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Hey, Why Is My Car Grinding When I Brake?

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Four common causes for grinding brakes from a vehicle and their related parts.
Your brakes are wearing every time you apply the brakes. When the brake pad material wears past its service limit then the backing plate of the brake pad will come into contact with the brake rotor and cause metal-to-metal contact. When the pads are down to the metal you will hear a noticeable grinding noise inside the cab every time you touch the brakes.

Is Your Car Producing A Grinding-like Feeling When Braking?

The grinding commonly comes from worn or rusty brake pads touching the rotors. Alternatively, you might also want to check the brakes for debris since that could be the case. Less commonly, the brake caliper might be damaged or misplaced and is now grinding the rotors....read more

The grinding commonly comes from worn or rusty brake pads touching the rotors. Alternatively, you might also want to check the brakes for debris since that could be the case. Less commonly, the brake caliper might be damaged or misplaced and is now grinding the rotors.

When you feel a grinding sensation while braking your car, it's a warning sign that your vehicle's safety on the road is compromised. Ignoring it could lead to dangerous consequences, so taking control and understanding the causes and solutions is essential.

Don't let the problem escalate; consider contacting a trusted technician for professional assistance. By addressing the issue promptly, you avoid costly repairs, ensure the integrity of your vehicle, and drive with peace of mind. Your safety on the road is invaluable, and regular maintenance can save you time, money, and potential headaches in the long run.

Let's Get To The Bottom Of It!

  • Q: Is your emergency brake not working?
    Drum brakes use different parts to stop your wheels from turning. The brake shoes, which have a m...read more

    Drum brakes use different parts to stop your wheels from turning. The brake shoes, which have a metal part and friction material, press against the drum to stop the wheel. Over time, the friction material can wear down and produce a grinding noise. The emergency brake also uses brake shoes, using a lever to push the shoes out. If the friction material is worn, the emergency brake may be unable to push the shoes far enough to touch the drum, preventing them from stopping the car.

  • Q: Is the grinding noise intermittent when you're braking the car?
    This sporadic noise might appear when turning the car or even if you're driving straight. ...read more

    This sporadic noise might appear when turning the car or even if you're driving straight.

    The brake rotors are like big disks that the brake pads press against to stop the car. Sometimes, the rotors can pick up debris or rust, creating minor rust in the brake pads. This can make a sporadic grinding noise when you press the brakes, even if the brake pads are healthy.

  • Q: Is the grinding noise permanent even without pressing the brakes?
    You might also notice that the tires are overheating, and the car's fuel consumption is increasin...read more

    You might also notice that the tires are overheating, and the car's fuel consumption is increasing. Also, the brakes might grind louder when you apply them, possibly causing vibrations.

    The brakes on your car are near the wheels and close to the road. Sometimes, road debris can jam between the brake pad and the rotor. This debris sticks out further than the brake pad, wearing down the rotor and causing a grinding noise. This noise is usually noticeable even when you're not pressing the brakes.

  • Q: Is the grinding noise more noticeable when turning the vehicle left/right?
    The grinding noise might appear even if you turn the wheel without pressing the brakes. Also, you...read more

    The grinding noise might appear even if you turn the wheel without pressing the brakes. Also, you might hear humming noises, and the vehicle may slightly pull to one side.

    The wheel bearing helps your tire stay in place and spin without wobbling. If the wheel bearing starts to fail, the wheel and hub become wobbly. Also, since the brake caliper connects to the steering knuckle, the wheel or rotor might rub against the brake caliper or brake caliper support if the wheel bearing is loose. Consequently, this causes brake grinding noises when you turn the wheel.

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Vehicle Health Inspection Proof

Explore the following typical inspection results that show a potential cause for the symptom and select the one you believe is similar to your vehicle's issue.

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

This image shows a rusty brake caliper in a rotor. In this case, the caliper constantly touches the rotor, causing overheating and damage.

A customer noticed a strange smell and smoke coming from the left front tire of their vehicle and brought it to the shop. They also noticed that the front wheels were dirty and suspected a problem with the wheel bearing.

When test-driving the vehicle, the technician felt a slight pull to the left after releasing the brakes; they also felt burning smells. During the vehicle health inspection, the technician saw hot spots and discoloration on the left front brake rotor and caliper.

During additional tests, approved by the customer, the technician found resistance in the caliper piston on the left front when retracting, so it was stuck. This stuck caliper was causing extreme friction-induced heat and discoloration.

To fix the issue, the technician recommended replacing both front calipers, rotors, and pads. A brake fluid flush was also necessary because of the heat introduced into the braking system.

Does the issue look like this? if not accessible your shop will document it
Rusty brake rotors

This image shows a brake rotor completely rusted. In this case, the rust compromises the entire brake system.

The customer brought their vehicle to the shop because they heard a grinding noise when applying the brakes. The noise started about a month ago and disappeared, but it comes back sporadically.

