Unusual brake noise—you know the kind of screeching, grinding, and chewing sounds you hear when you slam on the brakes in a traffic jam—can be alarming. Brakes are an essential operating system for your vehicle. Without them, you’d be unable to stop your car in motion. But, are all sounds that brakes make bad? What do they mean? Let’s review.
Brake Noises: What Do They Mean?
When you press on the brake, you’re creating friction between your brake pad and the tire. Over time, your brakes can take a beating—and sometimes when you slow down they may make noise or occasionally behave abnormally, even though nothing is wrong. Here are 4 common “unusual” or alarming brake noises and what they mean for your vehicle.
Hearing a rattle come from your brakes when you slow to a halt? Brake rattle is a common concern for drivers and should not be feared. Typically, rattling sounds mean your brake pads have expanded. If they were not installed with anti-rattle shims, this can be due to heat expansion. Typically, this issue will resolve itself. If your brake rattle becomes a common occurrence, go see a service technician to determine if this issue is more urgent.
Squeaks can be nothing at all and, at the same time, a major annoyance for drivers. At specific speeds and applied pressure, the friction in your brakes can cause a squealing sound—but most of the time you don’t have to be alarmed. Squeaking brakes can be due to weather, heavy loads, water, or sand. Think about your surroundings before you panic. Consider any natural causes of squeaking brakes (i.e. is it raining outside?). If nothing is off, it might be your brake pads tell you it’s time to change.
Grinding noises are a bad sign. It’s your brakes telling you they need a little tender love and care; and often it means that the rotor disc has come into contact with part of the caliper. You’ll hear a grinding noise when your brake pads or rotors have experienced extreme wear.
Ideally, you’ll squeaking noises before grinding—get this checked out by a professional service technician as soon as possible. If you wait until your brakes grind before servicing them, you’ll be in a worse situation.
Brake fade is a condition in which the brakes become overheated and no longer function normally. You might notice brake fade when you’re going down a long hill and required to step on the brakes for longer. To avoid brake fade, you can employ “engine braking” techniques by using the lower gear functions on your transmission. A simple solution? Pull over and wait for your brakes to cool off before continuing your journey.
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