All You Need To Know About What Your Brake Sounds Mean

Squeaks, squeals, thumps, grinds, and more – these are some of the many ways your car’s braking mechanism tries to talk to you. These sounds can be quite annoying, or they may be so low that you don’t even notice them until it’s too late. 

Truth be told, if your brakes make weird noises, getting them checked by a reliable mechanic is always a good idea. 

Good brakes should bring the car to a stop on time, every time — whether you are cruising at high speeds, tailgating, or driving through bumper to bumper traffic. 

But those brake sounds could be a cry for help, telling you that you may not be able to exercise those short braking distances for much longer – a split second can make all the difference. 

Look Out For These Distinctive Brake Sounds

On average, 38,000 people in the U.S. die every year in car accidents, whereas 4.4 million people escape with minor to severe injuries.  These figures include not only the drivers but also their passengers, pedestrians, and bicyclists, etc. who are at high risk when on the road. 

Some of these accidents could be avoided if the drivers had good brakes. Do you see where we are going with this?

Since we have your attention, let’s delve in and educate you on the different brake sounds and what they mean.

Grinding Noises

If you hear grinding noise when applying the brakes, stop and inspect the problem then and there. Often, the reason may be an impaired braking pad.

A specific material reinforces braking pads as it comes in contact with rotors when braking. 

As you put more miles to your car, the pad material slowly weakens, and eventually, all that is left is metal. Just imagine how bad it would be for the rotors to grind against metal as you try to brake. 

Simply put, your brake pads will eventually have to be replaced. And if you ignore the sound and continue to use the damaged brake pads, you’ll end up destroying the rotors and maybe even the tires.

A safe bet would be to get maintenance services as soon as you hear the sound. Then you would just need to replace the pads and not the rotors, and that won’t burn a hole in your pocket, plus you can ensure a better, safer commute experience.

Thumping Sound

Have you been worried about why every time you brake you hear a thumping sound from the rear end of the car?

Unmount the wheels, lubricate everything through and through, and still, the sound does not stop, so what may be the issue? 

The rear drums are acting up.

Most cars have drum brakes on the back wheels. Similar to rotors, when a brake is hit, a shoe presses against a metal drum, and that’s how the sound is made.

Eventually, all that is left is a matte surface, which damages the brake drum severely. Yet, you may not be able to detect it at a glance.

As you drive and brake, the shoe rotates along with the drum, and when the damaged part comes in contact, a thumping sound is made.

It’s time to get a thorough check up on your vehicle, especially the rear end braking mechanism to prevent further damage. 

Potential Fixes

You need to get the issue resolved before it costs you a fortune. Here are some ways to get rid of the thumping sound:

  1. Rear drums replacement – an obvious fix
  2. Remove the drums, mounting them on a surface that allows for smooth rotation, and then sand them to remove any grooves caused by exhaustive usage
  3. Pull the emergency brake – this helps the shoes more efficiently polish the drum (similar to sanding), reduce the damage, and in turn, stop the thumping sound. 

However, this last option can be dangerous if not handled with care and precession, so do it in a place with less traffic. 

If the problems persist, the thumping sound may be caused by something other than the drum brakes. 

Squeaks And Squeals

A brake that squeaks has been used past its replacement date, or the sounds maybe just because you installed cheap brake pads. 

The best option to avoid this sound altogether is by replacing your existing equipment with quality brake pads. Cheap pads may intrigue you, but not only would you welcome the squeaking sound that comes along, but it can adversely affect the car’s braking power. 

This is because the material lazed on top of cheaper pads has metal flakes to enhance stopping capabilities. Despite the notion, when these flakes drag along the rotors, they cause a squeaking sound. 

This metal wears out fast, but there might be another layer right beneath which may continue the problem, which is not uncommon.

This is why do not to ignore the sound and get it checked when you hear it. You may think that you can eventually just buy new cheap pads, but remember that other parts of the braking system may also get damaged the longer you wait, which may cost an arm and a leg when getting the vehicle serviced.

Some Other Reasons Of Noisy Brakes

Here are other reasons you hear weird sounds when pushing the brake pedal:

  • The brakes may not be to blame. Instead, you have rusted rotors that contribute to the thumping sound
  • Rocks or pebbles are stuck between the braking pad and the rotor, which leads to a scraping noise

Key Takeaways

When you hear any of the sounds mentioned above, get a thorough inspection of your vehicle. 

It may not be a problem at all, but better safe than sorry because when something damages your braking system, your life may be at risk.

There is no denying that a noisy brake can be an indication of things going from bad to worse, which can be dangerous for you, your passengers, as well as others on the road, be they drivers, pedestrians or cyclists.

Photo credit: Nor Gal/Shutterstock

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