My Brakes Are Making Noises - What Should I Do?

Sun Auto Service Expert, published on 12/02/2015

Often times, unfamiliar sounds from your car or truck are the first signs of a mechanical issue. Squeaking or squealing noises when braking may sound unusual, but it’s important to identify the actual cause of the disruption. In many cases, perfectly functional brakes will make noises that worry you. At the same time, it’s important not to overlook an issue that might actually require attention.

Common Brake Noises

Noticing unusual auditory signals while bringing your vehicle to a stop doesn’t necessarily mean problems are afoot. Modern braking components utilize a disc made from cast iron or steel, which is compressed between a pair of material-lined friction pads. As brakes are applied, rapid vibrations can produce a high-pitched tone that may or may not be audible to the human ear. While certainly not pleasing, this sound doesn’t always signal trouble.

Similar noises can occur when a small rock or pebble becomes trapped between a rotor and its backing plate. While not technically brake-related, these bothersome squeals originate from the same part of your vehicle and are often mistaken for braking system issues. They typically grow louder when turning your steering wheel to one side and might disappear entirely when turning the other direction. Simply removing the obstruction will stop those noises.

 When to Take Action

While you shouldn’t worry at the first sign of unexpected sounds, it’s important not to disregard potential warning signs. You might notice squeals or even grinding sounds early in the morning the first few times you stop your vehicle; this is generally just accumulated moisture or fine films of rust being swept away. However, certain cases might require a professional inspection:

  • Loud, persistent squeals when applying your brakes can indicate worn-out pads. It can also indicate damaged anti-rattle clips or other less-serious issues, but any long-term noise should be evaluated.
  • Continued grinding noises when braking can suggest more complex issues, such as bare brake pads. When no friction material exists, the pads make direct contact with metal rotors, which diminishes stopping ability and often results in extensive repair needs. 
  • One of the benefits of having your basic lube, oil, and filter services performed at a full-service auto repair facility, is that they perform a complete inspection of your brakes and can detect potential problems early on.

If you’re concerned about the noises your brakes are making, it’s best to have an inspection performed sooner rather than later. When in doubt, it’s always best to consult a trusted professional to be sure.