Car Sounds Like It’s Dragging Something – What Could Be Wrong?

Sounds in vehicles are important because they can tell you when something is wrong. Why does your car sound as though it's dragging something? We researched this question and have informative answers to share. 

If your car sounds like it's dragging something, the noise could be caused by a stuck brake caliper or brake drum. When you take your foot off the brake, the brake drum might not completely release, resulting in the dragging noise you hear.

Any noise coming from your vehicle might be due to the fact that you're ignoring warning signs on your dashboard. Continue reading as we decode car noises and how to prevent them.

Car burns rubber off its tires, Car Sounds Like It's Dragging Something - What Could Be Wrong?

Types Of Car Noises

When you hear unfamiliar sounds coming from your vehicle, don't ignore them. Seasoned drivers understand what these noises mean. However, inexperienced drivers might be at a loss about what these noises mean and what to do about them.

You might hear three different types of noises coming from the vehicle.

Car brake repairing in garage

Dragging Noise

The dragging noise you hear coming from your vehicle could be due to a brake caliper that isn't releasing.

The brake caliper could seize when you take your foot off the brake pedal. In turn, the brake pad stays in contact with the rest of the mechanism, making it wear down faster. 


To stop the noise from recurring and reduce the car's fuel consumption, have the brake caliper replaced by a mechanic.

Check out these calipers on Amazon.


Another irritating sound you might hear coming from your vehicle could be a thumping one. It usually comes from the brake rotors that are warped or build-up of pad material on the rotor.


Cleaning the area or straightening the brake rotors might not be the ideal solution. To avoid a recurrence of the sound, replace the brake rotors with new ones.


Another annoying sound you might hear from the engine could be squealing. It could mean that the tabs attached to the brake pads are exposed, or the backing of the brake pads is grinding on the spinning rotor. For your safety, don't ignore this squealing sound in your vehicle. 


To resolve this issue, you'll need to install new brake pads. 

Have a look at these brake pads on Amazon.

Watch the following video to identify the noise you might hear from your car, its cause, and the solution.

Other Causes Of Car Noises

Although, brake pads seem to be the primary cause of noise in the car, there are other culprits, including:


When you hear a grinding sound, check the alternator to avoid being stuck on a road with a dead battery. A worn-out alternator won't charge the car battery or power the car's electrical system.

Water Pump

A damaged water pump will make a grinding noise when the engine is running. Don't leave this unattended, because your car might overheat. Make sure you have a mechanic replace or repair it to avoid further damage.

CV Joint

Another vital part of your car is the CV joint. Once it's worn, you will hear noises when you slow down or make tight turns.

It can cause grave damage if it fails when you're driving the car. Schedule an appointment for your vehicle to be serviced.

Air Conditioning

It might seem strange, but when an AC compressor is damaged, you'll hear a grinding sound when the AC is on. Ensure that you also get it repaired.

How Do Brake Calipers Work?

Brakes can be either drums or discs. The disc brake systems use brake pads, rotors, pistons, and calipers. They must work in unison to ensure the car stops when required.

Car brake disk with red caliper

When you put your foot on the brake pedal, pressurized brake fluid is sent to the calipers, causing them to clamp on the brake pads to the rotor.

Some vehicles might have floating calipers, while others have fixed ones. The fixed calipers are on one side and use pistons to clamp the brake pads down. Floating calipers move the brake pads and push the calipers further from the rotors.

Signs Of Bad Brake Calipers

Cleaning car brake pad and disc with caliper

Noises from your car aren't the only indicators that tell when something is wrong. To detect faulty parts in your car, observe how it behaves on the road as well.

If you suspect that your calipers are faulty, check if you've noticed the following signs.

  • Reduced brake power
  • The vehicle seems to pull to one side
  • Leaking brake fluid
  • The brakes seem to be engaged always

What Causes Brakes To Drag

Now that we've established that stuck brake drums or calipers cause the dragging sound, let's look at other causes. The dragging sound might be due to:

  • Worn or broken springs on the drum brakes.
  • Corroded caliper piston, bushings, or mounting pins
  • Frozen emergency brake cables 
  • Overextended self-adjusters
  • Overtightened shoe sets
  • Broken return spring
  • Defective lining on brake drums
  • Clogged hoses
  • Loose anchor pins
  • Sticky pull cable
  • Old seals on the front disc brakes
  • A blocked master cylinder

The above issues could occur due to poor or irregular vehicle maintenance. Therefore, to avoid guessing what could be causing the dragging sound in your car, ensure that it's serviced regularly. 

Mechanic fasten the wheel support of the old car with a wrench

Does A Disc Cleaner Eliminate Brake Noise?

Cleaning the brake parts is a partial solution to eliminating unnecessary noises. A disc cleaner can eliminate brake noise by lubricating and removing any build-up on the brake parts. You can use the cleaner on the whole system without disassembling it.

Check out this brake cleaner on Amazon.

Here's a video on how to use brake cleaner and the expected results.

Does Brake Fluid Eliminate Brake Noise?

No, it doesn't. Brake fluid is for the brakes' hydraulic system. Whether clean or dirty, it doesn't affect the rotors or calipers.

However, be sure to change the brake fluid after the recommended period on your car's manual. If you don't have the manual at hand, change the brake fluid after three years. If you use your vehicle often, change the fluid every 45,000 miles.

How Much Does It Cost To Repair The Brake System?

The cost of repairing a brake system will depend on what needs to be repaired or replaced. The repair costs range from $300 to $800. The cost includes labor, cost of the required parts, and price per axle.

How Often Should You Have Your Brake System Serviced?

The service frequency of your brake system will depend on a few factors, including:

  • Your driving habits
  • Your environment 
  • The quality of the part materials

Technically, the brakes should be changed after 25,000 to 65,000 miles and the rotors between 30,000 to 70,000 miles. However, the above factors could change the stipulated period.

How Long Do Brake Calipers Last?

Ideally, brake calipers are supposed to last for 75,000 to 100,000 miles. You can translate this figure to ten years.

Unfortunately, this does not apply to all vehicles. The lifespan of the calipers will depend on how you maintain or drive your vehicle.

Cost Replacement Of Brake Calipers?

The type of brake calipers you need will impact the cost. For the front calipers, expect to pay $85 to $110 for each replacement. You will pay another $90 to $110 for each rear caliper. 

Ensure that you go for high-quality brake calipers with the best warranty. Remember that brake calipers are meant to last as long as the vehicle.

Signs That You Need To Change Rotors & Brake Pads 

Not all car owners have brand new cars. Therefore, you can use other signs to know when it's time to change rotors and brake pads. Signs that your car needs new brakes are:

  • The brake pad indicator lights come on
  • Sounds from brakes when driving or stopping
  • Vibrations when you the brakes
  • Thin brakes
  • The vehicle takes longer to stop

Can You Change The Brake Pads Only?

Absolutely! But please remember it will depend on the condition of your rotors. If your rotors still have the required thickness, change the brake pads alone. 

The required rotor thickness is specified by each manufacturer, and it should be maintained. Once the rotors get to the discard thickness, replace them.

Keep in mind that experts advise changing the rotors and brake pads at the same time because the new brake pads might not fit the old rotors due to their specific wear patterns.

Final Thoughts

A dragging noise from your car will indicate the state of your brake caliper or drum. The sound won't go away by simply rolling up the window.

Have your car diagnosed by an expert once you hear unusual noises. Prevention is better than the cure, so replace what needs to be replaced and don't skimp on the costs.

For more information and tips, read the following posts:

Loud Humming Noise When Driving- What Could Be Wrong?

Why Is My Car Engine Shaking (AndHow To Fix It)

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