Last Updated on August 26, 2022
Brakes are one of the most crucial parts on any vehicle. While it’s important to handle any engine problems that come, it can be argued that brake problems are even more critical since they determine whether your car actually stops.
A hydraulic system is used to manage the brake at each corner of your vehicle . This will likely be a disc brake but sometimes a drum brake.
When you step on the brake pedal, the front wheel brakes have a bigger role in slowing down the vehicle than rear wheel brakes. The reason for this is that the weight of the car pushes forward when you apply the brakes.
See Also: 8 Reasons Your Car Shakes When Accelerating
Various sounds and vehicle feedback while driving are often the first things we notice when we suspect a problem with our cars. Brake problems are not exception. So what does it mean when you hear a grinding, squealing, or scraping noise when braking or feel a vibration?
Common Causes of Noise and Vibration when Braking
When you hear an annoying sound such as grinding, rubbing, squealing, or metal scraping sound while driving and applying the brakes, then you may have a problem. Sometimes it might be nothing and the sound will go away on its own.
But if the sound is consistent and does not go away or even gets worse, you likely have some type of brake issue. Here are 9 reasons for why this brake noise occurs.
Related: 14 Causes of a Car Jerking When Braking
#1 – Worn Brake Pads
If you hear a grinding sound after you step on the brake pedal, then it could mean that your brake pads are worn out. As the backing plate loses its material, this causes metal to come into contact with the metal on the rotor. Either that or the brake caliper itself may be making contact with the rotor.
Whichever one it is, your brakes could become severely damaged if the pads are not replaced. Your rotor could be destroyed by the backing plate, resulting in damage and grooves. The rotor will then do the same thing to the caliper. When your brake pads go bad, you need to get them replaced ASAP.
If you’re hearing a grinding noise when braking but the pads are fine, keep reading.
#2 – Bad Quality Brake Pads
Don’t try to save money by purchasing the cheapest brake pads you find. Skimping on poor quality brake pads can literally mean the difference between a near collision vs a totaled car with serious injuries.
In addition to performance, cheap brake pads are poorly manufactured and can have defects such as metal chunks in the pad material which can scrape against the rotor and cause severe damage.
You will save money in the long run by choosing a reputable brand for your brake pads. Some of the best brake pad brands include Akebono, Stoptech, Wagner, EBC, Powerstop, and AC Delco.
#3 – Worn Shims
Any time you get a brake job done or replace brake pads yourself, you must replace the shims. Bad mechanics may avoid this if they want to do their job fast, so make sure they do replace them.
Brake shims that are not replaced will eventually get worn down. This can often result in a piece of the brake shim making contact with the rotor or other metal part of the brake system.
With metal touching other metal like this, you will hear sounds from your braking system as you drive the vehicle. So, make sure you replace the shims.
#4 – Debris Stuck in Brakes
Your brake system could have debris from the outside get lodged in it. This debris could be a piece of rock or gravel that gets stuck in the caliper.
Then, the debris will rest between the rotor and caliper, and cause scraping or grinding noises to occur and possibly vibration.
You’ll continue to hear these noises, even if you’re not applying pressure to the brake pedal. If the piece that’s lodged in there is not removed, your rotor may eventually get damaged and will at the least need to be resurfaced and possibly replaced.
Something stuck in your brakes can even cause your brake pads to get out of alignment and cause uneven pad wear. In this case, performance is reduced and you’ll need to replace your pads sooner than normal.
#5 – Infrequent Driving
A set of brake pads will usually last anywhere from 30,000 to 70,000 miles of normal driving depending on the type of vehicle and driving style. But if you start having braking problems sooner, then it could be from simply not driving your vehicle enough.
If the rotors don’t get used for a while, such as if a car is stored for the winter, then rust will eventually form on them or they may even get slightly corroded.
Other parts of the brake system may also develop rust so then you may have other issues such as your calipers sticking.
Because of the surface rust, the rotor is no longer smooth and can even has slightly raised areas where the rust forms, you may hear strange noises from your brakes while driving or braking.
