The Greatest How-to-Guide to Fixing Squeaky Car Brakes
An essential part of any vehicle is not the engine or the transmission. It is not even the passenger compartment. This title belongs to the brakes. When a car is going at highway speeds, the brakes are the first line of defense for the driver and passengers. Brakes are also more powerful than you think. If a vehicle has squeaky brakes, it is not just irritating; it is extremely dangerous too.
This article will cover all the reasons, signs and DIY ways to fix squeaky car brakes.
What Causes a Grinding Noise When Braking
Many drivers ask Google or a mechanic, “why are my brakes squeaking?” The answer is not a very straightforward one. The thing that most commonly goes unnoticed and unappreciated about brakes is that they produce massive amounts of power. An average sedan’s brakes produce 120 hp of braking power under full load. That kind of power concentrated in a little space can lead to many things going wrong.
When examining squeaky brakes, there are three distinct forms of noisy brakes. Once the reasons for all four of them are clear, fixing them will not be an issue for any driver with a few basic tools at home.
Brakes Work Okay, but Squeak
This is the most common type of brake noise in cars. Many drivers face the situation where the brakes produce a sharp, high-pitched brake squealing sound, but they work perfectly fine. The reason for this is embedded in the design of brake pads. A small piece of brake hardware attached to each pad does not touch the rotor when the brake pads are new.
However, when the friction material on the pads wears down and just a little remains, this part of the brake hardware comes in contact with the brake rotor every time the brakes are used. This produces the squealing sound and acts as a fail-safe warning system that warns car owners that they need new brake pads soon.
Vehicles That Produce Grinding Noise When Braking
This is where things get serious. Some brake pads do not come with the wear-indicator piece of brake hardware. If that is the case, the friction material on the brake pads will wear down to the very end, and the metallic backing plate will be exposed. If that happens, the vehicle will have grinding brakes, where the metallic plate comes in direct contact with the brake rotor.
This brake noise is the most critical one and needs to be fixed right there and then. If left unchecked, this can permanently damage the brake rotors and lead to sudden and complete brake failure.
Vehicles With Squeaking New Brakes
If the pads are not worn out and the vehicle’s brakes squeak, the problem is not as severe and is just an annoyance. This can be a result of one of the two following things:
- The point of contact between the brake pads and the brake calipers is not lubricated. In this case, the brakes squeak only when they are engaged and when they are released.
- The rotors are rusted. Brake rotors on passenger cars are typically made of iron and not stainless steel. If the vehicle is left out in the rain for a long time, the rotors can rust. When the brake pads rub against the rust particles, the vehicle has squeaking brakes.
Brakes that Squeak When Stopping Slow
This is the least common cause of brake squeak and happens in the following cases:
- Suppose the car is fitted with brake pads that are more aggressive (have more friction) than the OEM specs. The increased friction results in the brakes making noise when stopping at slow speeds. As the car speeds up, however, the noise goes away.
- Performance brakes squeak at slow speeds, especially when the brakes are cold. The noise fades as the brakes warm up.
- If there is dirt, rust, or debris in the brakes, they can make squeaking noises at slow speeds. These noises end once the brakes are cleaned, or the friction of the brakes removes the debris.
Most vehicle problems, related to brakes or not, can be avoided by making a car maintenance checklist and inspecting the car regularly.
On the subject of brakes, here’s how to make the brake noises go away for good.
How to Fix Squeaky Brakes Guide
Before explaining how to fix brake noise, it is essential to point out something. It’s been said earlier but needs to be repeated. Brakes are the most critical part of any vehicle. The ramifications of something done wrong can be grave and far-reaching; therefore, it is highly advised to consult a mechanic if any issues arise during the repair.
Additionally, working on the car’s brakes involves lifting the vehicle and supporting it on jack stands. Please make sure that:
- The vehicle is lifted properly and evenly on all four corners.
- The jack stands you are using are rated for the weight of the car.
- The vehicle’s wheels are chalked off, and the car is in Parking with the e-brake engaged.
With that being said, here’s how to fix a vehicle’s squeaky brakes.
The process of fixing noisy brakes will depend on the reason behind the squeaks. As there are four kinds of brake noises, we have to take four separate approaches to fix them.
If Brakes Work Okay but Squeak:
Attention: Make sure no brake fluid leaks during the process. If it does, bleed the brake lines and replace brake fluid.
In this case, the brake pads need to be replaced. This repair can be done easily by following the steps below:
- Go to a local auto store or buy the brake pads for your car online. Please make sure that you get the OEM-recommended brake pads for the vehicle. Incompatible brake pads can cause issues or might not even fit.
