Did you know that you are the expert on how your own car sounds and feels? You are the one who drives it day in and day out, and you will be more aware of changes in car sounds than anyone else. Take, for example, one of our customers who came to us with a very subtle noise in her right rear wheel. It was difficult for us to even hear, but with diligence (and driving with the customer to recreate the sound she was hearing), we were able to narrow down the cause of the noise to a wheel bearing that was going bad.
One noise you should be familiar with is a “squealing” of your brakes. Some brake pads are noisy and make noise with all braking (think less expensive, harder surface pads). This noise can only be resolved by replacing the pad with an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer), softer brake pad.
However, there is a “wear indicator” (or “squeal bar”) on your brake pads that indicates the brake pads are getting too thin to be effective. Brake pads are an item on your vehicle that requires periodic replacement, as they wear over time. New brake pads start at 8-9 mm thickness, and should be replaced when they are worn to 2-3 mm. When the brake pad is worn down to the wear bar, you will notice the “squeal” noise, often apparent even when you are not applying the brakes.
Be aware that if you continue to drive past “the point of no return” (past the squealing sound), the sound will go away, but that doesn’t mean that the problem is resolved. Rather, the wear is past the bar and will soon result in metal-to-metal contact. If the brake pads are not replaced in a timely manner, the metal backing on the brake pad will wear grooves into the rotor, ultimately requiring replacement of the rotors.
Also notice if there is any vibration of your brakes, especially when braking downhill. This indicates a “warping” of the rotors, which occurs with overheating and particularly with loss of brake pad material. Replacement costs of rotors are significantly more than a routine “machining”, which evens out the surface of the rotor. Some rotors may become so warped from overheating, or thin from multiple machinings, that they must be replaced.
Therefore, it is to your benefit (and will save you money in the long run) to pay attention to changes in your car sounds. When you notice unusual sounds or changes in feel while driving, have your vehicle checked out by your favoriteHonest Accurate Auto technician, and drive safely!