We get this one a lot. We mean a lot. This is a common and irritating issue for many clients: the sound of squealing brakes on their vehicles. It’s a topic we would love to shed some light on. So what the heck is with all the noise coming off my brakes?
Noisy brakes can occur for several reasons, and not all are signs of something wrong. We’ll begin by listing the main culprits we see daily, counting down to the most common, and outlining some remedies to alleviate all that dreaded noise.
#5: Dust and Debris
Dust, dirt, and debris can accumulate between the brake pads and rotors. This can lead to a squealing sound as the debris interferes with the proper contact between the pads and rotors.
Sometimes, something as simple as wet brakes can be the culprit. Depending on the brake materials, this will be more of a problem than not. Luckily, this is usually alleviated once the rotors dry out.
Brake pads can develop a glaze or smooth, shiny surface over time. This can happen due to high temperatures generated during braking. Glazed brake pads are less effective in providing friction, which can result in squealing noises.
#2: Brake Pad Material
The second most obvious symptom of noise is the brake pad material. Many drivers notice brake noises when they come to a slow stop in stop-and-go traffic and slowly reverse out of a parking spot. It can be embarrassing for some drivers when they pull up to a light with their date in the car and hear a loud “sqqqeeeeaaaak”… Not so impressive.
So, what’s going on here? Well, brake pad material, usually metallic or semi-metallic, causes this squealing noise. We see this most commonly with cheaper metallic pad options. However, to the surprise of most clients, this noise can also occur with high-performance OEM and aftermarket pad choices. The more aggressive nature of the pad material, while producing more brake bite and feel on the track, can result in unwanted brake noise.
The solution? Brake noise can be avoided by using brake grease on new pad installs. We also find that regreasing existing pads can help alleviate brake noise. Beyond that, we recommend prioritizing a ceramic pad option to eliminate the noise, with the added benefit of minimal brake dust and longer working lifespan versus metallic or semi-metallic OEM and after-market options.
Read more about The Evolution of Brake Rotors: From Cast Iron to Carbon Ceramic
#1: Worn-out Pads
The most obvious and immediate issue that needs attention is worn-out brake pads. Brakes start making noise as the pad materials wear down beyond tolerance. Typically, noise starts when there are 2 to 3 millimeters of pad life remaining.
We recommend changing pads when there is a minimum of 3mm in the front and 2mm in the rear. This is because the front brakes handle approximately 70% of the braking power, while the rear brakes handle the remaining 30%.
But let’s get back to that noise. Since the ’70s, manufacturers have been installing brake squealers to notify drivers that their brakes are due. This is typically a small metal tab on the inner side of the front and rear brake pads. Once the pads wear down almost completely, the metal tab on the brake squealer makes contact with the rotor, creating a high-pitched noise that cannot be ignored. Leaving it unattended for too long can cause rotor damage, and a pad-only brake job might turn into a more expensive repair, involving pads and rotors.
If you are experiencing persistent or excessively loud brake squealing, it is advisable to have a professional mechanic inspect your brakes. They can diagnose the exact cause of the squealing and suggest appropriate solutions, such as cleaning, lubricating, or replacing brake components, or selecting a different brake pad material. Regular brake maintenance is crucial for ensuring your safety on the road and preventing more severe issues.
Please get in touch with us for more information or if you would like to schedule your next visit to Haus of Cars.