What Causes Squeaky Brakes?

08 Aug 2018 by Megan Maxwell

Brakes are a vital aspect of your car and without them, you could get into significant difficulties. So if you have squeaking brakes, not only is it likely to be a massive irritation, it can also be very worrying. While it is normal for your brakes to make a small amount of noise especially when they aren’t warm, excessive and continuous squeaking of your brake pads could be a greater cause for concern.

Modern brakes consist of a cast-iron disc squeezed between two brake pads, lined with friction material. Brake pads are held in place by callipers however the callipers and brake pads do vibrate due to the movement of the car and this can cause noise. Most of the time this noise is at a frequency that is inaudible. However, different driving conditions can affect the frequency and therefore the brake noise emitted. For example, severe braking, loose callipers, rust on the pads, dusty or sandy conditions or high humidity can all alter the noise your brakes make. Some of these factors can play a part in causing squeaking brakes.

New cars utilise harder braking materials to ensure they optimise stopping distances and have improved wear. However, when they are new and haven’t completed many miles they can often squeak from time to time because of how hard the metallic compound in the brake is.

Squeaky brakes

Do your brakes squeak when stopping?

When your brake pads are starting to wear they can often make a squeaking or squealing noise when you press the brake pedal. This is because many manufacturers place a small piece of soft metal, known as a wear indicator, in the brake pad. Once the brake pad wears to a certain level, this wear indicator begins to rub against the brake rotor and results in a squeaking noise. This acts as a warning and indicates your brakes pads need changing.

Do your brakes squeal at low speed?

If you find that your brakes only squeal at low speed there are a number of causes. Some high-performance brakes will often squeal at lower speeds and with gentle braking when new, but will no longer make this noise once the brakes have been bedded in.

Another factor causing brake squeal at lower speeds is that as many new cars are fitted with harder brake pad materials they have a higher tendency to squeak especially at lower speeds.

Squealing brakes at low speeds can also be caused by dirt or debris trapped within the braking mechanism causing an area to rub resulting in a high pitched squeal. At higher speeds, the rubbing occurs more quickly which can result in a different frequency that is no longer audible.

Squeaky brakes

Have you just had your brake pads replaced?

Recently replaced brakes can squeak as they bed in. If this continues more than a few days then the best thing to do would be to take your vehicle back to where you had your brake pads fitted. It could be something as simple as the technician failing to tighten an aspect of the brake mechanism sufficiently creating excessive vibration and increased noise. They should be able to take a look at the brake pads and make any necessary adjustments to stop the noise.

Call us for advice

So how much does it cost to replace brake pads and discs?

There is no set price for replacing brake pads and discs as the cost of replacing brake pads and discs varies depending on the make and model of car. For example, a performance car will generally cost more for replacement brake pads and discs than a hatchback.

In addition, the frequency brake pads in which brake pads and discs should be replaced will vary between makes and models. So you may find some models may cost you more during the course of ownership because it is recommended the brakes and discs are replaced more frequently.

Finally, since not all pads and discs are made equal, the quality of the brake pads and discs can alter the cost of replacement brake pads and discs. Higher quality pads are not only made of better quality materials but have usually undergone more extensive research, additional testing and more stringent control procedures. However, all of this means that high-quality brake discs and pads are often more expensive.

Squeaky brakes

In certain situations, the additional cost of high-quality brake pads and discs really makes a difference. For example, high-end sports cars tend to need higher quality brakes which can withstand greater braking forces. However, for the average driver, there is likely to be a limit at which high-end brake discs and pads become unnecessary.

Therefore, for daily driving, we would say the best practice is to replace your brake pads and discs with manufacturer-approved parts. Not only will this help ensure you get the best performance from your brakes, but it will also help reduce the chances of your brakes squeaking.

Usually, manufacturer-approved brake discs and pads will be slightly more expensive than non-approved parts, but given that your brakes are such an integral aspect of car safety it’s a good idea not to scrimp in this area.

