Brakes Worn Metal on Metal - What Does It Mean?

By Vlad Samarin July 15, 2023
Brakes worn metal on metalBrakes worn metal on metal.
The braking system in your vehicle is vital for your safety on the road. When you hear a grinding noise while applying the brakes, it could indicate a severe problem known as "brakes worn metal on metal." This situation should never be ignored, as it makes the vehicle unsafe to drive, compromising braking performance.

Understanding Brakes Worn Metal on Metal:

Brakes worn metal on metalBrakes worn metal on metal.
New brake pads have a thick friction pad bonded to a metal backing plate. Normally, the friction material of the brake pad makes contact with the brake rotor (disc) which results in quiet braking. As you drive, the friction material of the brake pads gradually wears out.

Brakes worn metal on metal refers to a condition where the friction material of one or more brake pads has worn down completely, allowing the bare metal backing plate of the brake pad to make direct contact with the brake rotor or disc. This metal-on-metal contact results in a distinct grinding or scraping noise when the brakes are applied.

Consequences and Dangers:

Brake pad wearBrake pad wear.
When your brakes have worn down to the metal-on-metal point, the vehicle is unsafe to drive. Metal-on-metal contact significantly compromises the braking system's effectiveness. The lack of proper brake pad material between the rotor and the brake caliper results in diminished stopping power. This leads to longer stopping distances, making it more difficult to control the vehicle in emergency situations.

We have even seen a situation where a completely worn out brake pad slips and wedges between the brake rotor and the caliper bracket, resulting in the affected wheel being jammed and not being able to rotrate.
We have also seen a case where a completely worn brake pad became too thin and fell off, causing the brake caliper piston to extend too far and brake fluid to leak out, resulting in a complete failure of the braking system.

Taking Action:

If you suspect or hear the signs of brakes worn metal on metal, for safety reasons, avoid driving the vehicle until the braking system has been inspected and repaired.
Have a qualified mechanic or an auto service shop to thoroughly inspect the braking system of your vehicle. They will assess the condition of the brake pads, rotors, and other relevant components. If the brake pads are worn metal on metal, they must be replaced immediately.


To prevent the situation where brakes are worn beyond the safe limit, the braking system of your vehicle must be inspected regularly, at least twice a year or every 5,000-7,000 miles, whichever comes first. Brakes need to be serviced at the recommended by the manufacturer intervals or earlier if needed.

Brakes also need to be inspected and potentially serviced or replaced if there are signs of poor braking performance, or if you hear abnormal noises while braking, or if the brake pedal doesn't feel "right.".