The brakes in your car obviously get a lot of use, and they receive among the most stress of any of the components in your vehicle. As such, it’s not totally unusual if you hear your brakes making a bit of noise. However, if you notice any particularly loud noises coming from your brakes, it means they’re experiencing a problem that requires your attention.
In particular, if you hear a grinding sound coming from your brakes, you’re going to want to address the problem as soon as you can. In most cases, grinding brakes means one or more components of your braking system have become seriously worn down, and a temporary fix might not be a viable option in this case.
In this article, we’ll be covering the reasons your brakes might be grinding, and we’ll address the issue of whether it’s possible to temporarily fix your brakes in greater detail. We’ll also cover some of the other noises your brakes might make and what they mean.
Why Are My Brakes Grinding?
Before we go over how to fix your car’s grinding brakes, let’s talk about why it is that your brakes might be grinding in the first place. In general, your brakes will grind if the components within are severely worn out, but there are a few other reasons why this can happen as well.
Let’s go over the most common reasons for grinding brakes, starting with:
Worn-Out Brake Pads/Rotors
As you probably know, the brake pads in your car are one of the most critical parts of your brake system. Your pads, along with your rotors, are what actually generate the friction that brings your car to a stop when you hit the brake pedal.
Brake pads are made of metal with a layer of friction material on top. As you use your brakes, this material gets worn down, until eventually all that’s left is the bare metal underneath. When the bare metal from the pads starts to rub against the rotor, this causes that classic grinding sound.
It’s important to replace your brake pads before they get too worn out for a couple of reasons; for one, it helps prevent damage to your rotors, and for two, brake pads are far less effective without their friction material.
In addition, if you let your worn-out brake pads grind on your rotors too much, you could end up with worn-out rotors as well. In such circumstances, you’ll have to replace both your pads and your rotors, which will obviously be a much more expensive repair.
Worn-Out Wheel Bearings
Wheel bearings, as the name implies, are the bearings for your car’s wheels. It’s these bearings that allow your wheels to spin freely without overheating or wearing down. Wheel bearings aren’t technically a part of your braking system, but if your wheel bearings get worn out they can also cause an obnoxious grinding sound.
Wheel bearings usually last for between 75,000 to 100,000 miles, but they can fail prematurely if they get dirt, debris, or moisture trapped inside them.
Trapped Foreign Objects
Debris can also get trapped in between the calipers and the rotors, which can cause a grinding sound even if you’re not actively using the brakes. Foreign objects that have become trapped in your braking system can potentially damage your calipers and rotors fairly quickly, so it’s important to solve this issue as soon as you discover it.
If you don’t take care to make sure your brakes are properly lubricated, they can easily end up making a grinding sound as a result. In particular, you’ll want to make sure the caliper bolts are sufficiently lubed up, as these are more likely to make noise without lubrication.
Caliper bolts are pretty cheap to replace, but you can save yourself the hassle of replacing them in the first place by regularly applying lubricant.
Finally, you might find that your car’s brakes grind if you’ve left it sitting for a while. Not driving your car for a long time increases the risk that it’ll start rusting, and the risk becomes even greater if you’re storing your car in unsuitable conditions.
You can deal with this issue by taking your car out for a quick drive every few weeks to ensure that rust doesn’t have a chance to set in.
If you want to go the extra mile, make sure to park your car indoors and place a tarp under it to prevent moisture from coming into contact with it. You can also remove your wheels and cover your brake rotors with plastic bags if you don’t plan on driving your car at all for an extended period of time.
Is It Possible to Temporarily Fix Grinding Brakes?
In most cases, the answer to this question is going to be no. As we’ve mentioned, grinding brakes usually means that one or more of the components in your braking system have become critically worn down, and the only real solution is to replace these components, which is more of a permanent fix.
However, there are some cases where temporary solutions are viable. If your brake pads have worn down but there’s no other damage to your rotors or calipers, you can temporarily fix the issue by buying some cheap brake pads and using those until you are able to get some better ones.
Opting for cheap brake pads, or any other cheap replacement part, is really more of a temporary solution because cheap parts are going to wear out way faster than higher quality, more expensive parts. Using cheap brake pads every time will ultimately cost you more money since you’ll have to replace your pads way more frequently.
What Other Brake Noises Should I Be Wary Of?
Aside from grinding noises, you should be aware of some of the other noises your brakes can make if they’re not in the best of shape. Here are some of the noises to look out for and what they can signify:
Squealing brakes are a pretty common issue that can happen for a number of reasons. Many of these reasons are similar to why your brakes might grind; worn brake pads and a lack of lubrication are two common causes.
Other causes include the presence of water on the brake rotors, which causes a thin layer of rust to form. Rust particles from this layer can get caught on the brake pads, and when the pads are pressed onto the rotors, the rust rubbing on the rotors can cause an annoying squealing sound.
This can also happen if you install cheap brake pads. Cheap brake pads tend to shed flakes of metal, which get caught on the rotors and cause squealing. This is another reason why it’s almost never a bad idea to use cheap parts for serious repairs.
On the other hand, if you step on your brakes and it feels like the brake pedal is vibrating under your feet, this is most likely a sign that your brake rotors are messed up and need to be replaced.
Vibration when braking occurs when parts of the rotor get worn down unevenly. It doesn’t have to be by much; the difference of only a few thousandths of an inch can cause vibration to occur.
This uneven wear can happen due to a buildup of rust and dirt, or it may be caused by the calipers failing to completely release the brake pads from the rotors when you let up off the brakes. If the brake pads end up getting dragged across the rotors as a result, it can easily damage both the rotors and the pads.
How Long Can I Drive with Grinding Brakes?
If you notice that your brakes have started to grind when you apply them, you should make it a point to have them fixed as soon as possible. Driving for any length of time while your brakes are grinding will not only result in a more expensive repair bill for you but can also make driving your car much less safe.
Don’t forget, when your brakes are grinding, it likely means your worn-out pads are actively wearing down your rotors as well. If both your pads and your rotors get too worn out, your brakes will be basically useless when trying to stop at a high speed. If you let your braking system degrade to this point, you’re just asking for trouble.
And again, unless you want to have to make the same repair in a few months’ time, don’t cheap out on budget replacement parts; using durable, well-made equipment that lasts longer is always worth the extra cost.