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What Could be Causing my Car's Brakes to be Noisy?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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Noisy brakes are an irritating problem which can also indicate that your brakes are in need of attention, depending on the nature of the noise. Some loud brakes are benign, caused by things like dust on the brakes or the materials used to make brake pads. In other cases, the noise may indicate that a brake component is not functioning properly, and it needs to be adjusted or replaced. If noisy brakes are accompanied by problems with braking, or a sharp pull on one side or the other, you should take the car in for inspection.

Two common causes for brakes to be noisy are dust and the substances used to make brake pads. If dust or other contaminants get onto the brake pads, they can cause the brakes to be noisy the first few times they are applied. Dampening the brake pads may help to reduce this problem. An increasing number of brake pads are also made with metallic materials, to make them harder wearing and more effective. Unfortunately, these materials can also cause the brakes to squeal.

If your brakes have become noisy, physically inspect them for problems. The most common cause for noisy brakes is worn out brake pads. Many cars have indicator strips which will whistle when the brake pads need to be replaced, and if you see excessive wear, you should replace the pads for more effective braking and to reduce potential damage to the rest of the brakes. While inspecting the brakes, also look for loose or missing hardware. Everything should be snug and tight, and you should not be able to move brake components very easily by hand. As you inspect the brakes, lubricate all the moving parts for smoother and quieter operation.

An expensive source of noisy brakes is damage to the rotors or drums. This is caused by failure to replace brake pads in a timely fashion, or malfunction of brake equipment. The rotors may become warped or distorted, or grooves can be gouged into them through metal to metal contact. The result can be very noisy brakes, manifesting in the form of a terrible grinding noise. If this is the case, the rotors need to be resurfaced or replaced for safe vehicle operation.

Motorists should always address noisy brakes before they become serious. Most brake problems start out small, and are easy to fix if they are addressed at an early stage. Get familiar with how your car normally feels and sounds so that you can be alert to changes which indicate a need for service. Brakes are an important part of your motor vehicle, and it is important to make sure that they work properly.

WikiMotors is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WikiMotors researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon342971 — On Jul 25, 2013

I could have lost a fortune trying to figure out the causes of the problem. Thanks.

By anon157021 — On Mar 01, 2011

I have the very same problem as fallonji.

I am getting a rattle from the front brakes on my toyota runX. Toyota told me that there is nothing wrong and that they cannot find any problems.

The rattling got worse and i took my car to a suspension specialist. After having a look at the suspension as well as shaking the hell out of my car, he tells me that my lower control arm bushes are worn and will cost me R2600.00 (Rands - in SA) -

I then got a second opinion from another suspension expert and he examined the suspension and said that there is nothing wrong with the lower control arm bushes and apparently this is the first time he has come across this problem on a toyota runX. He told me the brakes were where the rattling was coming from.

So i changed the brakes, and the rattling is still present and getting worse day by day.

I am very very frustrated at this moment in time and would really appreciate some help. Thanks. --DM

By ValleyFiah — On Jun 20, 2010

Be very careful when lubricating your brakes. You only want to use a thick brake lubricant, not a liquid spray lubricant. You also do not want to get any lubricant on your pads, drums, or rotors. This can cause an accident because your car may not be able to stop.

Spray your brakes with a good dose of brake cleaner; pads, rotors, and calipers. This is safe for all brake parts (avoid rubber components), and will free your brakes of any contaminants.

When applying grease, you should only apply small amounts where one component contacts another. Apply grease to the back of the brake pads (where it contacts the pistons), in the grooves of the caliper brackets, and inside the pistons. Once again avoid rubber parts. This can cause them to crack and deteriorate.

Spray your pads and rotor faces once everything is put back together so that any grease, fingerprints, etc. that can cause glazing are removed. Proper lubrication of brake components can be the difference between whisper quite brakes and attention grabbing squealers.

By Babalaas — On Jun 20, 2010

@ Fallonji- I do all of the regular maintenance jobs on my truck, including brakes. It would be hard to say exactly what the rattle is without a little more thorough of an explanation, or being able to hear it myself. My first inclination is that it is not your brakes. I say this because you have less than 2000 miles on them. My guess is that you have worn strut mounts, control arm bushings, or ball joints.

The only time I have ever known brakes to rattle is if they are really worn and the pad retainer clips were not installed. This might cause the pads to have a little play between the rotor and the caliper pistons. Like I said though, this is highly unlikely on new pads because they haven't had time to wear and they will fit snugly in place.

I would advise that you bring it back to your dealer and have them look around. Usually a good mechanic would have given your vehicle a once over before replacing the brakes, but sometimes they don't.

By fallonji — On Sep 01, 2008

Hello, i'm a new member and really would appreciate any help with my brake question. Every time i run over a bump or just a rough road the brakes rattle. it appears that the obvious is something is loose. what's the most obvious problem i have with the brakes. the rotors / pads have less than 2k on them. how can i fix the problem?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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