Embrace Your Automobile

Your Brakes Are Grinding—Is It Too Late For New Pads?

Problems with your brake system can be some of the scariest issues you'll face in a car. Sudden loss of stopping power is every driver's worse nightmare, but the good news is that modern brake systems are incredibly resilient. Even severely neglected brakes will continue to stop your car, but performance will continually degrade the longer you ignore the problem. 

While squealing is typically the first warning sign of aging brake pads, grinding indicates a deeper problem. Once your brakes begin grinding, you've waited so long that most or all of the friction material on your pads are gone, leaving only metal to grind on metal. If your car's brakes are already grinding, how much damage have you done? And is it too late to change your pads?

Why Are Your Brakes Making Noise?

Brake noises can come from several sources, although worn-out pads are the most common. All brake pads contain a small wear indicator. Despite sounding like a high-tech sensor, this wear indicator is just a small metal strip. When the pads wear down far enough, the metal strip becomes exposed and contacts your rotor (or disc). As a result, you'll hear a loud squealing noise to tell you that you need new pads.

Squealing is completely normal, and you'll begin to hear this noise while your pads still have plenty of friction material remaining, so you'll have a few weeks or even months to schedule a pad replacement. It's not uncommon for this strip to eventually break off, so the squealing may stop if you ignore the problem. Eventually, you'll hear a loud grinding as the last bit of your friction material wears away.

What Happens When Your Brakes Start Grinding?

Unfortunately, grinding is never a good sign. While your car may still stop, you are causing direct damage to your brake discs. Brake pad friction material is intentionally soft compared to your much harder cast iron rotors, allowing your brake pads to wear down faster than the rotors. However, the backing plate and other metal components on your brake pads can gouge and destroy your brake discs.

Additionally, the metal-on-metal contact can create extra heat. Dissipating heat is one of the primary roles of your braking system, but excessively worn brakes can overwhelm the capacity of the rotors to stay cool. The resulting heat can boil your brake fluid, potentially causing more severe consequences and greatly limiting your car's ability to stop.

Do Grinding Brakes Mean It's Too Late for New Pads?

The good news is that it's never too late to schedule a pad replacement, but you'll save money by acting quickly. If your brakes are already grinding, you'll likely need to replace your rotors and pads. However, the longer you wait, the more likely you'll ruin your brake fluid, damage your calipers, or cause other expensive issues to develop with your braking system.

As with all brake issues, sooner is always better. The best time to schedule a brake replacement is when you first hear squealing or see a warning indicator on your dash, but the next best time is always as soon as possible, no matter what symptoms have already developed.

To learn more, visit an auto shop website, such as https://www.lakesideradiatorandautorepair.com/.