A squeaking or squealing sound coming from the brakes of your car isn’t uncommon and doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s an issue with your braking system. It could be caused by a number of factors, like general wear or just dust on the brake pads. It’s also not unusual for brakes to make a squeaking noise when you start your car first thing in the morning, as the brake pads warm up or grind through a harmless layer of rust that has built up in the damp overnight air.
If your brakes continue to squeak throughout your drive, however, then that may be an indication that something is wrong with them, especially if you hear something more dramatic like a grinding noise while braking.
Common reasons for noisy brakes
The most likely reason you have squeaking brakes is that the brake pads themselves are letting you know they’re at the end of their lives. Manufacturers install a small strip of metal in their brake pads called a ‘wear indicator’ that is specifically designed to make a noticeable screeching noise when they come into contact with the brake rotor. This means that the brake pad has worn down enough to need replacing, and soon. If this is the case, it’s time to bring it to a mechanic for a brake pad replacement.
If you notice the brakes are making their tell-tale noise after you’ve been driving for a while, especially if you’ve been driving with a heavy trailer or load, then it’s possible that you’ve overheated your brake pads. This can result in them becoming ‘glazed’, or hardened due to the persistent heat stress, and will significantly reduce the friction between the brake pad and the brake rotor. If you suspect that this has happened to your brake pads, replacement is the only safe option.
The best-case scenario for brake noise (besides them just needing to warm up) is that a small piece of debris or dirt has worked its way in between the brake pad and the rotor. A tiny piece of rock or grit is enough to disturb the brake pad and make the brakes squeak when stopping. In most cases, people solve this problem while they’re trying to diagnose it – simply removing the brake pad to check for the issue will likely be enough to remove the debris and return your brakes to normal.
If your brakes are consistently making a noise while you’re driving on them, no matter the conditions, then it’s vital that you pay attention to them and the problem they’re indicating. If the worst happens and they fail in some way, you could be placing your life and others at extreme risk.
How do you fix squeaky brakes?
Changing brake pads is always the safest and easiest way to stop brake noise and ensure that your car is safe to drive. Provided you have the right tools and access to the correct instructions – either in your owner’s manual or from a trusted source – it’s potentially a repair job that anybody interested could manage on their own. If you’re not comfortable, or you want to be sure that it’s carried out to the highest standard, a brake replacement is a routine operation for any qualified mechanic.
Like tyres, your two front brake pads will likely need replacing more frequently than the ones at the back wheels, as they take more of the braking force as you drive. This means that you won’t necessarily have to replace every brake at the same time. You should take the opportunity to visually inspect each brake pad, however, to ensure that they are in good working order. You should also examine the brake rotor, as these need to be replaced roughly every 100,000km, or when they start to show significant signs of wear.
Your brake replacement experts
If you’re nervous because your brakes are making a concerning noise, then it may be time to bring your car in for a checkup with the expert mechanics at Great Lakes Auto Centre. Our staff are trained in how to stop brake noise, and can even perform a brake service while we have your car.