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Grinding Noise When Braking? Common Sources & What to Do

Grinding Noise When Braking? Common Sources & What to Do

Have you noticed your brakes are grinding? If so, you likely know you need to do something about it, but first, you need to know why this is happening.

Some of the most common reasons you hear grinding when you’re braking includes worn-out brake pads, issues with the brake calipers, a damaged brake rotor, the braking system requiring lubrication, or because you may have a faulty wheel bearing.

Read on to find some of the most common reasons for grinding sounds when you brake and how to fix them.

Worn Out Brake Pads

The most common reason brakes begin to grind is because your brake pads are worn out.

Most brake pads are made with a mix of brass, graphite, copper, and steel. As time passes, the brake pad will get thinner and thinner, eventually exposing the metal backing.

Most brake pads have a decent lifespan, but at some point, they will wear out. If you haven’t replaced your brake pads for 25,000 to 60,000 miles, you will likely hear the annoying grinding sound soon.

When your brake pads get too thin, the metal backing plate under the pads starts rubbing against the brake rotor. This is what creates the grinding sound.

Before your brake pads begin to grind, you will likely hear a squealing sound. This is called brake scrubbing and lets you know it’s time to replace the pads.

If you don’t replace them, the squealing will eventually become grinding.

If you don’t think your brake pads have worn out yet, but are still hearing that squealing sound, check for accumulated brake dust. This can also cause that sound.

Replacing the brake pad or cleaning the brake dust off the area will fix the grinding problem.

Brake pads cost, on average, $35 to $150 per axle if you can replace them yourself. If you must hire a mechanic to handle the job, you can expect to pay $115 to $300 per axle.

Issues with the Brake Calipers

The brake calipers on your vehicle may also rub the rotor disc and scrape the metal surface.

This usually happens if there is missing, worn, or broken caliper hardware. The most common culprits include the mounting bolts and the shims. If the brake caliper gets loose from the support bracket, it may drag on the rotor disc, which creates the grinding sound you hear when you press the brakes.

Also, if the lube on the brake caliper is low or if there are missing shims between the backing plate on the brake pad and the caliper piston, these two will rub against each other and cause a grinding sound.

You can replace the entire brake pad or just the part of the caliper that is causing issues. You can purchase new calipers from $50 to $75.

Damaged Brake Rotor

The brake rotors are the shiny discs that the calipers squeeze to slow your vehicle down. They are located close to the ground, so water and dirt can get into them. Eventually, this can cause the rotors to become warped or rusted.

If your brake rotor is not flat, it can cause your brakes to squeak. If the rotor disc is worn out, it will create a scraping sound. A warped rotor will also be felt through your steering wheel.

When you discover the issue is your brake rotors, you will find it costs around $400 per axle new. However, you can have the rotors resurfaced for less.

Usually, this costs $10 to $20 per rotor. Doing this will eliminate most brake noises.

Your Vehicle’s Braking System Needs Lubrication

The braking system on your vehicle is complex and involves many moving parts. As time passes, the parts will need relubrication.

If you don’t do this, it can cause a grinding sound for your vehicle’s brakes.

Usually, the caliper bolts are the cause of this problem. They have the job of making sure the brake caliper stays in place. However, they can rust, which is what will create that grinding sound.

It’s possible to extend the life of these by lubricating them about once per month. The good news is, replacing caliper bolts is affordable and will only cost about $10 to $20 plus labor.

You Have a Faulty Wheel Bearing

Wheel bearings are responsible for allowing your wheels to spin continuously while ensuring they don’t overheat. A grinding noise may develop if a bearing wears out or debris has gotten inside.

If you believe the issue is a bad wheel bearing, there are a few signs to look for.

One is vibrations that get worse before you slow down. This is like what happens when you drive over a rumble strip on the highway. Another sign of a bad wheel bearing is if there is uneven wear on your tires.

Issues with the wheel bearings aren’t common and usually don’t happen until you reach 75,000 to 100,000 miles. However, when it is time to replace the wheel bearing, it will cost about $700.

Something Is Stuck in the Caliper

If you start hearing a constant grinding or screeching sound, even if you aren’t braking, it may mean there’s something stuck in the brake caliper. It could be a piece of gravel, a small stone, or another small object.

If a foreign item is left in your vehicle’s brake system, it can cause serious damage to the brake disc.

You can sometimes fix this issue by rolling your vehicle forward and backward repeatedly. However, if this isn’t effective, it’s a good idea to get your car to a mechanic to remove the object.

Low-Quality Brake Pads

If you purchase cheap brake pads, it usually means they are low quality. While you may save money now, it can lead to the need for more frequent repairs and increased wear and tear on other parts of your vehicle’s brake system.

Low-quality brake pads

Usually, cheaper brake pads also include more metal. This means they are more likely to make scraping and grinding sounds when you brake.

Purchasing higher-quality brake pads can help you stay safe on the road. Also, higher-quality materials will reduce your braking distance and provide a quieter braking experience.

In this situation, you will have to pay for higher-quality brake pads (this cost is given above).

Common Questions and Answers About Grinding Brakes

How Long Can You Drive with Grinding Brakes?

When you begin hearing your brakes grinding, you may be able to drive your vehicle for a while before they stop working completely. However, this isn’t recommended for a few reasons. One reason is that it isn’t safe. Also, when you drive on grinding brakes, it will cause damage to other braking components.

Is It Safe to Drive with Grinding Brakes?

Driving when your brakes are grinding will worsen the situation and put your safety at risk. The grinding noise you hear from your brakes is what happens when the pad material is gone. This means that when you brake, it’s metal on metal. Eventually, the brakes may stop working completely, putting you at a higher risk of an accident.

Can Low Brake Fluid Cause Grinding Noises?

When your vehicle’s brake fluid is low, the pedals won’t depress the brake pads with the same amount of pressure. This results in uneven wear on the pads.

This can cause grinding, squealing, and squeaking when you press the brakes. You may also notice that your vehicle vibrates and rumbles when you press the brakes.

Summing Up Why You Hear Grinding Noises While Braking

If you have noticed grinding sounds when you press the brakes, it is a sign you should not ignore. The longer the problem persists, the more issues it can cause.

Be sure to know the cause and seek the right remedy to achieve the desired results. 
Zach Reed

Hi, I'm the founder of! Having owned a wide variety of vehicles in my life, I was astounded at how hard it can be to find answers to common automotive questions. Rather than sit idly, I decided to create this website to help others!