Reasons Behind Your Squeaking Brakes (Diagnoses & Solution)

A high-pitched squeal that doesn’t stop while you’re driving is usually a built-in wear indicator that tells you your brake pads need to be replaced. As the pads wear down and get thinner, a small metal tab touches the rotor surface like a needle on a record to let you know it’s time to get new pads. But sometimes, even when your brakes work well, they squeak and make other annoying sounds. What makes brakes squeak? How can you fix the noise your brakes are making? Let’s talk about brakes that squeak and what can be done to fix them.

Several reasons could be making your brakes squeak, and it’s crucial to figure out what it is and how to solve it.

Contaminated Pads And Rotors

Mud, dust, or other dirt on the pads or rotors of your brakes is a common reason they squeal. This can happen if you drive your car in different conditions or if it sits for a long time collecting dust. Most of the time, the problem can be fixed by spraying the surface with cleaner or sanding it down. It could also go away on its own after you use the brakes a few times and let the debris get wiped away by the friction between the pads and rotors.

Rust On Brake Rotors

If you wake up and hear something that doesn’t sound right, it’s probably nothing to worry about. This sound is more of a grating noise than a squeak. Your car has been in the rain, snow, or humidity all night. When water gets into your brakes, it’s easy for a thin layer of rust to form on the rotors. This can make your brakes grind or squeal when you apply them. The good news is that driving normally can usually fix the rust. You can also park your car inside to keep moisture from getting into the brakes. Or, your local mechanic can easily file away the rust.

Insufficient Lubrication

The squealing sound coming from your car’s drum brakes may result from not enough lubrication at the contact points between the shoes and the drum. In the absence of lubrication, the shoes will begin to rub on the backing plate, resulting in a squealing sound. If you check for traces of this kind of scraping in areas where the bare metal is exposed, you can typically figure out where the problem is coming from. A simple application of brake grease to the backing plate where the piston meets the shoes can either fix noisy drum brakes or prevent them from happening in the first place.

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Metallic Brake Pads

Due to better parts and safety features, cars have gotten heavier over time. Because of this, brake pads are now made of metals and ceramics. These materials slow down heavier vehicles better than the ones before them. But they also make the brakes noisier. Most of the time, this isn’t something to worry about. Some squeaky brakes may be caused by the material of the brake pad itself. When the pad touches the rotor, it can sometimes squeak or grind. 

Most of the time, the sound will stop when the brake pad wears past that spot or layer, but if it bothers you, you might want to choose pads with less metal in them. Although organic pads are the most budget-friendly option, they aren’t excellent and don’t last long. They also make a lot of dust. Ceramic brake pads are the third choice, and some say they are the best in terms of quality and performance.

Thinning Or Worn Brake Pads

Worn brake pads are the most apparent reason why brakes make noise. This is because brake pads are made with a metal indicator that makes a high-pitched sound when they get close to being worn down to their minimum thickness. If you’re driving an older car and you hear squeaking when you brake, your brake pads are starting to wear out. That annoying screeching lets you know it’s time to get new ones. If you don’t fix the problem and the constant squeaking turns into grinding, you’ll probably need new brake pads and rotors. This can make your next brake service cost more than twice as much.

Braking Style

Sometimes you have to slam on the brakes. Whether someone pulls out in front of you or you take too long to move when traffic stops. When you brake hard, your brake pads wear out faster, and your brake discs and rotors warp because of the heat. Both of these things make your brakes start to squeak. When you brake hard and fast over and over, especially at high speeds, your brake pads can get too hot and get covered with a smooth, hard glaze. Glazing can also happen when you ride the brakes downhill. The constant friction causes a temperature spike higher than standard brake pads can handle. When brake pads get too smooth, they can’t make enough friction to stop the car. They could also split or break. Because of this, you’ll have to get them replaced.

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To see if your brake pads are glazing, run your finger along the surface to check for a smooth, glassy finish. When replacing glazed brake pads, you’ll also need to clean or resurface the rotors and check the calipers and hydraulic system for mechanical problems or failure. If your windows keep fogging up, you might need to change the way you brake.

Steps To Fix Squeaking Brakes

Image Source: wagnerbrake.com

When the problem is caught early, fixing your squeaking brakes should be easy and cheap. There are many ways to fix squeaking brakes, from simple fixes to complete replacements.

Here are the steps to take to fix the most common problems that make your brakes squeak;

  1. Start by lubricating with grease.
  2. Shims can be used to stop that squeaky sound.
  3. Change or fix the brake pads and rotors.

Squeaking Sound From Your New Car

When you buy a new car, you might notice that the brakes make a squeaking sound. Don’t worry. This doesn’t mean you have to buy new ones right away. Most likely, they need some time. The car braking process can be complicated, but generally, you speed up to about 60 mph and then hit the brakes hard until you’re going about 10 mph. About eight to ten times, this process should be done again. Doing this removes the transfer layer on the pads so that they are all the same. This could prevent future brake problems. Make sure you do it when the roads are quiet, and in a safe place so you don’t cause an accident. Squeaking can happen even if you don’t step on the pedal. If that’s the case, you should take your car to the shop immediately before the rotors get damaged.

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Wrapping Up

Even though squeaking brakes can be annoying, they make you aware of their condition. If you didn’t hear the grinding, you wouldn’t know that your car’s brakes are in bad shape. It could be any of the things listed above, like dirt, rust, worn pads, the material of the pad, not enough grease, or the way you brake. Neglecting it will cost you more money later, and if you don’t fix the noise, it could become dangerous for you and everyone else. Because of this, you don’t want to take any chances when it comes to your brakes. If the noise lasts more than a day, you should have a trusted mechanic look at your car.

FAQs

How much does it cost to fix squeaky brakes?

A simple inspection should cost between $88 and $111, depending on the area’s labor costs. Rotors cost around $400. Meanwhile, calipers cost around $600 to $900.

Why are my brakes squeaking at low speed?

Dirt or debris stuck in the brakes can also cause them to squeal at low speeds. This happens when a part of the brakes rubs against something else, making a high-pitched sound. When going faster, the rubbing happens faster, which can cause a different frequency that is inaudible.

Why is my car still squeaking after replacing pads?

Most new pads are rough and sometimes have protective materials that can make noise. This brake pad squeal will disappear after some wear, sometimes called a “bedding process.”

Why do cheap brake pads squeal?

Brake pads can vary significantly in quality, with some of the cheapest ones having an excessively high metal content. These pieces of metal can cause a high-pitched brake squeal by dragging on the rotor.

Can bad calipers cause squeaking?

If the caliper gets stuck, the pads can be pushed against the rotor repeatedly, making a grinding or squealing sound. The same happens when a wheel cylinder gets stuck and pushes the shoes against the drums.