Wait! What does that sound mean?

Understanding the 3 most common sounds your brakes can make

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects

You’re driving along and everything’s fine until you hear a little squeak as you begin to stop. It could be the call of a big repair bill or it might be nothing.  Many people will drive on, hoping they won’t hear the squeak again. And some of them will get lucky.

“It could be dirt and it could be the pads are starting to glaze over. Sometimes a couple of really good, hard stops will fix that, but if it continues, it’s best to have it looked at,” explained automotive service technician Fred Kuhn.

"If your brakes squeak when you stop, that might just mean that your brakes need lubricated and don’t need replaced," said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List. "But if you do hear a high-pitched squeal that goes away when there’s added pressure put to the brakes, that’s a sign that you need new brake pads and should be checked out right away.”

The sound that should cause your heart to pound is the grind. Some might describe it as a low growl. That noise indicates rotor damage, which is a major safety issue.

“If the brake pad is chewing into the rotor, that can cause that wheel to lock up, whether it’s on the front of the vehicle or the rear of the vehicle,” said automotive service technician Robert Vawter.

If the rotors are damaged, ask your technician about replacing them instead of trying a repair.

“Nowadays, a lot of places are cheaper to replace pads and rotors than to resurface.  You also get a much better brake job with a much better longevity of the pads,” said Kuhn.

The cost of a brake job can vary widely depending on the type of vehicle and the extent of the damage, but Angie's List says to expect to pay between $200 and $300 dollars if you only need new pads. Double that if you also need new rotors. Angie's List adds, new pads could last anywhere from 20,000 to 60,000 miles depending on how you drive.

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