Automotive Repair: What Can Cause Squeaky Brakes?

If your brakes are squeaking, here are some possible causes.

"It kind of sounds like a dying armadillo." Yep, that's what the brakes sound like. But what causes this horrific noise?

There are several causes of squeaky brakes, not all of them mean that you have a problem.

Dirt on the brakes - squeaking is a normal reaction of the brake rotor when the pad is new and just wearing in. The pad material is worn away by the braking action, in the process causing brake dirt. This gets on the rotor, or drum, causing the brakes to squeak. In time this will go away as the brakes wear in together.

Outside forces - such as water or oil, from the road or from another system within the car may get on the brake rotor causing it to slip or squeak when in use. Usually, brakes dry quickly, especially if the problem is from outside the car. If the problem continues, be sure to have your car checked for leaks within the car that can be affecting your brakes.

Brake springs - the braking system is made up of a series of springs and hydraulic pistons. A squeaking noise may be coming from one of several springs. This may or may not indicate a problem since springs squeak by nature anyway. This is one case that would warrant having a professional take a look at.

Warning tab - the brake pads are all equipped with a warning tab. This measures the amount of surface you have left on your brake pad and produces a squeal when the pad becomes worn. This is the most common cause of brake noise. This is your first warning to have your brakes checked and the pads replaced. Under normal driving conditions the noise could go on for some time before you cause real damage, but it is best to take it in at your earliest convenience.

Bad Brakes - sometimes, if you ignore the warning tab, or if your car doesn't have one for one reason or another, you may hear a noise that is ear shattering every time you apply the brake. The metal to metal squeal is a sure indication that you have brake trouble. If you do nothing, you will loose all braking power and are at risk of having an accident. So, you will need to take your car to a mechanic, and he will most likely tell you that you need new rotors, drums, shoes and pads. This is an expensive proposition, and the only way to remedy the problem is to fix it.

Lastly, you may find that the squeaking noise you hear is not from your brakes at all, even though it only happens when you apply the brake. This could be the springs on your car, your shock absorbers, or your trunk lid. These squeaks are easily fixed. Squeaky springs and shocks can be fixed with a lube job. For your trunk lid, try some good all-purpose grease.

Be sure that you have explored all of the other possibilities before you automatically assume that the squeak or squeal you are hearing is from your brakes. It will save you money in the long run.

However, if you do have brake issues, make sure that you have a mechanic take a look at it. Only someone who knows what they are doing should attempt repairs to the brake system.

© High Speed Ventures 2011