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Blog category: Driving

Noisy Brakes: Common Causes and Possible Solutions

4 min read

Your heart is pounding. You narrowly avoided rear-ending the vehicle in front by hitting the brakes hard, but they emitted a bloodcurdling shriek as you did. Or maybe your car brake noise is more of a thumping or grinding sound?

Sometimes, noisy brakes mean a serious problem must be addressed immediately for safety reasons and some brake noises indicate only minor issues. It can be hard to tell the difference, but one thing is certain: noisy brakes must be investigated immediately to ensure they do not signal that your car’s braking system has been compromised.

Let’s explore different types of car brake noise, what causes it, and the steps you should take.

Squealing Brakes

When your car brake noise sounds like a shriek, squeal, or squeak, there are several potential causes, including:

  • Worn brake pads
  • Compromised rotor surface
  • Glazed brake pads
  • Dust or debris between the pads and rotors
  • Improper lubrication

The most common cause of squealing car brake noise is worn brake pads. Brake pads are the component that applies pressure and friction to the brake rotor to slow the car’s forward motion. The brake pad’s friction material is manufactured with a piece of metal designed to squeal when it comes into contact with the brake rotor. This is an audible signal to the driver that the brake pads are wearing out and must soon be replaced to avoid more significant damage or potential brake failure.

If your car’s brakes are squealing, it’s important to get them inspected by a professional.

Rattling or Clattering Brakes

If your steering wheel shudders or you hear a rattling or clattering sound as you brake, the problem could be minor or severe. Common causes of rattling, noisy brakes include:

  • Worn or broken anti-rattle hardware
  • Dirty caliper slides
  • Loose caliper mounting bolts
  • Worn calipers
  • Warped rotor

Anti-rattle hardware simply makes your drive quieter. But a professional mechanic must repair loose or worn calipers or a warped rotor to ensure your safety.

Grinding Brakes

The most common noisy brake symptoms are squealing or rattling, which can indicate that repairs are needed. Less frequently, you may hear a grinding noise when braking. This shows you have metal-on-metal, and your braking system needs repaired urgently to prevent further damage or having your brakes give out.

Even if the pads seem fine or you’ve recently replaced them, if you hear a grinding noise, get the pads inspected right away.

Common causes for grinding car brake noise include:

  • Badly worn or low-quality brake pads
  • Damaged brake rotor
  • Faulty wheel bearing

A grinding car brake noise indicates that two metal pieces are rubbing together. This will rapidly wear out additional braking system components and must be inspected and repaired promptly.

Thumping or Thudding Brakes

A dull thudding or thumping noise when braking indicates that your rotor or the brake drum has gone out of round. If the thumping sound comes from the front of the car, your rotors have likely become warped. A thumping in the rear brakes indicates the brake drums are wearing unevenly.

Regardless of the location, thumping car brake noise is something to bring to the professionals.

Low-Pitched Squeal

Sometimes, the car brake noise you hear is like a low-pitched squeal, sort of a moaning sound. This sound will most likely occur in the early morning or shortly after you drive through a puddle. The sound results from moisture trapped between the rotor and the brake pad. As you drive, the heat and centrifugal force of the rotor quickly dries up the moisture, and the sound ceases.

So, there’s nothing to worry about when your noisy brakes emit a low-pitched squeal or moan that goes away within the first 10-15 minutes of driving.

Additional Brake Symptoms

Noisy brakes are the primary symptom of brake trouble, but other key signs mean your brake system needs attention. Be watchful of these signs:

  • Illuminated brake light on your dash
  • A car takes longer to stop
  • Leaking brake fluid
  • Soft or spongy brake pedal
  • Hard or tight brake pedal
  • Braking causes the vehicle to pull to one side
  • Braking produces a burning smell

Any of the above signs indicate that your braking system needs prompt attention.

What to Do When You Hear Car Brake Noise?

Noisy brakes are not simply an inconvenience. Any issues must be investigated and repaired promptly. Immediate attention can prevent bigger, more costly problems down the road. And, of course, your safety and those you share the road with depend on your correctly functioning brakes.

If you experience noisy brakes while driving, pull over at the first safe place to do so. Take a moment to consider if your braking system responded appropriately. If your car still brakes properly while making noise, you should be safe to drive home. Then, take your vehicle in for a brake inspection at the earliest opportunity.

However, if your car pulled to one side while braking or took longer to come to a stop, call roadside assistance.

Maintaining the fluid level in your brake system is one of those basic skills all drivers need. And always be sure your brake lights and the brake light on your dash are working. Every 20,000 to 30,000 miles change your brake fluid. And whenever you experience noisy brakes, take the car in for an inspection.

Another way to remain proactive with road safety is to review your car insurance policy with a helpful Wawanesa agent. We’ll make sure you have the coverage you need.

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The above content is for informational purposes only and is not a direct representation of coverages offered by Wawanesa or its policies. The information does not refer to any specific contract of insurance and does not modify any definitions, provisions, exclusions or limitations expressly stated in any contracts of insurance. All references within the above content are illustrative and may not apply to your situation. The terms and conditions of the actual insurance policy or policies involved in a claim are determinative as to whether an accident or other loss is covered. To understand the coverage under your current policy, please log into the account management platform to review your policy or contact an agent directly.

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