What to do about my whiney Honda...

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | May 01, 1992

Dear Tom and Ray:

My 1981 Honda Accord 4-door has about 80,000 miles on it. At about 30 mph, it sometimes starts emitting a high pitched whine. It usually starts on a hilly up and down stretch, but then seems to continue even on the flat. The sound seems to be coming from the outside on the left. Some passengers hear it in front, some in the rear. My mechanic took the car out and said it wasn't the tires or brakes, but couldn't tell me what it WAS. When I touch the brake, it stops. What do you think it is?

RAY: Well, Liz, whenever I hear a whining in my car, the first thing I do is check to see if my brother is riding with me. But I don't suppose that's your problem.

TOM: Your problem is a stuck brake caliper. And if your mechanic had actually taken a look at the brakes, he probably could have told you that. Just driving the car, or just looking to see if the brake linings are thick enough is not sufficient in this case.

RAY: If he had removed the calipers, he would have found that one of them--probably the left front--has a sticky slide. When the brakes get hot (for instance, when you use them a lot on hilly terrain), the metal parts expand. If you don't believe things expand when the get hot, Liz, reach into your boyfriend's shorts next time the two of you get into a hot tub. An expanded slide can stick, and not allow the brakes to release all the way. When that happens, it's like driving with the brakes slightly on.

TOM: And when the brakes are slightly on like that, the pad is so close to the disc that it vibrates and creates a high pitched noise. That's why when you touch the brakes, you stop the noise, be??cause you stop the pad from vibrating.

RAY: A rebuilt caliper ought to stop your whining noise, Liz. Now if only there was such a simple solution to the whining I hear all the time.

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