn’t a big deal, but too much rust can be a big problem. Even if the rust is just on the surface, you’ll need to be a little more careful until it’s gone. Once the trust is gone and you can see the rotors clearly again, you should be good to go, and the noise should go away as well.
Loose or Rusted Caliper Bolts
Most cars have four bolts that hold all of the brake parts together. If any of the bolts come loose or aren’t tight enough, the whole brake assembly will move when the brakes are applied.
When you press the pedal, you’ll not only feel this, but you’ll also hear it. If you think your calliper bolts are loose or rusted, you need to fix this right away. If you don’t do this, you could have a much bigger problem, like your whole calliper assembly moving or falling off.
Faulty Wheel Bearings
Wheel bearings are very important to your car. They keep the inner parts of the wheel running smoothly, so you can roll down the road without worrying about anything. But if you don’t put the right amount of force on the jam nut that holds your wheel bearing, the wheel bearing can start to come loose.
Also, the wheel bearing can start to break down if it isn’t oiled properly. Either choice will make the wheel spin too much. Even though this can show up in different ways, one of the most common things drivers will notice is a grinding sound.
When you put more torque on the wheels, everything shifts, so when you hit the brakes, this noise can get a lot louder.
Backing Plate Rubbing
There is a backing plate behind each brake rotor. This plate helps keep road debris from getting into your rotors and brakes. But once in a while, something big can come up and hit the backing plate hard enough to make it bend.
If it gets bent, it can rub against the rotors and make a loud grinding or squealing sound when you drive. When this happens, you just need to gently bend the back plate back into place to fix the problem.
Don’t Discount the Rotors.
We know you have already checked them, but have you checked all of them? If one set of brake pads works, that doesn’t mean they all do. If possible, you should check all four sets of brake pads before trying to figure out what else is wrong.
Worn brake pads are by far the most common cause of grinding and squealing noises when stopping. Don’t count them out until you know for sure that all four sets still have a lot of life left in them.
When it comes to your brakes, this is not a part that you can ignore.
You should pay attention to every warning sign. Even though worn brake pads are the most common problem, you should know what to do if that’s not the case.
If you know what to do instead of taking it to a mechanic, you can save a lot of money, but if you can’t figure it out, you should have a professional look at it.
Even though it may be a little more money than you want to spend right now, putting off repairs can cost you even more.