Should noisy brakes be cause for concern?

If there’s one element of your vehicle that never fails to get your attention, it’s the brakes. As they’re synonymous with safety—not only for you, your family and your passengers but also for everyone else on the road—every suspicious noise they make prompts an investigation. And with good reason, as an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Because you use them repeatedly each time you drive, your brakes require regular inspection and maintenance. On average, you’ll need to replace them every three or four years. In the meantime, a visit to your mechanic will help you avoid any costly surprises down the road by ensuring that they’re working properly!

Needless to say, noisy brakes often necessitate a prompt intervention in order to determine the reason for the noise and resolve the problem. But what kind of sounds are we talking about exactly? Where do they seem to be coming from? Learning to identify how and where your brakes are making a noise can inform you regarding which part is affected and how severe the problem is.

Below is an overview of the noises your brakes might make and the possible complications that could arise as a consequence. However, please bear in mind that this article is solely for informational purposes and is not intended to serve as a substitute for professional advice.

Different brake noises and their possible causes

Who would have imagined? Brakes can make a variety of different sounds, and each one can be the result of a different problem!

How brakes work

When you step on the brake pedal, it pushes a piston into the master cylinder, releasing brake fluid, which then activates the calipers. In turn, the calipers push the brake pads against the discs, thus slowing the vehicle down or stopping it completely.

Brakes that make a scraping sound

What’s at fault? There’s probably something caught between two important parts of the brake system, namely the discs and the calipers. This may include a piece of gravel or other road debris. The result? This friction can quickly ruin the whole braking system. If possible, try dislodging the obstruction by backing up a little ways. Otherwise, you’ll need to call on the services of your mechanic.

Brakes that squeak or squeal

Squeaking or squealing brakes are often the result of worn brake pads. In a disc brake system, the pads rub against the discs to slow or stop the wheels from turning. This friction eventually wears down the pads, as well as the discs.

In a drum brake system, the brake fluid pushes the brake shoes against the inside of the drums to slow or stop the wheels. This friction causes the lining of the brake shoes to wear down. This can quickly lead to the demise of your brakes. Cases like these are usually the result of normal wear and tear on the brakes stemming from prolonged, frequent use. Suffice it to say that you should check to see if the discs are grooved, rusty or worn, especially in the case of used vehicles.

In general, newer vehicles come equipped with an indicator that will warn you when your brake pads are worn. If it lights up, regardless of whether there’s a squeaking sound, it’s yet another good reason to schedule a visit with your mechanic.

Brakes that grind

The most urgent warning sign is when your brakes make a grinding sound. In this case, severely worn brake pads are at the root of the problem. If you fail to act quickly, you could see other expensive parts such as the calipers or discs give out.

Brakes that shudder

You may also have brakes that vibrate or shimmy. Once again, you can point to the pads as the most likely cause. When they’re worn, the calipers can scrape directly against the rotors, causing grooves. Your mechanic may be able to resurface the discs, but in many cases, it will be necessary to replace them.

Be aware of more than just the sounds your brakes make

You now understand that brake noises are good indicators of a problem with your braking system. However, there are other symptoms you should be on the lookout for in order to prevent a breakdown or accident. It should come as no surprise that your pads, discs or calipers may be to blame if you observe any of the following:

  • Your vehicle pulls to one side when you apply the brakes
  • Your brakes smoke or produce a burning smell
  • Your vehicle’s braking distance is longer than usual
  • Your brake fluid level has diminished significantly

On the other hand, if it’s too hard or too easy to push on the brake pedal, this may be the result of contaminated brake fluid or even a leak.

The specific moment in which you hear the noise may also point you toward the part you should inspect. For example, if the brakes squeak even though you aren’t stepping on the pedal, the problem is most likely the pads.

Repairing your vehicle’s brake system

Regardless of the reason behind your noisy brakes or defective braking system, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to resolve the problem on your own. Newer vehicles have complex systems that require the services of a professional. Since your safety is at stake, you should never hesitate to get a precise diagnosis.

When it comes to precision, you can count on the teams at Trans-Mico Automotive. Their undeniable quality is only matched by their reliability, their transparency and the rigor of their services. There’s no doubt that these characteristics have guaranteed the confidence and peace of mind of the clientele they’ve been serving since 1979.