What Do Squeaky Brakes Mean for My Car?

brake lights on carDid you know that poor braking systems account for 15.4% of all vehicle crashes?

While that may seem small, consider that almost six million car accidents occur each year in the US alone. Meaning, over 900,000 of these accidents are due to faulty brakes!

After all, a car’s braking system is the only thing that can stop such a huge machine. Take this ability away, and the vehicle will end up ramming right into the other vehicle in front of it.

That said, if you’re experiencing squeaky brakes, get your car checked by a mechanic soon. Brake check-ups are important car maintenance and safety tasks you shouldn’t delay. For starters, squeaks are a common sign that parts of your braking system are already worn out.

The question is, what exactly causes these squeaky brakes in the first place? What are the components affected when your brakes squeak, squeal, or even whine?

We’ll get to the bottom of all these questions, so be sure to read ‘til the end!

Squeaks That Only Occur a Few Times During the First Drive of the Day

Do your brakes squeak only during the first drive of the day and then they go away? If so, then the squeaks you hear are due to the rotors (or brake discs) scraping off surface rust. This rust usually develops after exposure to rain or snow.

Moisture is another possible reason your brakes squeal when driving in the morning. This is especially true for humidity-induced condensation, which can also cause surface rust. Sometimes, dirt, sand, stone, or road salt can build-up on the surface of the rotors too.

You don’t have to worry in these cases, so long as the squeaks disappear after you’ve applied the brakes a few times. These early-morning noises only mean that the brake rotors are “cleaning” themselves out.

High-Pitched Squeaks Whenever You Apply the Brakes

High-pitched squeaks every time you brake indicate brake pad wear. In this case, the noises are from the wear indicator built into brake pads. The indicator is a tiny spring steel or metal tab that scrapes the disc as the pads wear down and get thinner.

This brake wear indicator sound is actually a safety warning that it’s time to replace your brake pads. Don’t put off the replacement, as doing so will damage your brake rotors and backing plates.

If this happens, the rotors will grind into and damage the plates. You would then have to replace them too and not just the pads.

Other Possible Reasons for Squeaking and Squealing Brakes

Glazing on brake pads and rotors can also contribute to brake squeals or squeaks. Lack of insulation and lubrication or broken anti-rattle clips can also be the culprits.

Glazing

Brake glazing happens due to extreme temperatures caused by friction. Exposing the brakes to such high temperatures can result in this glazing to form on the pads and rotors. Repeated hard and quick braking and prolonged brake application can cause this problem.

If your brake pads and rotors have become glazed, the brake calipers can stick to them. This can cause the brake to stay partially applied even after you let go of the pedal. This is when the squeaks or squeals may occur.

Lack of Insulation

Insulation shims go on top of a brake pad’s steel packing. This shim protects the metal backing from brake caliper and the heat caused by friction. Over time, however, shims wear out and become thinner, just like brake pads.

When this happens, the caliper may already come into contact with the metal backing. This may cause the brakes to squeak or squeal.

Depending on the condition of your brake pads, you may only have to replace your insulation shims. However, if the brake pads themselves are in poor condition, then get these replaced too.

No Silicone Insulation Gel

What if you’ve recently had your brakes replaced and they’re still squeaking? In this case, the problem may be a lack of silicone insulation gel. This gel is also a lubricant, so without it, too much friction may occur, which can lead to squeaky brakes.

You should take your car back to the mechanic who replaced your brakes. Their replacement service should have included the application of insulation gel.

Worn Out or Damaged Anti-Rattle Clips

A braking system component called “pad stay” loosely secures a pad onto the caliper. This pad is then secured by another part called “anti-rattle clip”. This clip prevents the pad from vibrating or rattling whenever you apply the brakes.

If the clips are too worn out or damaged, they won’t be able to stop the pads from vibrating. This can then result in squeaking or squealing.

Replace worn or damaged anti-rattle clips ASAP, as they may completely let go of the pad stays. If this happens, the brake pad is highly likely to wear out earlier than normal.

Don’t End Up in A Car Crash Due to Squeaky Brakes

There you have it, all the possible reasons behind your squeaky brakes. As you can see, it may only be a minor issue, such as in the case of surface rust getting scraped off. However, it may also mean that your brake pads have completely worn out.

In any case, you want to address those squeaks ASAP, before they worsen and become grinding noises. Grinding sounds already indicate that you have damaged rotor discs. Not only are these more expensive repairs — they’re also a bigger safety risk.

Ready to eliminate those annoying brake noises by replacing worn-out parts? Then your first step should be to check your car owner’s manual! If you don’t have it, feel free to search for and download it from our database of factory service manuals.

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