- Raise the vehicle and remove the wheels to access the brake pads.
- Remove the slider bolt. It is on the lower side of the brake calipers and keeps them in place.
- Pivot the caliper upwards to reveal the brake pads and remove them and the brake hardware.
- Replace the brake pads and brake hardware with new ones and pivot the calipers back in place.
- Apply grease at the contact point of the brake pads and the calipers.
- Reinstall the brake caliper slider bolt and torque it down to OEM specs.
- Ensure there are no leaks in the brake lines and the brake fluid level is above the minimum mark.
If the Vehicle Produce Grinding Noise When Braking:
Disclaimer: When replacing brake rotors, tighten the new ones down to factory torque specs. Always use compatible brake rotors and brake pads.
Mostly, in such a case, both the brake pads and brake rotors are worn out, then you’ll need to change them both. The procedure for brake pads replacement is the same as the one described above. Here are the steps to change brake rotors:
- Inspect the rotors closely. If they have grooves or uneven surfaces, they need to be replaced.
- Once the caliper has been pivoted up (step 4 above), you can easily slide the rotor off. In older cars, however, the rotor can be rust-welded to the hub. Use a hammer to gently tap it from the inside out, and the rotor should come right off.
- Replace the rotor with a new one and install new brake pads as described above.
- Please make sure you have not caused any brake fluid leak and that the brake fluid is filled to the correct level.
If a Vehicle With New Brakes is Squeaking:
Disclaimer: Never let any lubricant come in contact with the brake pads or brake rotors.
To stop such a car from squeaking:
- Remove the wheel and access the brake rotors and pads behind it.
- Remove the slider bolt and pivot the brake caliper up.
- Apply grease on the points of contact between the brake pads and the calipers.
- Return the brake calipers to the default position and tighten down the slider bolt.
- Make sure the brake fluid level has not gone down.
If there are visible signs of rust on the rotor, consider cleaning it and applying grease.
If Brakes Squeak at Slow Speed:
Disclaimer: Make sure you always use the correct replacement parts for the brakes.
- If the issue is caused by dust, dirt, debris, or rust, thoroughly clean the brake pads, rotors, and calipers.
- If there is a compatibility issue between the brake pads and rotors, replace the brake pads with the OEM specified ones.
Brakes are the most crucial part of any vehicle and the first safety measure for drivers when going down the road at high speeds. One of the most common problems with brakes is that of squeaking and grinding noises. These problems are not only annoying but also dangerous.
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Frequently Asked Questions
How do I get my brakes to stop squeaking?
You first need to find out why the brakes are squeaking in the first place. Most of the time, it is because the brake pads have worn out, and a little piece of brake hardware starts rubbing against the brake rotors. This piece is designed to signal that you need to get the brake pads replaced soon.
If your brakes are new and still squeaking, you’ll need to apply a lubricant to the contact point of the brake pads with the calipers.
Can I put WD40 on my car brakes?
If sprayed on squeaking brakes, WD40 will silence them, but this is not recommended. This can severely reduce friction between the brake pads and rotors, preventing the brakes from functioning properly. If you spray it on one of the brakes, uneven brake force can cause the vehicle to get out of control when emergency brakes are applied.
How much does it cost to fix squeaky brakes?
It depends on the cause of the squeaking. If it is due to friction between the calipers and brake pads, a bit of grease will fix it. If, however, you need to replace worn-out brake pads or rusted calipers, the cost can be about $100 per axle.
How long can you drive on squeaky brakes?
You can drive with squeaky brakes for quite a while, but it is extremely dangerous and can damage the brake rotors. It can also cause the brakes to stop functioning or even get jammed completely, preventing a wheel from spinning.
Is any brake noise acceptable?
No amount or type of brake noise is acceptable. All brake noises simply translate to metal to metal contact somewhere in the braking system of the vehicle, and that can have grave consequences for the vehicle and passengers.
Is it dangerous to drive with squeaking brakes?
Yes, it is dangerous to drive with squeaking brakes. It can damage the brake rotors, which usually cost $500 to replace. It can also lead to sudden brake failure or uneven braking force across the wheels of the car.
Are grinding brakes the same as squeaking brakes?
No, the grinding noises are different from squeaking brakes. Grinding is caused when the brake rotors are worn out due to rust or driving with worn-out brake pads. Squeaking, on the other hand, results from the piece of brake hardware rubbing against the rotor, which is there to indicate that the brake pads are worn out and need replacement. Squeaking can also be caused by a lack of lubrication between brake pads and calipers.