Avoid this problem by not letting your vehicle sit too long without driving it. If a little bit of rust does form, it can often be cleared off by itself over time from the heat and friction of braking during normal driving. Too much rust will require resurfacing the rotors.
#6 – Worn Brake Rotors
If you have brake rotors that are worn or bad (warped, gouged, or cracked), they will make various sounds. Rotors that are warped and not flat will create squealing or squeaking noises. If the rotors are too worn, there may be scraping noises instead.
On top of that, worn rotors will create a lot of vibration from the braking system. The vibrations may come at irregular patterns and your foot will be able to feel them through the brake pedal or your steering wheel will shake.
Sometimes rotors can be resurfaced (or turned) if they are slightly warped but if they are simply past their lifespan, rotor replacement will be necessary.
Related: Resurfacing vs Replacing Brake Rotors
#7 – No Lubrication on Brake Parts
When installing brake pads, the brake pads’ backside need to be lubricated lightly using a brake caliper lube. If this simple step is ignored, then the metal of the pads and metal of the caliper piston will come together when you apply the brakes and make squealing or rubbing sound.
In addition, the caliper slider pins (which connect the two sides of the brake caliper together) should be generously lubricated before reinstalling.
#8 – Caliper Bolts
Brake caliper bolts should also be lubricated or else their slides will create sounds if they’re dry. This scenario is less likely to occur, but it could especially if it’s a DIY job. A reputable auto repair shop will at the least lubricate the bolts and often provide brand new bolts.
#9 – Faulty Wheel Bearings
This is probably the least likely reason for having brake noises. If grinding sounds can be heard from your wheels or if you experience vibrations which alternate from loud to quiet, then you could simply have a bad wheel bearing.
In addition to the noise, you’ll likely feel vibrations in your steering wheel while driving.
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37 thoughts on “9 Causes of Grinding Noise & Vibration When Braking”
What about a growling noise coming from the floorboard side of the vacuum booster?
a squirrel stuck in the wheel bearing
I have a 2016 Lexus RX 350. Had rotors at rear resurfaced. Now when I brake going downhill or at high speed, I hear an annoying low-pitched WOW … WOW … WOW … WOW … WOW hum coming from rear that echoes up into the cabin.
Took it to dealer and service manager said it’s just bedding in and will take 500 miles or so to disappear. Well ….. it’s been 500 miles and the noise is still the same.
I’d appreciate any expert info you may have about the rotor resurfacing they did … and why I have that offensive noise. Thanks you!
Have you verified that your rotors can be resurfaced? Most rotors have a spec for minimum thickness, and some rotors may not be able to be resurfaced.
While I can’t necessarily give you expert info about the rotor resurfacing process, I can tell you the basics of what they did to the rotors and how brakes are typically bedded. When you resurface a rotor (also called “turning” rotors), you are removing material from the surface so they are more flat. This prevents the excessive runout that causes that “warped” feeling when you apply the brakes and the pedal pulses.
The bedding process for brakes is different with every pad, but typically it involves repeated hard stops to transfer an even layer of pad material to the rotors. It’s possible the brakes weren’t bedded in properly, and this left an uneven layer of pad material on the rotors that is giving you that low-pitched “wow” sound.
I have a Volvo S90 that made a nasty scraping noise just as I pulled into my street yesterday. I assumed some trim had come loose and was hitting a tyre or the road but couldn’t see anything.
Once I put it in reverse and gave it a bit of stick the noise disappeared going forwards.
My assumption is that a stone got into somewhere it shouldn’t have as I’d just gone over a bit of road being resurfaced.
Yeah, it might have been the splash guard, a mud flap, a fender liner, the bumper, or something like that. I’d make sure nothing is loose under there. You might even be able to spot some subtle scrape marks in the plastic if that’s what was rubbing. If everything checks out and feels fine driving, don’t worry about it too much.
