when that brake noise probably isn’t a big problem

You slowly back out of your driveway, tap your brakes, and hear a loud grinding sound. Oh, no… Your mind starts racing. When can I get into the shop? I really don’t have time for this. They loudly grind again at the end of the street. This is embarrassing. By the time you leave your neighborhood, though, the grinding has disappeared. That was really weird. What on earth is wrong?

Later on, when you pull out of your parking space at work, the noise is back. Ugh!


Brake noises can certainly be irritating and embarrassing, but they don’t always mean that your brakes have stopped working correctly.

With your brakes, our primary concern is whether they are functioning properly: Are they safely stopping you and your vehicle? Even when they are working properly, there are a few reasons your brakes may still make noise.

The most common noise that we encounter at lowell’s is the harmless but loud phenomenon of flash rust.

Flash rust occurs when tiny rust particles form on your brake rotors. The rust particles form in small pits or grooves in your rotor. The first few times you use your brakes, they make a terrible racket as the brake pads rub against the rust. After a while, the friction from your braking rubs the rust particles away. With your pads once again meeting clean metal, the terrible racket stops.

Why does flash rust happen?

Your brake rotors are metal discs which are largely exposed to the elements. Wet road conditions or high humidity can help trigger flash rust. The rust has more chance to grow when the car sits overnight or over a weekend. In the winter, road salts also contribute to faster rusting.

How can you tell when you have flash rust? Here are some things to look for:

  • The brake noises occur a few times and then fade away.
  • The noise itself can be squealing, grinding, or groaning. It can be wake-up-the-neighbors loud or fairly quiet.
  • You usually hear the noises after the car has been sitting for a few hours (first thing in the morning, after a weekend, or after work, for example)
  • You tend to hear it more when it has been raining or snowing a lot. (Especially when the roads are slushy.)

If most of these symptoms match what is happening with you car, you likely have a flash rust issue. Your brakes are probably functioning properly despite the noise. If your noise is just intolerable, sometimes it can help to have us resurface your rotors. Resurfacing leaves fewer pits and grooves for the rust to form in and cling to.

If the noises you are hearing don’t go away or if you notice that your braking has gotten worse, that may be a sign of something wrong, and you should probably have your brakes checked over. Just call the shop, and we can schedule you for a brake inspection.

how a loaner vehicle can make your visit easier

We know that visiting a mechanic can involve a lot of complicated logistics. With all that you have going on, coordinating getting to and from the shop can be a major hassle.

  • How do you coax your grumpy relative out of bed to pick you up at the shop and take you to work?
  • Where do you wait if the waiting room is closed?
  • How do you get all of your errands completed?
  • How do you get back to the shop when your vehicle is ready? Uber? Work friend? That grumpy relative?
Not an actual loaner.

A lot of customers don’t know that we’ve offered a different option for more than 15 years: a small fleet of free and easy-to-use loaner vehicles. Instead of depending on the kindness and availability of others, we figure that it is much easier for you to just drive yourself wherever you need to go.

Here’s a brief overview of our loaner program:

  • Our loaner vehicles are well-used and decidedly un-fancy (the oldest just turned 30). But they will get you where you need to go.
  • Loaners are popular and not always available, so make sure to reserve a loaner vehicle in advance when you make your appointment. That way, we can make sure to keep one for you.
  • Here’s the elaborate process for taking a loaner: When you drop off your car, we’ll give you the keys to your reserved loaner vehicle. No paperwork. No charge.
  • If you are waiting while we service your vehicle, you can use the loaner as a kind of personal waiting room. Feel free to use the heating or air conditioning for your comfort. You can use the restroom in our lobby if needed.
  • We try to keep enough gas in the loaners for you to get around. You do not need to fill them up before returning them. (If the gas gets a little low, just put in enough to cover your personal driving needs.)
  • You can use a loaner to drive yourself home. You can take yourself to work. You can just hang out in it. Or you can use it to run errands. The main thing we ask is that you are considerate of other customers. Don’t smoke in the vehicle. If you eat in the car or run errands, make sure to clean up any resulting debris. (Just leave the vehicle like you’d like to find it.)

At lowell’s, we pride ourselves on providing a great service experience for our customers. We designed our loaner program to uncomplicate the process of getting your car fixed. Hopefully, it does just that for you!

lowells named 2021 Neighborhood Favorite by nextdoor

We are pleased and humbled that users of nextdoor have named lowell’s a Neighborhood Favorite for 2021. ( We were also a 2020 Neighborhood Favorite!)

This means that lots of different nextdoor members have recommended lowell’s to their neighbors. We really appreciate everyone who tells their friends, family, and neighbors about us, and we’ll keep working to earn your recommendations in the future. Thank you!