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The Grind: What Happens When You Drive on Grinding Brakes


Your car’s brakes are among its most critical safety components. They enable you to stop your vehicle, avoid accidents, and navigate safely on the road. Ignoring brake problems can lead to serious consequences, not only for your vehicle but also for your safety. One common issue that many drivers may encounter is driving on brakes that are grinding. In this blog, we’ll explore what happens when you drive on grinding brakes and how this can ultimately lead to the brake pad falling out.

Understanding the Issue

Brake pads play a pivotal role in your vehicle’s braking system. They are designed to create friction against the brake rotor, which slows down and ultimately stops your vehicle. Over time, brake pads wear down due to this friction. When you hear a grinding noise while applying your brakes, it’s a clear sign that something is amiss.

  1. Increased Heat and Reduced Stopping Power

Grinding brakes are indicative of worn-out brake pads. When the pad material becomes thin and the metal backing plate of the pad rubs against the brake rotor, it produces a grinding sound. As this grinding continues, it generates a significant amount of heat. Excessive heat can lead to brake fade, where your brakes lose their effectiveness in stopping your vehicle. This means it will take longer to stop, increasing the risk of accidents.

  1. Damage to Brake Rotors

Continuing to drive on grinding brakes can also cause damage to the brake rotors. Brake rotors are designed to be smooth and flat to provide even contact with the brake pads. The grinding motion of metal on metal can cause grooves and uneven surfaces on the rotors, which can further compromise your braking system’s performance. This damage may necessitate costly rotor replacement.

  1. Reduced Braking Efficiency

As the grinding continues, the brake pads will wear down even further, reducing their ability to create friction against the rotor. This leads to a significant reduction in braking efficiency. Your car will take longer to come to a complete stop, making it challenging to maintain control in emergency situations.

The Brake Pad Falling Out

Continuing to drive on severely worn brake pads can lead to a dangerous situation where the brake pad falls out. Here’s how it can happen:

  • As the brake pads wear down, the friction material becomes thin, and the metal backing plate becomes exposed.
  • The constant friction and heat generated by metal-on-metal contact can cause the backing plate to weaken and eventually break apart.
  • Once the backing plate disintegrates, the remaining friction material can easily break away from the brake caliper, causing the brake pad to fall out completely.
  • Once this occurs the caliper will contact the brake rotor and the brake caliper piston will slip past the caliper seal causing the caliper to fail.

When a brake pad falls out, your vehicle will lose all braking power on that wheel along with brake pressure to all wheels, resulting in extremely limited control of your car and a high risk of an accident.


Driving on grinding brakes is not only a nuisance due to the unpleasant noise it creates, but it’s also a serious safety hazard. Ignoring the warning signs of grinding brakes can lead to a chain of events that compromises your vehicle’s braking system and, ultimately, your safety. If you hear grinding noises when applying your brakes, it’s crucial to address the issue promptly. Consult a qualified mechanic to inspect and repair your brakes, ensuring that your vehicle remains safe and roadworthy. Remember, the consequences of neglecting your braking system can be severe, so it’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your vehicle’s safety.