I took my car to a reputable mechanic because it was making a grinding noise. I was told it was just brakes and rotors. I replaced them both. Since bringing my car home, the sound has not gotten better. Any time I go at a faster speed and then slow down I get this awful grinding/humming noise as well as shaking in my car. I took it back to the shop that I just paid hundreds of dollars to. They told me that nothing is wrong. Something is making this noise. Any suggestions?
I don’t know what the issue is. Was the original shop able to replicate the problem when you went back in?
You could always take it to a different shop and see what they say. The issue could be the wheel bearings or axles, not the brakes.
Hi I have a 2001 Mustang Bullitt GT. I noticed when I brake only or so it seems that one of my brakes, rear passenger brake is making a scraping noise. To address this issue completely what would I need to do? Noise only gets louder when slowing down using brake pedal.
Take the wheel off, inspect each braking component. If the pads are worn, replace them. Inspect the rotors. Any surface damage, replace them. You might want to check that the caliper piston moves freely as well. You can use a brake piston compression tool for this.
Spin the wheel and see if the bearing makes the scraping noise. If it does, replace the wheel bearing. This check is just to be safe; the issue is probably in the brakes themselves because you only hear the scraping under braking.
It is probably going to be somewhat obvious what the issue is when you inspect the brakes on that side. It could be as simple as a rock stuck in the caliper, but you’ll want to check all of the braking components on that corner so you know for sure.
Hi, I have a 2006 Cadillac CTS . A good year mechanic changed the pads on the car not too long ago. This morning I heard a trembling noise coming from right side of my car. The steering wheel also trembles at times when I turn it to the left. What could have gone wrong? Please let me know. Thank you.
If it was a while ago, it could be unrelated. If it was recent, it’s possible the caliper bolts or lug nuts weren’t torqued correctly.
It would be very dangerous if the caliper bolts backed out and the caliper actually fell off, so you’ll want to get that checked out right away.
To make sure it’s not the lug nuts, grab a tire iron and try to tighten the lug nuts in a star pattern. If you can tighten them easily, they are too loose. Grab a cheap torque wrench (Pittsburgh units from Harbor Freight work just fine for this) and make sure they are torqued to spec.
My Honda Jazz has some grinding noise occasionally under braking, particularly when i first set off on a journey. The brake performance seems to be there still. It will then sometimes have a slight ‘metal rubbing’ noise under acceleration for the first bit of the acceleration, but can go away if i turn the front wheels. Sometimes it does linger though.
Any ideas what this cause may be?
It could be a number of things.
You may have a rock stuck between the caliper and the rotor. Perhaps you recently got new brake pads that are noisy, or the brake hardware wasn’t lubricated.
Perhaps it’s the wheel bearing going out. If you take the wheel off you should be able to figure out pretty quickly what’s rubbing. If you’re not comfortable doing this, a local tire shop should be able to inspect the brakes at little or no cost to you.
2015 Dodge Charger se makes flapping sound after hard stop and going again. Briefly between 15/25 mph n not all the time.
I’d have the brakes inspected. It could be an uneven transfer of brake pad material, minor flat spots in the tires (if the brakes locked up the wheels), or something else entirely.
Question: there is a rubbing noise on the passenger front tire when driving at a very slow speed and applying very little pressure on the brake pedal on my 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe. Any thoughts?
Sure. A few things come to mind:
You could have something stuck in between the wheel, the brake pad and the rotor, or stuck in such a way that it only causes noise when there is slight pressure on the brakes. Getting a rock stuck in the brakes usually makes a horrible grinding noise, but it could be something softer that’s lodged in there.
It’s possible the slide pins on that corner need some lubrication. This may cause the caliper to drag the brakes on that side, which could create uneven brake pad wear and excessive heat. It tends to happen if the brakes haven’t been changed in a while, but is an easy fix.
Some brake pads just create excessive noise on light application, depending on the material. Usually they make more of a squeak or squeal, but sometimes it sounds like rubbing.
If you’re comfortable removing the wheel yourself, you may be able to spot the problem right away. If you’re not comfortable doing this, many shops offer free or very cheap brake inspections. I’d get it checked out to be on the safe side.
