Why Your Brakes Are Making Noise? Stop the Squeak! 

why your brakes are making noise

Do you cringe every time you apply the brakes and hear that high-pitched squeaking or squealing sound? Those noisy brakes or squeaky brakes can be super annoying, but they’re trying to tell you something important.

Brake squeak is your car’s way of saying service is needed. Ignoring squeaky brakes risks damage, decreased stopping power, and potentially dangerous brake failure.

This article explores the common reasons behind brake noise and squeaking brakes. We’ll also cover how to diagnose and fix the problem yourself or know when it’s time to take your car in.

Let’s get to the bottom of the mystery behind squeaking brakes and keep you safe on the road!

Why Brakes Start to Squeak?

Brake squeal or squeaking noises tend to happen for two main reasons:

  1. Worn brake pads. As the brake pads wear down, their material breaks down and the brake eventually starts grinding on the rotor. This causes vibration and chatter = squeak!
  2. Glazing of the brake pads. Over time, the transfer material that allows the brake pads to grip the rotor properly glazes over from heat and use. The smooth glazed surface causes chirping and squeaking.

Other potential causes include:

  • Rusted or corroded brake rotors
  • Brake dust and debris buildup
  • Damaged calipers or brake hardware
  • Lack of lubrication allowing vibration

So in most cases, squeaky brakes come down to worn brake components that need replacement or servicing to operate smoothly again.

Now let’s look closer at the specific reasons brakes might start to squeak.

Worn Out Brake Pads

The most common cause of brake squeal is that the brake pads are worn out. Brake pads have built-in wear indicators that make a shrieking noise when the pad material wears down to a certain point.

This lets you know it’s time to replace your brake pads. Driving on pads past the wear limit will damage rotors.

As brake pads wear down, vibrations and squeaking can also occur as the caliper pistons start contacting the rotor directly. This indicates the pads need to be replaced immediately.

Glazed Brake Pads

Over time and use, the pads can become glazed with a glossy, hard buildup on the friction surface.

This glazing prevents the brake pads from making proper contact with the rotors. The lack of grip results in brake squeaking and decreased braking performance.

Glazed brake pads need to be sanded or replaced to restore proper braking. Be aware that some high-performance pad compounds are more prone to glazing.

Rusted or Corroded Brake Rotors

Brake rotors can become coated in rust after the vehicle sits overnight or during winter weather. As you brake, the brake pads scrape against the rusty rotors causing vibrations and squeaking.

Rust buildup on the rotors causes uneven brake pad transfer and friction. This worsens the squealing brakes.

Brake Dust and Debris

The brake pads and rotors get extremely hot during use. This causes debris and dust to form on the brake components.

As contaminants build up, they can cause uneven friction and vibrations between the brake pads and rotors. This leads to squeaking brakes when you press the brake pedal.

Brake Hardware Issues

The various hardware parts of the brakes such as slide pins, shims, and clips can wear over time. This allows movement and vibration of the brake caliper.

Damaged brake hardware can make squeaking noises when you use the brakes due to the excess movement of components.

Lack of Lubrication

Proper lubrication reduces friction between all the movable parts in the brake system. Without enough grease, the brake components grind and vibrate against each other.

Brakes start squeaking due to the metal-on-metal contact without proper lubrication.

Now that you know why brakes might be squeaking, let’s go over how to pinpoint the problem area.

How to Diagnose Squeaky Brakes?

Finding the faulty brake component making the noise is key to stopping the annoying squeaking. Here are tips for diagnosing the issue:

how to diagnose squeaky brakes

Isolate the Location of the Squeak

Pay attention to whether the squeaking is coming from:

  • The front or the rear brakes
  • Both sides or just one side
  • If it happens when you press the brake pedal or after stopping

This can help narrow down the problematic part of the brake system.

For example, rear disc brakes tend to wear faster than fronts and are more prone to squeaking.

Inspect the Brake Components

Visually examine the following areas:

  • Brake pads for thickness and wear indicators
  • Brake rotors for uneven wear, grooves, and rust
  • Brake caliper pistons, slides, and seals for leaks and sticking
  • Brake hardware like clips and anti-rattle springs for damage

Look between the wheel spokes for signs of brake wear while rotating the tire. If something looks beyond cleaning or fixing, make note to replace it.

Seek Professional Diagnosis

If you’re still uncertain of the squeaking cause after inspection, have a certified mechanic diagnose the issue. Describe in detail what type of noise you hear and when.

They have the experience, tests, and tools to pinpoint even difficult to find brake problems and recommend the correct repairs.

Now let’s go over how to fix some of the most common causes of those annoying squealing brakes.

How to Stop Brake Squeal?

A variety of DIY solutions and repairs can quiet noisy brakes depending on what’s causing the issue:

how to stop brake squeal

Replace Worn Brake Pads

When brake pad material is worn down near or past the thickness specifications, squeaking is inevitable and it’s time for replacement.

Look for wear indicator grooves cut into the brake pads. If they are flush with the pad surface, the pads are too thin and require replacement.

Machining rotors is recommended when installing new brake pads for proper break-in.

