When stopping the car at moderate speed, the rear brakes make a low pitched grinding sound. i had them looked at by a mechanic who cleaned them and said the parts were good. But still there is the grinding. this doesn't seem normal.
Also there is a smell of fuel in the cabin upon starting the car and then it dissipates.
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When you had the drums off, did you inspect the shoes for excessive wear? And How do the drums look? Are they grooved? Can you be more specific about the loud noise. Does it sound like a grinding noise, or a screeching or pulsating noise. Is it lower pitch or high pitch?
Yeah, bad brake pads and now because you let it get to the point of grinding, you'll probably need a new rotor or drum too. When the brakes start to wear down and they need changing there are wear indicators built into the pads that start to make a high pitched squealing sound. If you ignore it for to long then it starts to grind because all the brake material is gone and you are now hitting metal on metal when you try to stop.
It's either the brakes or the wheel bearing. Remove the brake rotor and check for grooves or scoring then rotate the hub assembly. You'll find a problem with one of the two. A growl that changes with vehicle speed is usually a bearing whereas brakes usually change sound as you apply low to moderate brake pressure.
I had some issues with my 2005 explorer left rear. It was making a creepy old door sound at low speeds and then a high pitched whisel at high speeds. That turned out to be a broken wheel bearing and had it replaced. Note each wheel has two wheel bearings. After that a new noise developed that sounded like metal scraping/ grinding metal. It end up being the brake dust cover got bent when they replaced the bearing and it was rubbing something, the fix for that was bending it so it didn't rub. I hope this helps.
from your description it is possible that the low brake pad warning tag is activated indicating tat the brake pads are worn out
it is a small tag that rubs on the disc just before the pads damage the rotor
as sound travels it could be a rear wheel with the problem
to check , take the vehicle to an accredited brake specialist shop and have the pad thickness checked
to be safe the thickness has to be 1/8 " or better