I have a 2003 Hyundai Elantra and I’m noticing that when I step on my brake I here like grinding and what sounds like rubbing rubber I don’t know what to make of it
2016 Town and country…
Rotors and pads replaced.
Car makes more noise now. I have reurned it to dodge 5x’s to repair and they say they cant hear it! I am at a loss. Any clue why it makes these weird grinding sounds…and they dont make it all the time but at least 80% of the time.
Hi I have a 2008 town and country. Last year in Feb had brakes done. During the summer had rotors and calipers replaced and the last couple months been having grinding when braking most of the time and shaking when I brake going 40 or over. Did you ever find a reason??? Solution???
There could be many causes of grinding, shaking, and vibration in the brakes. Michalynn’s root cause may not be the same as yours, Chelsea. You should get your vehicle checked out by a brake shop or mechanic as soon as possible. Brakes aren’t something to mess around with.
Why are people unable to spell brakes? It is very simple, and very different to breaks!
I was thinking same thing
maybe because the stuff breaks alot
My 2008 Saturn Vue makes a noise sometimes after driving it a few miles. Like scrub or breaking under front while driving, sometimes hitting break, but not all the time. Took car to a mechanic and they stated that everything is tight up front.
I don’t know what scrub and braking sound like. Especially “scrub”.
I have had issues with my 2015 Nissan Altima with brake pads before and this sounds like that but now my car is having a hard time going into reverse. Can this be a transmission problem or breaks?
Having a problem after replacing all brake pads and calipers on a 2004 buick ranier put it in gear and went to drive it and it stops and makes a grinding noise like the e brake Is on what could be the problem
In my experience it’s been either 1 of 3 things. If it’s really bad constant squealing and you can’t put your hand on the rim of the tire because it’s so hot then you have a stuck caliper from a torn boot. Fix immediately if so. If it’s while turning then the brake dust shield is bent inward just enough to scrape and simply needs to be bent back out. Or debri caught in the pads. Usually driving a bit in reverse will kick it out.
None of these sounds familiar. My 2008 Equinox makes a noise sometimes. Like scrub or breaking under front while driving, sometimes hitting break, but not all the time.
Good morning, I have just replaced rear brake pads and discs for Toyota corolla but there is still disturbing sounds coming out not when am braking but when driving slow or when the car start moving or when it slows down to less than 20kmph
I recently had my 2011 Jeep Compass in for bearings replacement, cv boot and axle replacement. To the tune of almost $3,000! Now only a month later, the caliper on the same side has gone bad. Could the repair shop be at fault? Just seems like a coincidence.
Thanks so much for this info. I’ve been researching a noise on my 2015 Nissan VersaSL Note that suddenly got much worse today. It sounds like someone sharpening a huge knife! I can tell it’s metal against metal by the scraping, grinding sound. I think I heard a regular tock-tock-tock sound before this developed, so I may have a CV boot/joint issue, too. The grinding noise occurs while driving forward, NOT while applying brakes. It does not worsen Upon turning ,esp. L turn when it’s barely audible. I e tried to inspect it for grease in wheel well, but I can’t get to it. So far, no steering wheel vibration. Hopefully, bringing it in for work tomorrow ASAP will avoid any further rotor damage. This is a cheap built in Mexico car. 52K gentle miles shouldn’t result in this problem, but hey, that’s the world we’re living in, right? Thank you VERY much for the thorough article. It’s a great help.
Question, 2006 Honda Element, Rear passenger noise when driving in Am out of driveway, flapping noise like something hitting wheel. Went to mechanic this weekend, diagnosed bad rear caliper, so changed it and replaced pads in rear as well. This morning, same noise is happening. Have to bring it back to mechanic. Any thoughts what is still causing this flapping noise from rear passenger wheel?
I’ve changed brake pads and rotors and shoes and drums on my 2014 civic LX and I’m still hearing a grinding noise when I brake very annoying any suggestions as to what might be causing the noise when I brake