How to Deal Safely with Squealing Brakes
It can be stressful any time your car makes a strange noise, but especially when that noise is coming from your brakes. When you hear a noise from your car brakes, park the vehicle in a safe location until it can be inspected and repaired by a professional. It's important to be cautious because driving with bad brakes puts you, your passengers, and other cars on the road at risk. Here are five important things you need to know about your squealing car brakes.
1. Pay attention to when you hear the brake noise.
Before heading to a repair shop for new brakes, take the time to identify any patterns. Is the sound worse when you first start driving? Does it go away after the car warms up? A little detective work will put things in perspective and could be helpful for your mechanic as well.
2. Determine if you are hearing squealing brakes instead of grinding brakes.
Most of the time, your squealing brakes are likely caused by worn out brake pads or shoes.1 You can tell if you only hear the squealing noise when you apply pressure to the brakes. As pads wear thin, they expose small steel clips called “wear indicators” that make noise when they contact the rotor or drum. They’re designed to be a warning that the brake system is at risk of failure.
3. Take note of driving conditions and type of brake.
Squealing brakes don’t always mean your brakes system is worn out or that there are major repairs in your future. Vibration can also produce a high-pitched brake noise, especially when your vehicle stops suddenly.2 Car brakes operate loudly when they are hot or under pressure, like when driving in the mountains. And high-performance carbon-metallic brake pads are especially prone to squealing.3
4. New brakes and rotors can make noise.
When new brake pads and rotors are installed on your vehicle, the pads themselves might be responsible for the squealing. Now that asbestos is no longer used for insulation, brakes are a bit louder than they used to be.
New high-performance carbon-metallic brake pads tend to squeal louder and longer than older style brakes. If squealing persists after two or three days of your regular driving, return the vehicle to the shop. The new pads or shoes may be installed incorrectly or simply need adjusting. This work should be covered under your warranty and not cost anything additional out of pocket.
5. Grinding brakes mean there’s a bigger problem.
Far more serious than squealing brakes, grinding brake noise is nothing to ignore. This sound typically means the brake system is close to failing.
If you’re lucky, a small rock or tiny stone may be lodged in one of the car’s brake shoes or pads and can be easily removed. More likely though, the grinding brake sound means the pads have worn through and the metal part of the brake pad or brake shoe is now in direct contact with the brake disc or drum. This metal-on-metal friction is damaging and will quickly ruin the most expensive parts of a brake system. That’s not just annoying. It’s dangerous. Act quickly to stay safe, but don't break your budget by paying for new brakes out of pocket. Read more about the Synchrony Car CareTM credit card here.
Why Do Brakes Squeal? (yourmechanic.com)
What is a Bad Brake Noise? (pepboys.com)
How to Troubleshoot Brake Problems (dummies.com)
Why Are My Brakes Making Noise? (repairpal.com)
What's Wrong With My Brakes? (liveabout.com)
How do you diagnose brake problems? (reference.com)
How do hydraulic breaking systems work? (reference.com)
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