Is it OK to Drive With Grinding Brakes?

The main results of driving with grinding brakes can be reduced stopping power, further brake system damage, safety risks and additional repair costs in the future

No, it is not okay to drive with grinding brakes. It is a serious safety hazard and can lead to several problems:

Reduced stopping power: Grinding brakes often indicate worn-out pads or damaged rotors, which means your brakes won't be as effective at stopping your car. This significantly increases the risk of an accident, especially in emergencies.

Further damage: Continuing to drive with grinding brakes can keep damaging your braking system. Worn-out pads can grind against the rotors, causing grooves and warping. This results in more expensive repairs.

Safety risk: Ignoring grinding brakes puts yourself and others on the road at risk. It's a clear sign that your braking system needs immediate attention.

What to do if your brakes are grinding:

  1. Stop driving immediately if it's safe to do so. Pull over to the side of the road and find a safe location to park.
  2. Call a Shop nearby (you can find one here) as soon as possible. They can diagnose the problem and recommend the necessary repairs.
  3. Avoid driving long distances or in heavy traffic until the brakes are fixed.

Remember, your brakes are one of your car's most important safety features. Don't ignore grinding noises – get them checked out by a professional right away.

Do I need new rotors if my brakes are grinding?

Grinding brakes are a strong indicator that you need new rotors or at least require a professional inspection. Here's why:

Common causes of grinding brakes:

  • Worn-out brake pads: When the friction material on your brake pads wears down completely, they start grinding against the metal rotors, causing the noise. This is the most likely scenario and could require replacing both the pads and rotors.

Worn brake pads cause excessive friction, making the brake system grind loudly and produce burning smells

  • Damaged rotors: Warped, grooved, or excessively corroded brake rotors can grind against the pads, even making the car shake while braking. In such cases, resurfacing or replacing the rotors might be necessary depending on the severity of the damage.

Warped brake rotor has an uneven surface which causes the vehicle to shake while driving, especially while braking

  • Debris lodged in the brakes: In rare cases, foreign objects like rocks or debris can cause grinding if they get stuck between the pads and rotors. Removing the debris might solve the problem, but it's crucial to inspect for any underlying damage that caused the debris to enter in the first place.

Brake pad damage caused by debris entering the brake system, between the rotors and the pads

Here are some other potential culprits causing grinding brakes, their safety implications, and cost aspects to consider:

1. Wheel bearing issues: A worn-out or damaged wheel bearing can cause a grinding noise that may be mistaken for brake noise, especially if it's more prominent at certain speeds or during turns.

A faulty, loose, or damaged wheel bearing can cause grinding noises

2. Damaged calipers: A brake caliper squeezes the brake pad against the brake rotor to create friction and slow down the car. Faulty calipers can stick, not apply enough pressure, or leak fluid, all leading to grinding and reduced braking performance.

Stuck brake caliper causing the brake to partially apply, generating heat and vibrations on the steering wheel

3. Worn Brake Shoes: Brake shoes can cause grinding if their friction material wears down over time. When this material gets depleted, the metal backing plate of the shoe starts grinding against the metal drum, producing a loud and unpleasant noise.

Worn brake shoes can cause grinding when braking

4. Faulty brake hardware: Springs, clips, and other small components within the braking system can wear out or break, causing grinding noises and potentially affecting brake performance.

5. Low brake fluid: As mentioned earlier, insufficient brake fluid can lead to uneven pressure distribution and potentially cause grinding, impacting safety and requiring a fluid top-up or leak repair (if applicable).

Safety and Cost Implications:

Regardless of the specific cause, ignoring grinding brakes is never advisable. Here's why:

  • Safety: Impaired braking performance due to any issue in the system increases the risk of accidents, endangering yourself and others.
  • Cost: Ignoring the problem can lead to more extensive damage and expensive repairs later on. Early diagnosis and intervention are key to saving money.