Have you noticed a weird clicking noise coming from your car when you apply the brakes? Here is what causes the noise and how you can fix it!
If you hear a clicking noise when braking, it can indicate that there might be loose or worn components of the braking or suspension system. These include:
- rusty anti-rattle springs
- worn brake shims
- worn brake pads
- worn calipers
- worn front end parts
1. Rusty anti-rattle springs
The role of anti-rattle springs is to keep the brake pad in place and reduce the vibrations and noise when using the brakes. As they are made of metal, anti-rattle springs will weaken due to heating and cooling cycles and even rust in more humid countries.
When the springs or anti-rattle clips get weak, the brake pad will start moving and making the click noise you keep hearing when hitting the brake pedal. Furthermore, your pads will start wearing unevenly and even cause premature rotor wear.
2. Worn brake shims
Brake shims act as an insulator, dampening the level of noise and vibration coming from the brake pads when your car is breaking. Brake shims also act as a thermal barrier, preventing your pads from getting damaged when they get really hot.
As the brake shims wear, they might become weaker and allow your pads to produce all sorts of sounds.
3. Improper brake pads install
If the clicking sound started after you had replaced your brake pads, they might have been installed incorrectly. Unfortunately, some inexperienced mechanics do not stake down the pads when they do the job.
This results in the pads shifting when you apply the brakes. It’s not a hazard and does not make your car unsafe to drive. However, the noise coming from your brakes when you use them can become annoying.
If not fixed, the noise will only get louder and more frequent when using the brakes.
4. Worn calipers
After a couple of years of driving in wet conditions, your calipers might begin to rust. If ignored, the corrosion can cause the brake pads to bind even though there are abutment clips on top.
Another situation where the caliper can make a clicking noise is if they become loose. They are secured using bolts and guide pins, which keep them tight. Due to corrosion, those bolts or guide pins can become weak, allowing the caliper to move around.
5. Worn suspension components
It is possible that the noise comes from the suspension, and although weird, it is a result of shifting weight when braking.
Worn suspension components that can make a clicking noise when using the brakes include:
- worn sway bar links
- worn ball joints
- worn struts
A sway bar, also known as an anti-roll bar, is part of your car’s suspension, reducing the body lean when taking corners or braking.
Worn sway bar links can make clicking noises when braking, as the car will shift its weight.
Ball joints are part of your car’s front suspension, connecting and allowing different joints to move. More precisely, they link the steering knuckle to control arms, allowing your vehicle to steer.
Worn ball joints will make your steering less precise, cause vibration through the steering wheel or different noises.
The role of the struts is to support your car, dampening any vibration coming from bumps or potholes, and allowing the vehicle to steer when you turn the steering wheel.
Although rare, whenever one of your struts starts to fail, it can make clicking noises when applying the brakes.
How do you fix a clicking brake noise?
Fixing a clicking brake noise can be easy and cheap but difficult and expensive at the same time. Replacing your anti-rattle springs will cost you around $10 for parts and $30 for labor unless you can do it yourself.
Replacing worn brake shims will cost around the same as replacing your anti-rattle springs, although I also recommend getting another set of brake pads. Usually, the cheapest brake pads will come with poor quality shims, which will become noisy. I recommend going for a little more expensive pads, as they are of better quality.
If your brake pads have been installed improperly, you can drive the car to another mechanic and have him reinstall the pads correctly.
Corroded calipers can be taken out and cleaned properly with a metal brush. If any of the bolts or pin guides require replacing, this will cost you around $10 plus labor, which can be up to $50 per caliper.
Replacing worn suspension parts will be more expensive, starting from $150 for a ball joint or a sway bar, up to $700 or more for replacing a damaged strut.
While cleaning or replacing the anti-rattle springs can be a DIY job, I recommend have an experienced mechanic replace any damaged suspension components.
Is it safe to drive my car if it makes a clicking noise when braking?
If you can identify that the clicking noise is coming from rusty anti-rattle springs or brake pads, driving the car will not be a safety hazard.
However, if the noise is coming from worn suspension components, I recommend having the issue inspected and fixed as soon as possible. Driving with a broken suspension will make your car less controllable, posing a danger to other traffic participants.