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By Kathryn Mae Kurlychek
Updated on Apr 28, 2022
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff, Staff Editor.
If your brake pads are worn out, you’ll likely experience a grinding noise when driving or stopping. But grinding brakes can indicate several potentially dangerous issues—here are the seven most common reasons your brakes are grinding.
Grinding brakes make for unsettling drives—but is driving when your brakes are grinding really that dangerous? It depends on the problem, but since your brakes are one of the most imperative safety features of your car, it’s important to have the issue addressed promptly.
That’s why super app and car insurance broker Jerry has put together this list of the 7 most common causes of grinding brakes. Read on to learn more about each one, and how you can identify the problem in your car.
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Why are my breaks grinding?
Worn-out brake pads
Most commonly, if you’re experiencing grinding noises when braking, it’s an indicator that your brake pads are worn out. Your brake pads wear thin with use, and over time the metal backing beneath may become exposed. This metal backing may rub against your brake rotor or caliper, causing a grinding noise whenever you go to stop.
If you’ve noticed your brakes squealing for a while—or scrubbing—it’s a tell-tale sign that your brake pads need replacing. Usually, you’ll need to have them changed every 25,000 to 65,000 miles or so, depending on your vehicle.
It’s best to let a professional handle changing your brake pads. The average cost typically hovers around $300 per axle, but it may be higher for some vehicles.
Despite the price tag, it’s crucial you have your brake pads changed promptly: driving with worn-out brake pads can damage other components of your car’s braking system, reduce the overall effectiveness of your braking system, and eventually lead to brake failure.
Worn-out rotor discs
Another cause for grinding brakes may be your rotor discs. These are the shiny discs that interact with your brake caliper to help bring your vehicle to a stop. Since your rotors are located close to the ground in your car’s undercarriage, they’re prone to damage or warping from dust, rust, or debris.
If damaged or warped, your rotors may also rub against your caliper to cause this unseemly grinding noise.
If you notice grinding noises even while driving at a constant speed, your rotors are likely to blame. You may also experience shaking or vibrations in your steering wheel and rumbling when you press on the gas pedal.
Replacing your rotor discs costs more than replacing your brake pads—for parts and labor, you may pay $400 per axle or more. Alternatively, if your rotors are salvageable, you can get them resurfaced for significantly less: it shouldn’t cost more than $20 per brake rotor.
Faulty wheel bearing
Your wheel bearings also can cause a grinding noise when you brake if they’re wearing down. The wheel bearings are what keep your wheels turning, so they’re an essential part of your vehicle’s everyday functioning.
Vibrations in your steering wheel or brakes while driving or uneven wear on your tires are indicators that your wheel bearings are the problem.
Luckily, this issue is far less common and usually won’t happen before the odometer passes 75,000 miles. Nonetheless, it’s a costly fix—costing $700 on average to have your wheel bearing replaced.
The braking system needs lubricating
Like many other systems in your car, your braking system requires proper lubrication to keep all its working parts operating smoothly. A lack of lubrication could cause grinding in your brakes, particularly if you slam on them or stop suddenly.
Usually, you’ll want to look at the caliper bolts first. Lubricating them regularly can reduce or rectify the issue entirely—alternatively, you can replace them entirely on the cheap. The bolts themselves can usually be purchased for under $20).
There’s a foreign item in your brake system
For grinding noises that are more constant or occur when you aren’t hitting your brakes, it’s always prudent to check for something lodged in your braking system. Sometimes, debris from the road can get stuck in your brake caliper or rotors—and leaving it there too long could cause serious damage to your braking system.
It can be difficult to locate the object yourself. So if you’re thinking a foreign item is the culprit of your brakes grinding, it’s best to take it straight to a professional and let them assess the damage.
Low-quality brake pads
No matter how you often drive, your brake pads will wear out over time. However, lower-quality or cheaply made brake pads tend to wear down faster. While choosing lower-priced brake pads may feel like a cost-effective decision, it can create the need for more frequent replacements, which will ultimately cost you more in the long run.
Typically, lower-quality brake pads have higher quantities of metal and less brake padding, so the metal backing can become exposed more quickly, causing your brakes to grind. If this is the case, you’ll likely experience brake scrubbing before full-out grinding noises—all the same, you’ll want to get the brake pads replaced.
You haven’t driven in awhile
Sometimes, there’s nothing wrong with your car except that it hasn’t been driven in a while! If you’re not driving your car regularly, rust can build up on the brakes and cause a grinding noise. Your brake fluid can also go stale, and other components of your vehicle may wind up falling into disrepair, as well.
Remember, a healthy car is one that’s driven often—so try to make time to drive your vehicle at least once a month! If you’re not using it often, consider investing in a vehicle cover to protect your car from exposure to the elements and unnecessary damage.
How to fix grinding brakes
So now you know why your brakes are making a grinding noise—but what do you do about it?
In most scenarios, you’ll want to take your car to a professional, unless you have a strong background in car maintenance and repair. No matter the cause, it’s important to be proactive in addressing the problem—don’t wait!
Grinding brakes can lead to a decreased performance by your car’s brake system and, eventually, brake failure. Faulty brakes are a leading cause of vehicular accidents, but luckily these incidents are completely preventable—as long as you’re getting the proper care for your car!
How to find affordable car insurance
Keeping your car safe takes more than staying up-to-date on necessary repairs. You also need to keep your car insured! But between hectic schedules and trips to the mechanic, finding time to shop for insurance can feel impossible. That’s why insurance comparison super app Jerry makes finding and saving on auto insurance simple.
As a licensed broker, Jerry easily pulls you quotes from over 50+ top name-brand providers that fit the coverage you need. Shop rates and customize your driving needs right in the app—and swapping policies is just as effortless! Once you’ve decided to make the switch, Jerry will take care of the phone calls and paperwork, and can even help you cancel your old policy!
Signing up with Jerry takes less than a minute, and can save you hundreds on your car insurance. The average Jerry user saves $887 a year!
Compare insurance quotes from 50+ carriers with Jerry in under 45 seconds
How much does it cost to fix grinding brakes?
Depending on the issue, it will usually cost between $50 to $350 to fix grinding brakes. In some cases—such as with faulty wheel bearings—the costs may be much higher, and prices are also dependent on your vehicle’s make and model.
Can you drive while your brakes are grinding?
Technically, yes, but proceed with caution. Until you know the cause behind your grinding brakes, driving can be potentially dangerous.