Odd clicks from front brakes

1996 Si 5 speed 258,000 Mi, original clutch. Sometimes I hear ticks or clicks from the front brakes - related to road speed, not engine speed. At first I thought warped rotors again. Nope - they’re fine. I thought it might be brake lines flexing just right under brake pressure, then rubbing rotors or something. Nope. All clear. I had one mechanic hear this only once. My wife also hears it. Sometimes two clicks, sometimes three (syncopated, repeating pattern) per wheel revolution. Nope, no stones in the treads. It only happens under certain levels of deceleration/braking. Brake harder, or let off brakes, and the clicks go away. Ideas anyone?

2 possibilities come to mind, a hard spot on the rotors or pads or rust spots caused by a salty winter, are the pads and rotors in good shape? I would assume so. Quality of materials has taken a downfall and you need a shop that deals with quality parts is my opinion, otherwise you have inferior parts that probably cause no immediate danger but represent a lack of QC

Yes, rotors and pads are in great shape. Mechanics went over the rotors with bright lights and a magnifying lens. Nothing seen. This is not the dull grinding roar you hear when you are scraping the rust off the rotors after several days of not driving.

OK, I’m not sure what a “hard spot” is, but why some days it’s two clicks and other days it’s three clicks? Wouldn’t “hard spots” stay in one place on the rotors? And why would “hard spots” require exactly the right amount of braking pressure to make clicks?

I appreciate your good guesses, but they don’t quite explain/fit the circumstances. Hey, if this were easy, I wouldn’t be posting! Lots of smart people are stumped by this one. This has been going on about a year now. This doesn’t seem to be a dangerous condition, as the brakes work just fine.

So here we are, 17 months and 9000 miles later, and I finally have a theory that I cannot refute. It isn’t the front brakes - it’s the back brakes. So, when mechanics inspected the front brakes, they were spotless.

Every time I set the parking brake, a rust ring forms around the edge of the pads. Its depth is a function of temperature, humidity, and how long the car sits still. This explains the intermittance and lack of repeatability.

Anyway, when I use the brakes (not too hard, not too soft), as the rust ring passes under the rear pads, it displaces them just enough to make a soft click. As the rust wears off from braking action, the click from a given rust ring goes away. So, if it sits in high humidity (or salty road splash) for two relatively long periods, between a short trip with little braking, the rust rings can form in such a way that they sound like three clicks per wheel revolution, instead of one or two. This explains the syncopation.

I am going to quit worrying about this noise! Thanks to all who tried to form a workable theory!

So, at 268,000 miles, I replaced the (original) clutch, due to noisy thrust bearings, the timing belt (3rd time), the water pump, the tie rod ends (original boots were torn), AND the back brake pads and rotors. $2,100. Voila! The clicking noise has RETURNED -with a vengeance! So now I’m considering other possibilities such as CV joints, and/or wheel bearings, but why still only when braking lightly? I’m also back to worrying about this!

It could just be a pad moving around very slightly in the caliper. I once had a similar symptom, and that idea was floated.