I have a 2000 Honda Civic VP with about 75,000 miles on it.
Recently, I've noticed a high-pitched grinding noise coming from what
sounds like the front end wheel wells -- mostly the right, but
occasionally the left as well. It seems to be random/intermittent...
I'd say it happens maybe 50% of the time I drive, and it can happen at
any speed. Occasionally it happens when I make a sharp turn, but most
times it doesn't. The noise will always stop completely if I so much
as tap my brakes. There's no vibration and it doesn't affect my
driving or deceleration in any way.
I know that a grinding noise that only happens when you brake means
you should replace the pads, but does a noise that *stops* when you
brake mean the same thing? Could it be my wheel bearings or something
that needs a little grease?
Also, unrelatedly (I think), there's a really loud groaning sort of
noise that happens when I'm driving in reverse. It almost sounds like
a cat meowing/whining, but REALLY loud. Happens about 80% of the time
I'm in reverse, and it goes away once I'm in drive. It has no effect
on driving, as far as I can tell, but it sounds kinda scary. Totally
clueless on that one.
Any advice you could provide would be very much appreciated. I've
been overcharged/misled at repair shops more than a few times (as a
single girl in her 20s -- I still get mechanics who tell me to "just
get your parents to pay" for car repair work!) so I'd love to go in
with a rough idea of what it could be, just so I don't have to wade
through a bunch of offers for stuff I don't need, and this seemed like
a good place to go to start gathering info.
Thanks in advance for your help!
All Hondas (even automatics) make that noise in reverse, especially if
you back uphill. Your brakes are telling you they need to have new pads
installed. That part is in the owner's manual. It's the first place you
need to look.
From your description it sounds like the brakes are warning you to pay
attention to them. If ignored long they will grind into the disks and make
it much more expensive.
I understand what you are saying about mechanics taking advantage of women.
Not all do, but many of those who do are really outrageous. One who was
trying to cheat a woman in the alt.autos.volvo forum out of $5000 years ago
still makes me angry. So take your sweetest smile (the one with the will of
steel behind it!) and take your car to your friendly Honda dealerand to a
few brake places. Nearly all brake shops will do a free inspection in hopes
of getting your business. Probably none will let you watch closely while the
wheels are removed and the brake pads removed, but most will let you see on
the car what they are talking about. Those that don't are a little suspect
but not necessarily dishonest.
What you should see and hear:
*"The front brake pads are worn out." The pads are steel plates about the
size of the palm of your hand with biscuits of "friction material" bonded to
them. The thickness of the friction material is the issue - they should be
about a quarter inch thick when new and are worn out when they get down to a
couple millimeters thick. One or more pads should have a metal "cricket" - a
scraper that makes noise when the pads are worn out. That should explain
some of the sounds you are hearing, like the high pitched grinding.
*"The rear pads (brake shoes in your model if the rear brakes are drum
brakes) need to be deglazed." Roughing up the friction surfaces are the
usual place to start in stopping the groaning you hear when backing up.
Noises and soft pedals are the hard parts of brake work, so follow your
instincts as to which places are likely to provide service if the noise
comes back a week later.
What you may see and hear:
*"The front calipers need to be rebuilt or replaced." If most of the shops
say this, it's probably true. If a few do, be skeptical. Uneven wear on the
pads is the big clue; if some pads are worn visibly more than others or
especially if any are worn at an angle, the calipers need work. If any need
it all should be done on the theory they are all exposed to the same thing.
(If you have rear drums they aren't likely to need this.)
*"The rear brakes need to be cleaned up" (may be the same caliper situation
as the front if they are disk brakes in the rear). Again, the howling thing.
*"The rear pads/shoes are worn out." Not expected - the fronts wear faster
than the rears, but dragging calipers can wear rear pads rapidly. Seeing is
*"The front disks need to be "turned" (shaved on a lathe), but if they are
thinner than the minimum they need to be replaced." They should be able to
measure the disks on the car and tell you whether they are too thin. It is
standard procedure to turn disks when pads are replaced and drums when shoes
are replaced. If you see gnarly ground areas on the disk it needs to be
replaced because the pads wore out - you will see that on the pad, too.
*"The brakes need to be bled." Hmm... maybe, maybe not. If a shop passes the
other sanity checks, believe them on this. Otherwise it can be another way
of getting into your wallet.
What you should NOT hear:
*"The master cylinder needs to be overhauled or replaced." None of your
symptoms suggest master cylinder trouble - that always shows up as the pedal
not behaving normally... soft, sinks to the floor, things like that.
*"Your ABS needs something." Same thing - nothing suggests ABS trouble.
*"We always do all four wheels, including the calipers and wheel cylinders.
Anything else is not safe." Yeah, they might go broke without suckers to
keep them in business.
For each shop, get a written estimate and ignore dire warnings about your
brakes being likely to fail at any moment or that they can't legally put the
car back together. Well, if a brake pad is down to the metal or the matching
disk is chewed up that may be true, but otherwise they have to return your
car as you brought it in with disclaimers on the estimate. Plead that you
have to pick up your baby from wherever and will be right back (insert sweet
smile here) then go on to the next shop. If one gives you good answers and
your instincts are that they are being straight with you, you can stick with
them. The Honda dealer may be more expensive once you get into calipers, but
the genuine Honda pads and disks are better than what any of the brake shops
will want to sell you and are well worth the small premium in price.
For even more info, see http://tegger.com/hondafaq/faq.html#brakes
That was unbelievably helpful. Thank you so, so much! I took my car
in for an estimate this morning. Apparently just the front pads need
to be replaced; the crazy loud yowling noise is just the back brakes
being wet (?!).. indeed, it seems to be a normal thing with Hondas.
Huh. So much for not startling everyone in parking garages :)
I really can't thank you enough for all the information. I printed it
out & will keep it in my glovebox. You probably saved me a boatload
of cash, time and trouble. Cheers!
Motorsforum.com is a website by car enthusiasts for car enthusiasts. It is not affiliated with any of the car or spare part manufacturers or car dealers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.