Please help me help my parents

My mom has a 2000 Toyota Solara. The car is making a noise on the front passenger side near the front tire. It sounds as if she is dragging something made of metal. An old neighbor who has been our trusted mechanic for years looked at it. Although he heard the noise, he couldn’t find any problems. He also noticed that the noise stops when the brakes are used. Still, it sounds like something is wrong. My parents, who live in Pittsburgh, are going to drive this car to see me in DC then my brother in NY in a couple of weeks. I am leery about my mom driving this car anywhere much less to DC and NY. Do you have any idea what might be wrong?

Thanks and love the show!

Since none of us can hear the noise, everything will be merely speculation on the part of anyone who responds, but…my first suspicion would be that the brake wear indicator is trying to tell your parents that it is time to replace the brake pads.

Most folks would describe the sound of the brake wear indicator as being akin to the sound of a cricket chirping, but I suppose that it could sound like a piece of metal dragging–because that is exactly what it is!
The brake wear indicators are actually tiny pieces of metal embedded far down in the brake pad material and that is exposed when the brakes are almost worn out. They drag against the brake rotors in order to give an auditory warning that the pads need to be replaced VERY soon.

The best clue that this may be the brake wear indicators is that the noise from these devices does cease when you apply the brakes. I suggest strongly that you tell her to take the car to a trusted mechanic (NOT to Midas, Meineke, Monro, Sears, Pep Boys, AAMCO, or any other chain operation) within the next few days for a thorough check of the brake system.

And, if it turns out that the brakes are fine, hopefully her mechanic can figure out what is causing this noise.

I agree 100% with what VDCdriver said. Tell your parents it’s time to have the front brake pads checked.

When you say a mechanic “looked at it,” what does that mean? Did anyone actually inspect the brakes? The car has to go up on a lift and have the wheels removed to properly measure the brake pad thickness.

I’m in agreement that it sounds like a brake problem. Sometimes people who inspect brakes will not pull the wheels. They will eyeball the pad through openings in the wheels and guesstimate it.

The problem with that is that the outer brake pad may be at least tolerable but the inner could be worn clean out.