Common causes of squeaky brakes

There are a variety of common causes for your squeaky brakes these include:

Moisture: When moisture collects on the brake rotors from overnight rain, dew or condensation it causes a thin layer of rust to form on the rotor surface. As the rotor turns the pads scrape the rust off the rotors. This rust can then get caught on the leading edge of the brake pads eventually embedding into the leading edge causing a squeak. Squeaky brakes caused by moisture often occur in the morning and usually stop after a few minutes when the brake pads have had a chance to warm up a little or the thin layer of rust has worn off.

Squeaky brakes

Thinning Pads: As mentioned most brake pads are fitted with a wear indicator which will start producing a squealing sound when your brake pads are getting thin enough to require changing.

High Metal Content of Brake Pads: Cheaper brake pads tend to have a higher metal content. The result of this is larger pieces of metal on the brake pad surface. These metal pieces drag on the brake rotor and can cause high pitched squeaky brakes. The only real fix to this would be to always buy the best quality brakes pads recommended for your car. It’s important to remember your brakes are what ensure you stop so it’s important not to try and scrimp and save on them.

Glazing: Brake pads can become glazed resulting in them producing a squeaky noise. If brake callipers stick it can cause the brake to stay partially applied. This results in excessive friction and heat which can cause the brake pads to harden and crystallise or glaze. Glazed brakes reduce the stopping action of your brakes as well as causing a high pitch sound when you apply the brake. Glazed brakes can often be fixed quickly by a technician who will sand the brake rotors and pads to remove the ‘glaze’ and investigate and fix the issue with the callipers.

Squeaky brakes

New Brakes Squeaking: As discussed above, it is not uncommon for new brakes to squeak intitally as they bed in. This can be down to the materials used in the brake pads and if this is the case the squeaking usually wears off quickly.

New brakes squeaking can also be caused by metal fibres in brake pads which if too close together can generate squealing sounds. This is not usually anything to worry about as typically the brakes will wear which will stop the squeaking.

Additionally, if the brake rotors are not machined or replaced with brake pads, the rotors don’t always mesh with the new pad which can cause some squeaking. You should get in touch with whoever replaced your pads and double check with them.

Finally, new brakes squeaking can be a result of the caliper pins being stuck in the ‘apply’ position which can also cause glazing. In this case, you need to take your vehicle back to where you had the pads fitted in order for them to take a look.

What can you do about your squeaky brakes?

Your brakes are an essential aspect of your vehicle and it is imperative that they are in full working order to keep you safe. So how can you stop your brakes squeaking?

How to stop brakes squeaking?

There are a number of remedies available to pick up at your local garage that claim to alleviate brake squeal. However as there are multiple reasons why your brakes could be squeaking, the best advice is to get your brakes checked by a qualified technician. This ensures that you won’t put yourself at risk by misdiagnosing the problem and driving around on potentially faulty brakes.

It’s also worth bearing in mind, that it may pay dividends to maintain the same brake pads as manufacturer fitted. As slight differences in composition can increase the chances of hearing noises or squeaks from your brakes.

Squeaky brakes

Regular checks to your brakes are important

Even if you don’t have squeaky brakes, it is a good idea to get your brakes checked out at least once a year to make sure they are in full working order. Most garages will check your brakes during a service and cars over three years old must have fully operational brakes in order to pass their MOT. Therefore getting your brakes checked before your MOT is wise to prevent an unnecessary MOT fail. You can also book a winter health check at Stoneacre to ensure the safety and quality of your brakes before the cold weather and icy roads of winter months.

At Stoneacre we put our customer’s safety at the fore. Which is why once you have had brake pads supplied and fitted at Stoneacre you are covered by the Stoneacre Brake Pad Guarantee. This ensures that as long as you keep hold of the original supply and fit invoice we will replace the brake pads in future as required completely free of charge. This gives you the added peace of mind that should you suspect anything is wrong with your pads you can pop into your nearest branch and get your brakes looked at. So there really is no excuse not to get those squeaky brakes checked out.

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