Noisy brakes are an irritating problem which can also indicate that your brakes are in need of attention, depending on the nature of the noise. Some loud brakes are benign, caused by things like dust on the brakes or the materials used to make brake pads. In other cases, the noise may indicate that a brake component is not functioning properly, and it needs to be adjusted or replaced. If noisy brakes are accompanied by problems with braking, or a sharp pull on one side or the other, you should take the car in for inspection.
Two common causes for brakes to be noisy are dust and the substances used to make brake pads. If dust or other contaminants get onto the brake pads, they can cause the brakes to be noisy the first few times they are applied. Dampening the brake pads may help to reduce this problem. An increasing number of brake pads are also made with metallic materials, to make them harder wearing and more effective. Unfortunately, these materials can also cause the brakes to squeal.
If your brakes have become noisy, physically inspect them for problems. The most common cause for noisy brakes is worn out brake pads. Many cars have indicator strips which will whistle when the brake pads need to be replaced, and if you see excessive wear, you should replace the pads for more effective braking and to reduce potential damage to the rest of the brakes. While inspecting the brakes, also look for loose or missing hardware. Everything should be snug and tight, and you should not be able to move brake components very easily by hand. As you inspect the brakes, lubricate all the moving parts for smoother and quieter operation.
An expensive source of noisy brakes is damage to the rotors or drums. This is caused by failure to replace brake pads in a timely fashion, or malfunction of brake equipment. The rotors may become warped or distorted, or grooves can be gouged into them through metal to metal contact. The result can be very noisy brakes, manifesting in the form of a terrible grinding noise. If this is the case, the rotors need to be resurfaced or replaced for safe vehicle operation.
Motorists should always address noisy brakes before they become serious. Most brake problems start out small, and are easy to fix if they are addressed at an early stage. Get familiar with how your car normally feels and sounds so that you can be alert to changes which indicate a need for service. Brakes are an important part of your motor vehicle, and it is important to make sure that they work properly.