Have you ever heard a scraping or squealing sound coming from the wheel area of a car when it drives past you in a parking lot? I’m not talking about the high pitched squeal that often occurs when applying the brakes in the morning (when the brake components are all cold) or when slowly coming to a stop. The sound that I am talking about occurs even when the brakes are not being used and sounds more like metal scraping against metal. If you have, most likely the car making the noise is in need of a brake pad replacement. Although there are many things that can cause disc brakes to make odd noises, one of them is actually supposed to happen. Here’s why.
Many of today’s brake pads are equipped with what is called a wear indicator on them. It is a little metal protrusion that is attached to the brake pads backing plate (the metal part of the brake pad that the pad material is bonded or glued to). The wear indicator is sized so that it will make contact with your vehicle’s brake rotor/disc (the part of your brakes that the pads squeeze against to make your car stop) before your pads completely wear out.
Why? Because if you actually wear your brake pad completely out before replacing it the metal backing plate will contact with the brake rotor. If this happens you can expect to pay about 3 times more to have your brakes repaired. This is commonly called “going metal to metal” in the automotive repair industry and typically means you have to replace the pads, rotors and many time the calipers instead of just the brake pads.
So if you ever notice a squealing or scraping sound (especially when you are not pressing your brakes) coming from you car or truck it might be telling you that it’s time for some new brake pads. It’s better to be safe than sorry and have a local shop take a look for you. It might just save you a chunk of change.