When you press down on your brake and hear a noise like squealing or grinding, you know that’s the sound of your vehicle telling you something is off.
While it’s tempting to disregard these noises, squeaky brakes are a cause for concern. It’s best to stop, get proactive, and either check yourself or rely on technicians to take care of the issue as soon as possible.
Americans spend $9,200 every 15,000 miles on general maintenance for their cars—but you can save money if you make an appointment for your vehicle as soon as your brake squeals become loud and consistent. Fixing something as crucial as your brake pads and rotors early on can save you money and reduce the risk of problems with your brakes down the road.
What Does It Mean When Brakes Squeak?
Over the years, your brake pads go through a lot of stress. At some point, you might begin noticing persistent squealing or squeaking noises coming from the underside of your car when you hit that brake pedal. The sound of squeaky brakes can certainly be cause for concern—but what does it mean?
When you hear your brakes squeak, there may be several underlying causes. The most common reasons your brakes might be grinding, squealing, or hissing are because:
- Your brakes are only squeaking because of a temporary issue. Sometimes, there’s just debris stuck in your brakes. Other times, cold weather and snow can freeze up the way your brake Condensation can do the same. Finally, carrying heavy loads can also put extra pressure on your brake rotors.
- Your brakes were incorrectly installed. Poorly lubricated calipers can end up sticking, which affects your car’s stopping power. This is because sticky calipers can create friction with the rotors and slow down the wheels, which can cause a scraping sound as it wears down the brake pad.
- You have noisy brake materials. Noisy materials are usually a non-issue and occur when materials like metallic and ceramic materials are used on brake pads. This is common in upgraded or newer vehicles.
- Your wear indicator tells you it’s time to replace your brakes. Brakes have a “wear indicator,” which is a metal tab that scrapes against another metal part. When your brake discs hit their wear limit, it’s time to replace your brakes.
If the reason for your squeaky brakes includes any of the last three issues, then doing nothing is not an option. Whether you have to get new parts or simply add some brake grease, take this as a sign to take your vehicle in for an appointment.
The longer you hold off, the more likely it is that your car will need even more repairs, costing you thousands of dollars in the long run.
How Do I Get My Brakes to Stop Squeaking?
Although the sound of squealing brakes can certainly be annoying, it’s actually good for your safety. Without these grinding sounds, you wouldn’t know that your car and brakes need some serious attention. Failure to note early noises can cause broken down pads and rotors or even brake failure in cars.
The good news is that fixing your brake’s squeaking problem should be simple and affordable when handled early on.
Method #1: Start by Using Grease as Lubrication
One of the most common reasons for grinding brakes is calipers with poor lubrication. To grease the contact points, you’ll need to know how to remove the brake pads from this part.
After you remove the brake pads from the calipers, put on disposable gloves to grease the contact points. These are located on the backside of the brake pad and around the caliper carrier. Never put oil or grease on the rotor surface or the brake pad friction material surface. If you do so without the proper cleaning, you might have to buy a new set altogether.
Where to apply grease to drum brakes
Where to apply grease to disc brakes
Quick Tip: There is some variety in parts. Your car may have either disc brakes or drum brakes. Disc brakes have a brake rotor attached directly to the wheel, while drum brakes have a brake drum attached to the inside of the wheel. Check your owner’s manual to find out which brake type you have because that will depend on how you apply the grease.
Method #2: Install Shims to Avoid That Squeak Sound
Brake pads have parts called shims, which go in between the rotors and pads to prevent friction from occurring. In all vehicles, shims keep rotors and pads aligned to one another. When operating smoothly, there should be little to no noise—so if you do hear a squeaking or grinding sound, then it might be time to check on your shims.
If the shims are worn out, then it’s time to replace them. You can get anti-squeal shims made of rubber, metal, or Teflon and go between the brake calipers and brake pads. This extra layer will absorb any vibrations and keep your car moving quietly.
Method #3: Fix or Replace the Pads and Rotors
Even though you have options, eventually, replacing your brakes altogether is inevitable. Your car’s brake pads need to be replaced every 50,000 miles.
Your brakes need to be replaced when the brake pad friction has worn down, and the pads and rotors are officially making metal-to-metal contact. In instances like this, you’ll need to visit trusted technicians for a brake job.
Quick Tip: Depending on the severity and condition of your brake pads, brake jobs can cost anywhere between $100 and $300 per axle—so be sure to get your car checked out right away to avoid paying a high out-of-pocket cost.
The cause of squeak brakes is not always ominous. Sometimes, the noise is due to changing weather conditions and it’s not a sign that something is wrong. However, a consistent squeaky noise coming from your brake parts could be telling you that your car is facing a more serious type of problem right away.
So, if your brakes are making a squealing, squeaking, or grinding noise, then take some time to look for the issue. Whether the conditions that cause the noise are due to poorly lubricated calipers, worn down shims, or your brakes are at the end of their life span, you have three options:
- Grease the contact points, or
- Install anti-squeal shims, or
- Get a brake job
Neglecting to fix your brakes will cost you more money in the future, and failing to fix the noise might eventually become extremely hazardous to your safety and everyone else’s. When brake pads and rotors get worn down enough, your brakes may stop working altogether, which can result in fatal car accidents. Learn more about car maintenance safety and how you can be a better driver out on the roads using DriveSafe Online.