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Car Care Advice

Why Does My Car Have Squeaky Brakes? (8 Likely Reasons)

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When the contact between your brake pads and the brake disc is compromised, your brakes emit a high-pitched squealing noise. Squeaky brakes are not only an annoyance but could be a sign that your brakes desperately need some TLC.

Cars have two main types of brakes; disc brakes and drum brakes. Each has its quirks and possible causes for squealing. That said, the cause of the squeaky brakes could be any number of things – and that’s what we’re here to find out. 

In this article, we’ll cover 8 possible reasons why you have squeaky brakes and what to do about it.

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Let’s jump right in!

8 Possible Reasons Behind Squeaky Brakes

Here are 8 reasons you may have squealing brakes: 

1. Exposure To Moisture

The most common cause of squealing brakes when you step on the brake pedal is moisture. If your car brakes are exposed to water, rain, or high humidity, a thin rust layer will start forming on the rotor. 

When your brakes get wet and squeal, don’t panic! That’s just normal brake noise.

When you hit the brakes, your brake pads scrape off the surface rust on the rotor, causing that awful squealing sound. 

Slight rust formation overnight is nothing to lose your head over. After a couple of miles of driving, your brakes will return to normal.

You should, however, prevent any long-term exposure of your brake pads to moisture. 

Excessive rust build-up creates imperfections on the surface of the rotor, which is transferred to the brake pads while driving. The resulting screeching or thumping sounds of squeaking brakes and possible vibrations from an uneven rotor surface are pretty unpleasant.

2. Lack Of Lubrication

Most new cars have disc brakes. Some older models still have drum brakes at the rear, and so do vintage models but all around. 

If your brake shoe- to- backing plate contact points (in drum brakes) aren’t adequately lubricated, they’ll begin to rust. The shoes will scrape against the backing plate, which creates the telltale rhythmic squeaking noise as the tires rotate.

The best way to prevent squealing noise and brake noise is to do regular maintenance and keep the contact points lubricated. 

Be sure to use high-quality lubricant on all brake pad contact points, but not on the brake pad itself. If you’re not sure how, give your mechanic a call, and they’ll put an end to the brake squealing in no time. 

Note: Don’t get brake lubricant (like brake grease) mixed up with brake fluid. Brake fluid is the hydraulic fluid in your brake lines that helps transfer braking pressure.

3. Exposure To Extreme Cold Weather

When it’s below freezing, a layer of ice can form on your brake pad. While this doesn’t affect your braking ability or safety – there’s an annoying squeal when you brake. 

Driving through dense snow or water will increase the intensity of the squeaking brakes, and the build-up layer will grow. It’ll take longer to wear off, but the icy layer and distracting squeaking sound will disappear as your noisy brakes heat up. 

The moisture can, however, cause a thin rust layer to form on your brakes, but this friction material will wear out after a bit of braking.

Thankfully, drum brakes and disc brakes that squeal when they’re cold shouldn’t be worrying — when it comes to the integrity of your brakes or the safety of your car.

4. Worn-Out Brake Pads

Squealing brakes are perfectly normal when brake pads wear down after years of use. 

Most sets of disc brakes have a wear indicator attached to the inside and will make contact with the rotor surface before the pads are completely worn. When your car brakes have a worn brake pad, you’ll endure a terrible brake squeal. 

This squeaking sound warns you about a worn brake pad, reminding you to get them changed before you lose braking integrity and cause an accident. 

Whether you prefer local or specifically popular mechanics, once you hear a brake squeal, it’s time to contact them and have your pads changed. Sometimes a rotor is too far gone, along with your thinned brake pad, and you’ll have to replace it too. 

Some modern cars’ brake systems have electronic wear indicators attached to the pad and trigger a warning light when it comes into contact with the brake rotor surface. This adds a visual warning and allows you to have your pads replaced before you have to endure brake squeak.

5. A Stuck Caliper

If you get squealing or squeaky brakes even when you’re not applying the car brakes, you could possibly have a stuck or frozen caliper. Stuck calipers in your disc brakes can happen for several reasons, from issues with the caliper slides to the caliper piston. 

In any case, it’s time to head to one of the popular mechanics near you to get the issue sorted, and put an end to those brakes squeaking, before your brakes lock up completely.

6. High Metal Content In Brake Pads

Not all brake pads are created equal. 

High-performance carbon-metallic brake pads are prone to squeaking. Brake pads with a high content of organic brake material such as resin, rubber, and Kevlar squeak the least against the braking surface. 

Semi-metallic brake pads have a high metal content pressed into the brake pad material. These metal pieces will continue to scrape against your brake disc, creating a louder ride. Bear in mind that semi-metallic brake pads are often used in high-performance applications.  

Semi-metallic brake pads are probably not the best option when looking for replacement brake pads for your day-to-day driving. Premium brake pads (like the ceramic brake pad) generate less noise and have great stopping power as well. 

7. Debris In The Braking System

Brake dust isn’t the only friction material that causes squeaking. Sand, mud, or metal debris may be lodged in the pad or rotor, scraping the pad. The more time you spend driving offroad, the more likely there’ll be debris on the braking surface — which means you’ll have more brake noise.

The easiest way to address brake squeak is to consult a knowledgeable mechanic and have them take a look at your braking system. They’ll determine if the brake squeaking results from debris when you apply the brake lever or if there’s another cause.

8. Your Personal Braking Style

If you repeatedly brake hard or ride your brakes, the heat generated will cause the surface of your brake pads to glaze. Another cause could be brake caliper failure. When your brake caliper breaks, your brake pads rub against the rotor, glazing your brake pads.

Either way, glazed brake pads no longer generate the friction needed to stop when you hit the brake pedal. They’re vulnerable to cracks or fractures, and they make a squeaking noise. As a result, you’ll need to get new brake pads.

What can you do about it?

You can check for signs of glazing by running your finger along the surface of your brake pad and trying to feel for a smooth and glassy finish. If your brake pads are glazed, get new brake pads as soon as possible.

Most importantly, if glazing or brake squeaking is a constant problem, you’ll need to rethink your braking style.

Final Thoughts

All brakes squeal from time to time. The heat generated by braking or driving through a puddle may cause your brakes to squeal. But that’s perfectly normal.

You should be concerned with noisy brakes if the squeaking is consistent or intense. For example, it might be time for new brakes if they don’t have the same stopping power they used to.

For a thorough brake repair, no one does it better than the professionals.
And that’s where RepairSmith comes in.

Contact us, and our expert technicians will fix your brake system in your own driveway!