6 Reasons Why Your Car Brakes Might Be Squeaking (and How to Fix It)

by Zutobi · Updated Jun 14, 2021

Proper and functioning brakes are essential to be able to stop safely under all conditions and circumstances. Squeaky brakes can be a sign that something is wrong and must not be ignored until you have determined the cause.

It can be as simple as rain or snow causing a thin layer of rust on the brakes (which will go away after braking just a few times), but it may also be more serious such as worn brake pads or overheated brakes.

Why Your Brakes Might Be Squeaking

There can be many different reasons as to why your brakes are squeaking. Some reasons are more serious, while others are just loud and annoying but won’t affect your braking ability. We’ll go through possible explanations below.

  • Worn brake pads. If your brake pads are worn, it’s possible they are largely ineffective and won’t work well.
  • Moisture from rain, snow or water can build up a layer of rust on the brakes which goes away after braking a few times.
  • Strain or overheating from a long decline. If you believe your brakes are on the edge of overheating or experiencing severe strain, pull over immediately and let them cool off.
  • Dust, dirt, or sand can make their way into the brakes and cause noise before they are removed. These kind of intruders will disappear with time, but you may want to rinse off the brakes.
  • Hard or semi-metallic brake pads can squeal more than a soft pad, but will not affect the braking capacity of the vehicle.
  • Rusted brake rotors. The car’s rotors can lose their smoothness over time as they get rusty. You can visit a mechanic who can remove the rust or dirt. Your brake rotors commonly rust if you do not use your car for a long time.

Out of the above-mentioned reasons, it’s especially important to understand when your brake pads are worn out as it will severely affect your ability to stop, especially in an emergency. If you experience squeaky brakes, the first thing you should do is determine if the sound is coming from worn-out brake pads.

How to Fix Squeaky Brakes

#1. Greasing metal-to-metal contact points

In many cases, you can fix squeaky brakes by lubricating the metal-to-metal contact points on the brake pads and brake rotors. This is often the backside of the brake pad in addition to contact points on the caliper carrier.

Keep in mind: brakes work by friction, which means you must not apply brake grease to the brake pad friction surface and rotor surface. Only apply grease to specific points that are not used to create friction but may cause squeaking.

#2. Replace the brake pads

If your brake pads are worn out, it’s vital that you replace them as soon as possible. A vehicle with worn-out brake pads is simply not safe to drive or operate on public roads.

Newer brake pads have a built-in piece of metal that alerts the driver when it’s time to change brake pads. If you hear a metal-to-metal sound coming from your brake pads, you should check with a mechanic to have them replaced.

#3. Replace the brake rotors

The brake rotors will eventually wear out as they are affected by rust, dirt, and worn out from the friction caused when braking. Brake rotors have grooves that will make a sound when they need to be replaced, just like the brake pads use a metal piece for the same purpose.

#4. Add brake pad shims

Brake pad shims can be used to help the brake pads stay in place properly, which can be especially important if using a non-native brake pad solution or replacement. The shims act as a layer of additional protection against movement and help absorb any vibrations that would otherwise have resulted in noise.

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