Why Do I Have Squeaky Brakes? Everything You Should Know

January 4th, 2020 by

Approximately 22 percent of all car accidents in the United States and Canada stem from brake failure or malfunction.

Your car brakes are one of the most critical parts of your car. When they make suspicious noises, you should take note.

How do you know if you need your brakes serviced or if you just need to wash the dust off your car?

Keep reading to learn why you have squeaky brakes.


Two Types of Brakes

To fully understand why your brakes squeak, you need to understand the two different types of brakes.

1. Disc brakes have a pad that presses against a disc or rotor to stop the car.

2. Drum Brakes are on just the back wheels of a vehicle. They have a curved shoe that presses against a hollow drum. This show stops the car.

Squeaks are specific to each type of brake. So to understand why your brakes are squeaking, you need to know which type of brake you have.


Don’t Always Worry About Squeaky Brakes

A squeak does not necessarily mean you have a big problem. Environmental factors can cause little squeaks.

For example, dust or sand can get into the brakes and cause brake noises.

Weather is also a factor. In particular, cold weather can make brakes squeal along with moisture. Snow, rain, or high water can cause a thin layer of rust on the brakes. After you brake a few times, the squeak will go away.

If you are driving a truck with a heavy load, you will put more pressure on brakes. As you brake, the heat will build and swell parts, and your brakes will squeal.

If you drive on hilly roads and brake often going down long steep hills, your brakes will heat up and squeal.

If you have a newer car, you may notice more squeaky brakes. New cars use harder car brake pads, and those brakes make more noise. Harder brake pads are safer, but they also create more noise.

If you have a semi-metallic brake pad, a popular type of pad, you will notice your brakes squeal. Alternative brake pads are quieter, so you have a choice if you do not like the squeal.

If your brakes grind or make noise in the morning, they most likely have some overnight moisture in them. Once your brakes shake off the moisture, they will quiet down.


When To Take Action On Squeaky Brakes

Both disc brakes and drum brakes will squeak for a variety of reasons. Here are four common reasons why your brakes may be making that irritating noise.

1. Environment

Your disc brake squeak may come just from where you leave your car overnight. If you’re among the one in four Americans who have too cluttered of a garage for a car to fit in it, your brakes may squeak.

If you leave your car outside overnight, it will collect moisture from rain, dew, or other condensation. This moisture will sit on the surface of the brake rotors.

Brake rotors are a raw material that can easily form rust. The moisture on top of the rotors will cause a thin layer of rust to form on the surface of the rotor.

When you drive your car in the morning, you will apply the brakes, and the brake pad will rub on that rust, causing the brakes to squeak. The pad will scrape the rust off the rotor, and the rust will collect on the edge of the brake pad.

That collection of rust will cause a squeak.


Solution: Change the Environment

If this type of squeak bothers you, store your vehicle in a garage or any climate-controlled kind of environment. The squeak is not a problem initially.

However, if your rotors repeatedly develop a thin layer of rust, the rust will cause pad impressions on the rotors. This will then cause a thumping noise or brake pulsation.


2. Thinning Brake Pads

Sometimes a squeak just means your disc brakes are wearing out.

Brake manufacturers will attach the wear indicators on your brakes in a few different ways. They may weld them on or use a rivet or push-on clip to attach them to the edge of the brake-pad backing. The steel tab is the indicator, so when it hits the rotor, it makes a loud squealing noise.

The wear indicators will kick in before you’ve used your brakes up entirely. Engineers designed them as a safety mode, so they are telling you that you need to have a mechanic check out your brakes.

Solution: Get New Brakes

Think of this noise like a “change your oil soon” light or warning on the dashboard. When you hear it, make an appointment.


3. High Metal Content

Cheap disc brake pads will make more noise than average or higher-end brake pads. All brake pads have small bits of metal in them. Cheap brake pads, however, have a high metal content.

Cheap brake pads may even have large chunks of metal, which could easily drag on the rotor and cause a high-pitched squeak.

The squeak from a cheap brake pad does not mean your vehicle is in trouble. It’s just really annoying. You will have to listen to that squeak for the lifetime of the brake pad, which could last 30,000 to 40,000 miles.

Solution: Better Pads

Find a brake pad with a high content of resin, rubber, Kevlar, or fibre. Spend a few extra dollars on quality brake pads, so you do not have to listen to that squeak for years on end.


4. Drum Brake Squeaks

A drum brake may squeak because it needs just one thing: lubrication. If you hear a squeak from your rear brake after pushing on the pedal, your shoe-to-backing-plate contact point most likely needs lubrication.

Be aware that drum brakes typically exist on older cars since most new cars have disc brakes on all four wheels.

Solution: Lubrication

To keep your older vehicle safe, you need to keep those contact points lubricated. Use a high-temperature, anti-seize compound to lube your brakes.

You can use it on the back of the brake pads and all of the contact points. Do not put it on the brake pad or shoe surfaces themselves.

Go to a mechanic to have them apply a high-quality product and service your brakes. This way, you can drive down the road with ease.


Squelch the Squeak

Have a professional check out your squeaky brakes. You may just need to park your car in the garage overnight, or you could be driving down the road with faulty brakes. You never know until you have a pro check them out.

For all of your auto needs, contact us.

Posted in Squeaky Brakes