Your brakes are one of the most important parts of your car, and this much is known by anybody who has driven a vehicle at any point. It’s your brakes that keep your car from careening off when you make sharp turns, and it’s your brakes that stop your vehicle at the stoplights. Needless to say, brake maintenance can save you from a lot of potential disasters.
The problem is that no matter how regular you are with it, unexpected issues can arise. You could have something stuck in your brakes, and you would not know until you test them.
How can I tell if something is stuck in my brakes?
This problem is likely to occur in the summer when the roads get gritty and rough.
It’s pretty easy to tell when something is stuck between your brakes – for one, and your brakes lose efficiency. They could become hard to use in some cases. Another telltale sign that something is stuck between your brakes is the noise.
Luckily for most drivers, you do not even have to be in a position where your brakes are needed before you notice this. The friction between the stone and the brake structure would make your car tires emit a rancorous high-pitched sound – ranging from a grinding sound to a squealing sound, depending on how large the rock is (you might even be surprised to notice that the rock is so tiny). When you hear these sounds, it is time to check on your brakes and tires for debris.
Can a rock damage a rotor?
In most cases, a debris problem in the axis of your wheels is just a tiny rock stuck between your rotor and the rotor shield. Excepting the disc brake system, your shield stands as the first line of defense for your brakes. It helps the brakes to contain the heat energy generated by the system from the suspension.
You should not worry too much if you occasionally get a rock stuck in between. Although the noise is unpleasant, and you probably wince in frustration every time you hear it, it is not likely to damage your rotor. The reason for this is that the rocks lodged between the system are usually not as hard as the system itself, and it might even end up dislodging itself.
However, a stuck object can wear the rotor prematurely on some rare occasions. Therefore whenever you notice that something is stuck in your brakes, you should make sure it’s taken care of as soon as possible.
You should also be worried if the rock is stuck between your calipers and the wheel. The rock will most definitely hurt your wheels.
It would help if you also focused on removing the rock regardless. Apart from the unpleasant sound, cumulative wear on the rotor should not be something you encourage with your laxity.
Related content: Do Brake Rotors Come In Pairs? (Answered)
How do you remove a rock from the brakes?
The first thing to do is take off your wheels since the problem is most likely behind the structure. This is easy: all you have to do is unscrew the nuts and remove them (of course, you jack up the car first).
After the wheels come off, you should check between the dust shield and rotor and also look towards the pads where the caliper is mounted.
If you are unsure what the dust shield is, is the shield located behind the brake discs. Its role is to protect the brake rotors, pads, and calipers from debris or water. It will also protect the suspension system and other drivetrain parts from the heat generated when braking.
The rock is most likely between the dust shield. Removing it from there is easy because the dust shield is easily bendable. As it’s most likely a tiny pebble, you do not have to bend the shield out of shape before it gets off.
When the shield is bent, the pebble will fall off easily (you would notice that it would look burnt off and shaved because of the friction between your shield and the rotor).
What does it sound like when a rock is in my brakes?
It depends on how big your vehicle is and how big the pebble is. Different size cars emit varying specific pitches, but one thing all these sounds have in common is that they are mostly loud and high-pitched, the kind of sound that would set off alarm bells in your mind and make you stop your car immediately.
It could vary from a grinding sound to a high-pitched squeal. This is probably why it is easy to diagnose and identify the problem and where it’s coming from.
Can I drive my car if a rock is stuck in the brakes?
If there is a problem with your brakes, the first thing you should do is repair them to the best of your abilities because the brakes are one of the most crucial parts of the car.
Yes, it is possible to drive the car still, but no, it’s not advisable. Apart from the lack of efficiency and the potential damage it might cause to your brakes, it is also very loud and could attract the attention of traffic enforcers (and other drivers on the road who would think your tires are about to come off).
Although we have stated that a small rock is unlikely to spoil your brakes on a short drive, we have to stress that leaving it in for too long while still driving the car would not be a good idea.
Related content: Do Brake Pads Come In Pairs? (Answered)
Can I remove the rock without taking the wheels off?
For the most part, no, you cannot. Even in routine brake cleaning maintenance, you have to remove your wheels. This is because, for procedures like this, you have to reach the brake system, which is always covered by the wheels.
The removal of the rock is relatively easy if that is all you are bothered about, though. Most of the time, all it takes is to check for the position of the rock and bend the dust shield so that it falls off (you might have to adjust the position of the wheel if the rock is lodged somewhere above so that it easily falls off).
However, if you want to try without removing the wheels, you can do it by using a pressure washer. Add some cleaning solution, and you might get a chance to dislodge the rock.
Rocks in your brakes are relatively easy to deal with, but most people panic and run to their dealers and mechanics because they think it is something beyond them. If you follow the simple steps outlined above, the rock in your brakes will be removed in no time, and you can enjoy your drives again.
Depending on your location and repair shop, removing a rock from the brakes will cost you over $100. In this article, you learned how to do it for free!