If your brakes are in bad shape, they typically make three different noises that will let you know something's wrong.
Ben Stallings, Beck Service Center: “You know when you hear noise in your brakes, you are basically hearing one of three types of noises. First, you hear a high-pitched squeal that goes away when you apply the brakes. So it’s going to squeal when you are just driving down the road and when you brake it goes away. That is a warning indicator that several manufacturers built into their product to give you a little bit of notice before you get into the brake rotors, so if you can catch it when it’s making that noise it tells you it’s time to do brakes. And generally, if you can get in before it progresses to the next stage of noise, you can get by for much cheaper than if you get into an actual grind of a rotor.
That would be second noise. It would be a grinding or a hard growl. What that usually means is that your pads have worn all the way through and they are grinding into the rotor itself. That is a much louder noise and a much more abrasive noise. Generally, at that point you are going to be into more money. If you can catch it when you first hear it that first day, you may be OK. If you put it off for a day or two or three, then you are going to grind into the rotor and a lot of times what happens there is the caliber in the hydraulic part that controls the brake pads then that goes beyond the range that’s normally used to function in and over extend itself; which typically means you’ll have to replace the caliper as well. So, if you are into that situation where you’ve progressed from that squeaking noise to grinding, you probably just jumped from $150 to several hundreds of dollars.
A third really common noise you get in brakes is just a squeaking when you stop. A lot of times that squeaking is due not so much that you need to have a replacement, but perhaps a poor installment of the last time the brakes were put in. There are several contact points that you need to lubricate when you are putting in calipers and rotors and so on and so forth. If those aren’t lubricated properly and/or there is some hardware that hold pads tight and shoes tight – if those are worn or weak and are allowing the pads to move more than they should – then typically that noise is caused just by a sound wave noise of pads and shoes moving, So, a lot of times that can be repaired if you want to just by taking everything apart and redoing it properly. Generally, it’s not going to cause you damage; just be more of an annoyance squeak more than anything else.”
Angie’s List Tips:
• Take your car in as soon as you hear any strange noise
• Squeaking brakes could mean the brakes were installed improperly.
• Check Angie’s List for a reputable auto shop.