Brake Noises: Annoying or Dangerous?

What it means when your brakes are noisy

“My brakes are squealing” is one of the more common complaints we hear at Saddleback Automotive. The squealing, squeaking, and grinding may be annoying, but it can also indicate a serious problem within your brake system. There are two basic types of braking systems, the disc and the drum. Disc brakes are very common and contain pads, rotors, and calipers. Drum brakes contain the shoe, drum, and wheel cylinders. No matter what brake system your car has, if you hear them squealing, it’s time to take your car to the mechanic to be inspected.

Causes of Squealing and Grinding Sounds

If your brakes are making noise, your car shakes while stoppings, or if you’ve noticed a decrease in your car’s stopping power, the most likely cause is worn down brake pads. After continually exerting force to safely stop your vehicle, brake pads gradually get worn away. Once the life of the pads has diminished, the best and safest option is to replace them. Being able to stop safely is crucial to safe driving.

If you are hearing squealing from your brakes while the brake pedal is not being applied, it is possible your brake pad wear indicator is touching the rotor, a sign that your brake pads are wearing down, getting your brakes inspected is alway the best option to make sure your brakes will continue working properly.

If a technician finds that other parts of the brake system are to blame, the job could be more complex. But most squealing and grinding of brakes can be easily diagnosed and solved.

If you have relatively new brake pads but are still experiencing these signs, especially if you are hearing squealing in the morning, the sounds could be from moisture lingering on the rotor, something that will go away on it’s own with time. Or there may be a pebble or debris caught between the rotor backing plate and the rotor.

Fixing the Problem

The expected cost of brake repair and replacement depends on the scope of the work being done. Brake changes can start as low as $150 if the repairs are simple, and they can range up to $650 if the damage is severe and multiple parts of the brake system need to be addressed. For example, if your rotor needs to be replaced along with your brake pads, you may be looking at a higher price tag. In some cases the rotor can be resurfaced, always check with your mechanic if this is a viable option for your vehicle.


If you or your mechanic suspect that your rotors might need to be replaced, your mechanic can inspect them both visually and with measuring tools like a micrometer or a Vernier caliper. Visible signs of rotor wear can be rust flakes, score marks or grooves on he braking surface, heat marks or cracks. It is important to get a measurement of the rotor surface to determine if it’s possible to resurface the rotor, or if it is so thin it is in jeopardy of cracking and breaking.

How Often Do You Need to Change Your Brake Pads?

The way you drive your vehicle will greatly determine the lifespan of your brake pads, If you drive casually, or primarily on the highway, your brake pads could last up to 100,000 miles. However, if you drive through town making numerous stops, or if you use your vehicle for deliveries, your brake pads may need to be changed much sooner. If you pay attention to the warning signs of worn out brakes, and make sure to install quality brake pads, you can rest assured that your car will be able to stop as it should.

At Saddleback Automotive Service Center, we strive to provide you with an alternative to dealerships by providing the vehicles, and you, with excellent service and the best possible repairs. Fill out our contact form below and schedule a visit for brake maintenance!