During the test drive, the technician noticed the front brakes were louder than usual, and the brake pedal was stiff.

During a vehicle health inspection, the technician saw that the front pads were too thin and the front rotors were highly rusted and glazed. So, the customer approved additional tests to investigate further.

After disassembling the front brakes, the technician found a lot of metal stuck in the brake pads, and the rotors were just at the minimum thickness.

To fix the issue, the technician recommended replacing the front brake pads because of particles transferred from the rusty rotors. They also recommended replacing the front rotors due to rust.

Does the issue look like this? if not accessible your shop will document it
Worn brake shoes can cause grinding when braking

This proof image shows a lack of brake shoe material; the result is constant metal-to-metal contact and grinding noises.

The customer brought their vehicle in because of a problem with the emergency brake. They parked the car on their sloped driveway and used the emergency brake. However, the brake pedal fell quickly, and the vehicle started rolling down the driveway. So, they were not sure if driving with this grinding noise was safe.

During the test drive, the technician noticed the brake pedal almost reached the floor before triggering the brakes. The emergency brake didn't slow the vehicle down at all.

During the vehicle health inspection, the technician saw the rear brake shoes had no friction material and was metal to metal, damaging the drums. However, they found them within the manufacturer's specifications after measuring the drums.

The technician recommended replacing the brake shoes and hardware to fix the issue. They also recommend machining the brake drums and performing a brake system flush.

Does the issue look like this? if not accessible your shop will document it
Brake pad damage caused by debris entering the brake system, between the rotors and the pads

This proof image shows a healthy brake rotor. However, the red arrow points to a small grove caused by a rock that entered the system.

The customer brought in their vehicle because they heard a grinding or swishing noise from the right front wheel. The noise was noticeably coming from the right side of the car. The customer was unsure if it was safe to keep driving with grinding brakes.

During the test drive, the technician noted a metallic or grinding noise from the right front wheel.

During the vehicle health inspection, the technician saw that the front brakes were at average thickness, but there was a groove in the right front rotor. However, all four wheel bearings appeared to be okay.

After disassembling the right front brake, the technician found a rock stuck in the right front brake pad. Then, the technician removed the rock and reassembled the brakes. Finally, they did a final test drive, noticing the noise was gone, and no other repairs were necessary.

Does the issue look like this? if not accessible your shop will document it
Worn brake pads cause excessive friction, making the brake system grind loudly and produce burning smells

This proof image shows a brake pad without the necessary material to avoid metal-to-metal contact. As a result, the rotor is visibly damaged.

A customer recently brought their car in because they noticed a problem with the brakes. They said the brakes started making a squeaking noise now and then a week ago. Then, during a panic stop on the highway, they heard a loud grinding noise from the front of the car. The brakes would also make a burning smell after grinding.

The customer didn't know if it was safe to drive with grinding brakes. The technician took the car for a test drive, noticing a loud grinding sound from both front tires when rapidly applying the brakes.

During the vehicle health inspection, the technician saw that the front brake pads were worn, even touching the rotors. The rotors also had deep grooves and were not up to the manufacturer's specifications.

The technician recommended replacing the front brake pads and rotors and flushing the brake system fluid to fix the problem and ensure the car is safe to drive.

Does the issue look like this? if not accessible your shop will document it
A faulty, loose, or damaged wheel bearing can cause grinding noises

This proof image shows a loose wheel bearing, damaging the rotor and rubbing on the caliper bracket. The result is a grinding noise when turning.

When making a right turn, a customer reported a grinding noise from the left wheel. They expressed concern because they had heard this noise before, and it turned out to be metal-to-metal contact in their brakes. So, they were not sure if it was okay to drive with this grinding noise.

During the test drive, the technician confirmed the customer's report and heard a growling and grinding noise from the left front wheel while turning right.

The vehicle health inspection revealed that the left wheel bearing was loose, causing the brake rotor to rub against the brake saddle. Additionally, the technician observed that the front brake pads were thin, and the front rotors exceeded the minimum specifications.

After the customer approved additional tests, the technician disassembled the left front wheel bearing and brakes, finding wear to the brake saddle and damage to the rotor.

The technician recommended replacing the left front wheel bearing, resurfacing both front rotors, and scuffing the brake pads to renew their surface. This repair would ensure the safety and integrity of the brake system.

Does the issue look like this? if not accessible your shop will document it

Typical Fixes to Address the Cause(s)

The following chapters bases themselves on experiences from our auto repair shop; we'll describe related problems' causes and fixes.

"Brake Pad Replacement" fixes "Worn brake pads"

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Hey, Why Is My Car Grinding When I Brake?
Sometimes a problem is more challenging to describe than it initially looked like. If you are not sure your problem is described by this article, please find below similar vehicle symptoms, which might describe better the issue you are experiencing.

Other things your auto repair shop might talk about:

Grinding brakes. Brake discs. Brake failure. Squeaky brakes.