'91 accord made grinding sound but now sounds fine

I have a 1991 Honda Accord DX 4-door sedan, and about a week or two ago I started hearing this nasty grinding sound coming from what seemed to be my front driver sound tire. The sound would generally begin when I
pressed on the breaks, but then sometimes it would continue on even when the brakes were no longer pressed. It would do this for maybe like 30 seconds and then stop. So that was last week, but I haven't heard that sound in almost a week.
My suspicion is that it is my brake pads wearing down, but here's why i'm confused. Firstly, I had new break pads installed between 1.5 to 2 years ago. Don't they usually last a whole lot longer than that? I'm generally very gently with my cars too. Also, if it were the break pads, why would the grinding continue even when the brakes aren't being pressed, and why did the grinding noise stop almost a week ago?
And here's another unrelated question: When my car is cold (and by cold I mean hasn't been run for quite a few hours), there's a lot of creaking noise when I turn the steering wheel. It usually happens when I turn it to the left, but not always. And once the car warms up a little bit, the sound goes away. Any ideas what this might be and does it sound serious? It's been like this for a while now and my car's been running great, so I haven't been to worried about.
Thanks!
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TeGGeR® wrote

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