Seasoned drivers have experienced squeaks and squeals when pressing the brake pedal from time to time. The initial reaction when we hear that first ominous squeak is to ignore it, pretend it came from another vehicle, or to just hope it will go away. Responsible drivers will take the time to understand what causes squeaky brakes and whether or not to seek help from an automotive professional.
WHY ARE MY BRAKES SQUEAKING?
Just as no two vehicles are alike, brake squeaks can vary, and the noises can indicate a range of things. Even when squeaks and squeals are symptoms of a brake problem, they can range in severity. Some brake squeaks are more urgent than others and require more immediate attention. Here are the most common reasons for squeaky brakes.
NEW OR COLD BRAKE PADS
Occasionally, brakes can squeak or squeal when first used, especially if they've been exposed to any moisture. Thin layers of rust can form on the surface of the pads, which is what causes the squeak. This type of brake pad squeak will usually go away after a few stops. There are also some brakes that are perpetually noisy and work best when fully heated, such as those in high-performance vehicles.
DIRT & DEBRIS
If you've driven over dirt, road debris, sand, or other loose surfaces, particles can become stuck between your brake pads and rotors, leading to squeaks when slowing or stopping your vehicle. If your brakes are squeaking due to dirt and debris, try running through a car wash and see if the problem subsides.
Yes, new brakes can sometimes squeak after installation. This usually goes away once the pads and rotors have broken in. However, if the squeaking persists and your brakes are brand new, you may want to return to the shop where you had them installed and request a full inspection.
FAULTY INSTALLATION OR MAINTENANCE
If your calipers, pads, or rotors have been improperly installed or maintained, this can lead to squeaking. These types of issues can be severe and run the risk of causing damage to your vehicle or making it unsafe to drive. Seek help from an automotive professional as soon as possible.
While there are many reasons for squeaking and squealing brakes, not all of them need urgent attention. Knowing which brake squeaks should resolve themselves over time and how to fix squeaky brakes is important. When in doubt, visit your trusted automotive technician for professional advice.