My Brakes Are "Metal to Metal:" What Does That Mean?

My Mechanic Said My Brakes Are “Metal to Metal:” What Does That Mean?

“Metal to metal” describes brake pads or shoes that have worn through all of their friction material. This means that the metal backing of the pad or shoe rubs on the rotor or drum, which is also made of metal. Brakes that reach this extreme are not only dangerous but require an expensive repair. In this article, we'll review a few signs of brakes that are nearing the "metal-to-metal," and how you can prevent them from being totally shot.   

Signs and Symptoms

Usually when brakes go “metal to metal,” you’ll hear it first. There will be a noticeable, low-pitched, grinding sound when braking. This sound is often accompanied by a vibration in the steering wheel, that tends to be especially prevalent at low speeds and long, slow stops. You may also notice:
  • that your stopping distance increases
  • that you have less control when turning
  • that you have to apply an immense amount of pressure on the brake pedal to bring the car to a complete stop
Continuing to drive once brakes go metal to metal will only worsen these symptoms-- and quickly increase your repair bill. If you wait until the pad has been worn to the anti-squeal shim, you’re going to be looking at a very expensive fix- anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand of dollars, depending on what you drive and if any peripheral parts were damaged.

Preventative Maintenance

When the friction material has worn out, both the pad backing and the rotor will wear away very quickly. Rotors will eventually wear to below the minimum thickness even if the pads do not go metal to metal. However, letting the pads wear beyond minimum thickness will quicken the need for rotor replacement.  Rotors that could have been machinable before the brakes went metal to metal may need to be replaced. Brake calipers are another component that can be destroyed if you continue to drive on bad brakes. Once a pad is ejected or worn too thin, the caliper piston can hyper-extend and come out of place, causing brake fluid to leak. If this happens, the calipers must be replaced. The calipers are not normally replaced during a brake job, so this is an extra expense that could have been avoided.

At V&F

Our expert mechanics use latest diagnostic equipment, and high-quality CARQUEST auto parts, to get your brakes back in shape. Plus, our auto repair services are backed by an industry-leading 3 year / 36,000-mile warranty on parts and labor. Call us today at (413) 314-2280 or schedule an appointment online.  

Written by Developer Autoshop