Replace or Resurface Rotors

If the rotors have too much grooving and uneven wear, they should be replaced along with the brake pads.

Thoroughly clean rusty rotors with brake cleaner spray before inspection to assess their condition accurately.

Glazing on rotor surfaces can sometimes be removed through resurfacing to restore a smooth friction surface.

Clean and Lubricate Brake Components

A good cleaning and lubing of brake parts is inexpensive maintenance to target squeaks.

Use brake cleaner spray to remove built up brake dust, road grime, and rust from hardware and components.

Apply high temperature caliper and slide pin grease to lubricate those components. Don’t use grease on the brake pad and rotor surfaces.

Refurbish Glazed Brake Pads

Lightly sanding away glazed material can restore brake pad performance, avoiding a replacement.

Use 100-120 grit sandpaper and keep the pad surface even.

Then properly break-in the refurbished pads with a series of hard stops to transfer fresh friction material.

Adjust Calipers and Hardware

Sticking caliper slides prevent even pad wear and cause squeaking. Clean and lubricate pins so the caliper can move freely.

Inspect anti-rattle clips and shims making sure they are in place. Replace any severely worn or missing pieces. This keeps the hardware from vibrating.

Addressing these common issues should take care of brake squeaking. But if noise persists, the calipers, wheel bearings or other brake components may need rebuilding or replacement.

Now let’s go over some tips on how to prevent those annoying squeaky brakes in the first place.

How to Prevent Brake Squeal?

Practicing good driving and maintenance habits helps avoid issues that lead to noisy brakes:

how to prevent brake squeal

Avoid Aggressive Braking

Excessively hard braking causes overheating and uneven pad deposits which quickly wear and glaze pads.

Try to brake earlier and more gently. This allows the pads and rotors to cool properly between braking and reduces glazing.

Don’t Ride the Brake Pedal

Driving with your foot resting lightly on the brake pedal can overheat the rotors and pads. It also deposits pad material unevenly.

Train yourself to keep your foot off the brake and hover over it instead when not actively braking.

Keep Rotors Rust-Free

Rust is the enemy of smooth quiet braking. Keep it at bay with regular driving to self-clean rotors.

Or apply rotor anti-seize spray after washing your car to prevent surface rust from forming.

Replace Pads Promptly

Never delay replacing worn brake pads past their service limit. This avoids metal-on-metal contact and damage to rotors.

Inspect pad thickness regularly and watch for wear indicators. Replace them at 2-3mm pad thickness remaining.

Good driving habits and staying vigilant on maintenance go a long way to prevent those annoying squeaks.

But brake parts simply wear out over time and use. Be prepared to replace pads and rotors as needed to keep your brakes quiet and safe.

When Should You Seek Professional Brake Service?

It’s a good idea to have a professional mechanic inspect your brakes if:

  • The cause of the squeaking or noise is unclear after your own inspection
  • You find any evidence of fluid leaks or damage in the brake system
  • You are unsure if the brake pads, rotors, or other hardware need to be replaced

A certified technician has the expertise and equipment to diagnose even difficult, intermittent brake noises. They can pinpoint issues within the hydraulic or mechanical components and recommend the appropriate repairs.

Seeking professional brake service provides peace of mind that your brakes are serviced properly. It also keeps you safe in the event of significant wear or failure that is not immediately perceptible.

How Much Does Brake Service Typically Cost?

Brake repair costs can vary based on what needs to be done. Here are some typical costs:

Brake Pad Replacement

  • Cost: $150-$200 per axle

Rotor Resurfacing

  • Cost: $250-$500 per axle

Caliper Replacement

  • Cost: Up to $130 per caliper

Complete Brake Job

  • Cost: $300-$800 per axle

Additional services like flushing brake fluid, bleeding the system, and wheel alignments also impact the total cost.

It’s always a good idea to shop around among highly rated local mechanics to find competitive pricing. Putting off minor brake repairs frequently leads to more extensive servicing down the road at greater expense.

Address brake noise and issues promptly to save money as well as driving safety. Squeaky brakes are begging for attention that shouldn’t be ignored!

The Bottom Line on Noisy Brakes

Hopefully you now have a good understanding of what makes brakes squeak and how to stop it. Here are the key takeaways:

  • Worn out brake pads and rotors are the most common culprits. Their wear indicators will make noise when replacement is due.
  • Glazed pads that have hardened also frequently cause chirping or squeaking by losing rotor grip.
  • Sticking calipers, worn hardware, and lack of lubrication allow vibration and noise. Proper cleaning and lubrication fixes these issues.
  • Aggressive braking technique and resting on the brake pedal contribute to accelerated wear and noise.
  • Prevent squeaks by driving smoothly, servicing brakes regularly, and replacing parts promptly when needed.
  • If you can’t diagnose the squeak or fixing attempts fail, have a certified technician inspect and service your brakes.

Don’t ignore noisy brakes and assume they are normal wear and tear. Inspecting and servicing them promptly keeps you safe. Take action as soon as you hear brake squeal to take care of your brakes and avoid bigger problems down the road.

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