Why Did Your Brakes Suddenly Start Grinding?
If you stay on top of brake maintenance in a modern vehicle, you'll usually go through three distinct phases as your brake pads begin to wear down:
- Interior brake warning light
It's typically fine to replace your brakes once you see a warning light or hear squealing, but grinding often indicates a more severe problem. Brakes only grind as the pads become so worn that parts of the backing material begin to contact the rotors, which usually only occurs after ignoring other warning signs. But what does it mean if your brakes suddenly start grinding without prior warning?
Why Do Brakes Grind?
Brake grinding is usually an unmistakable symptom. While squealing can be annoying, grinding brakes typically produce a loud, rumbling noise that may get worse over time. A grinding noise when you step on your brakes is usually a telltale sign that parts of your braking system that should never touch each other are now in contact.
In most cases, this sound means that part of your caliper or brake pad backing discs is making contact with the rotors. If you look closely at the affected wheel, you may notice deep grooves in the rotor and an abundance of brake dust on the surrounding surfaces. While a grinding brake will still stop your car, it's a solid indication that you're causing severe damage to your braking system.
What Causes Sudden Grinding?
Brakes will grind if you allow the friction material to wear off your pads completely, but what if you haven't ignored any early warning signs? In most cases, a sudden and unexpected grinding indicates either uneven pad wear or a foreign object stuck between your pads and rotor. Both situations will quickly cause your rotor to wear down, forcing you to replace it.
Since it's common for only one brake pad to contain a wear indicator, the other pad can wear down without producing a squealing noise. This situation may occur if your caliper piston is stuck, preventing it from applying the even force necessary to wear both pads at the same rate. As a result, one pad will wear down to the point of grinding without ever warning you that something is amiss.
How Should You Address Grinding?
Grinding is always a problem, even if your vehicle seems to be stopping without any drama. In addition to producing a loud and embarrassing sound, grinding tells you without any doubt that you're causing damage to your brake discs. Allowing your brakes to continue to grind will ruin the discs and potentially even cause damage to the caliper as the piston extends beyond its usual limits.
If your brakes suddenly start grinding, it's crucial to bring your car to a qualified brake repair shop as soon as you can. Addressing the issue before it gets worse may allow you to save your brake disc, saving you a significant amount of money on your repair.
For more information, contact a local auto service like Fast Service Center.