Brake Repair

How to Understand and Diagnose Common Brake Noise


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Brake noise can be very unnerving. Anytime something happens where you percieve that there might be a problem with the braking system in your car, you worry it could prevent you from stopping safely. Depending on what type of symptoms you are experiencing, it can be easy for you to decide whether something serious is wrong or if perhaps it's something that you can disregard. Here are some explanations of common problems people experience with thier brakes.

Brake Shudder or Vibration

Brake shudder or vibration is normally caused by rotor warpage. Rotors normally warp when they are overheated by frequent braking (or "riding" the brakes), or when they're subjected to excessive force by sudden or hard braking. Warped brake rotors are deformed "out of round." This irregularity is what causes the shuddering feeling. Brake shudder normally gets more pronounced at high speeds. The rotors may be able to be repaired by being resurfaced or turned, although it’s possible in some cases that the rotors may need to be replaced.

Brake Chatter or Clatter

Brake chatter or clatter are common symptoms, and they may not signal a significant problem. Chatter occurs when the brakes seem to grab with a slight vibration at low speeds. This can be present even with properly maintained pads and can probably be ignored if it doesn’t happen consistently. Clatter is usually caused by the brake linings moving slightly within the caliper, and probably isn’t a sign of anything serious. However, if these symptoms happen consistently over time, it might be a good reason to have a repair shop check your vehicle’s brakes to make sure that they are properly adjusted and aren’t becoming worn.

Brake Grinding

A grinding sound during braking is most likely the sign of a serious problem and should be addressed immediately in order to avoid brake failure. Grinding noises from the brakes are usually caused by worn out brake pads or linings due to neglect. As the brake linings wear, the friction material that is designed to stop the car is worn away and the metal backing is exposed to the surface of the rotor or drum. Grinding brakes are at risk for failure and won’t stop the car effectively. The rotors, pads and even the calipers may need to be replaced in order to get the braking system back into working order. Get the car to a certified repair shop immediately.

Brake Squeal

Many brakes squeal occasionally, and this may not be a sign of a significant problem. Squeal occurs because of the pressure of the brake pads against the rotor and is probably normal. However, consistent squeal can also be caused by "rotor glaze," which happens when the brakes become overheated by overuse. Glazed rotors should be resurfaced to ensure proper brake performance. If your brakes squeal consistently, you should have them checked out by a repair shop, but an occasional squeal or chirp from the brakes is normal and not a sign of something seriously wrong.

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