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Four Common Types of Brake Squeaks

Eddie spent 35 years in the automotive business with Honda. He is an ASE certified master technician and has bruised knuckles to prove it.

Why are your brakes squeaking?

Why are your brakes squeaking?

Do Your Brakes Squeak?

Any squeak in your vehicle can be annoying, especially if it continues to get worse. Here are four common types of squeaks that come from the brakes—problems that come through the shop everyday—plus a fifth (bonus) brake noise, a scraping noise. I hope I can help you understand what's causing your brakes to squeak.

Four Common Types of Brake Squeaks

Disc BrakesDrum Brakes

Morning squeak from overnight rain, dew, or condensation moisture.

Rear drum brake squeaks when shoe-to-backing-plate contact points need lubrication.

Thinning brake pads set off brake wear indicator squeak.

Cheap brake pads with high metal content.

Two Types of Brakes

To make this discussion clearer, I'll tell you that there are two types of brakes.

  • Most brakes today are disc brakes, where a pad presses against a disc or rotor to stop the car. The first three squeaks described here come from disc brakes.
  • Many cars have drum brakes on the back wheels, where a curved “shoe” presses against a hollow drum to stop the car. The last squeak here is made by drum brakes.

1. Disc Brakes Squeak After Car Sits Overnight

Most brakes squeak after sitting overnight. This is usually due to moisture from rain, dew, or condensation that collects on the surface of the rotors.

When moisture collects on the brake rotors, 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, and then the rust gets caught on the leading edge of the brake pad. These fine particles of rust then get embedded into the leading edge of the pad and cause a squeak.

The only way to prevent this type of squeak is to garage your vehicle or store it in a climate-controlled environment. Rust on the rotors can also cause pad impressions on rotors, which in turn, cause a thumping noise or brake pulsation.

This rotor has actually turned blue from countless times the thin layer of rust has been scraped off by the pads.

This rotor has actually turned blue from countless times the thin layer of rust has been scraped off by the pads.

The same rotor, close up;  you can see the rust  embedded in the metal.

The same rotor, close up; you can see the rust embedded in the metal.

2. Thinning Brake Pads

The brake-wear indicator is another common cause of brake squeak. This sound starts when the brake pads are almost worn out and getting extremely thin. It’s a very effective warning that the brake pads are almost used up and need to be replaced.

The wear indicators are little metal tabs made of hardened steel. The manufacturers attach wear indicators in different ways: welding them on, using a rivet, or using a push-on clip attached to the edge of the brake-pad backing. These steel tabs are designed to hit the rotor before the brake pad totally wears out, warning the driver that the pad material is getting very thin and is about to create a metal-to-metal situation. You don’t want to get to that point because it means ineffective braking, and metal grinding and scratching on the rotor can damage the rotor’s smooth surface.

3. High Metal Content in Brake Pads

Brake pads normally contain bits of metal, but some cheap brake pads are manufactured with very high metal content. They have large chunks of metal pressed into the pad material. These large pieces of metal drag on the rotor and cause a high-pitched brake squeak.

Since brake pads sometimes can last between 30,000 to 40,000 miles, you'll have to listen to this annoying sound for months. This is one reason to spend a few extra bucks on quality brake pads. Another reason, of course, is that your brakes stop the car and quality helps. Don’t let twenty dollars stand between you and an accident that could end up costing you a lot more money.

To minimize squeaks from your brake pads, use brake pads with a high content of organic brake material (resin, rubber, Kevlar, fiber, or what-have-you). More organic brake material means fewer metal shavings in the brake pad, less squeaking, and less metal dust on your wheels. Metal particles in brake dust can discolor chrome or aluminum wheels.

This brake pad has very fine particles of metal embedded in the organic brake material.  Particles this fine should not usually cause a brake to squeak.

This brake pad has very fine particles of metal embedded in the organic brake material. Particles this fine should not usually cause a brake to squeak.

4. Drum Brakes That Need Lubrication

Have you ever heard a squeak from the rear brakes after pushing on the brake pedal? This is a sure sign that the shoe-to-backing-plate contact points need lubrication. If these contact points lose lubrication, the metal will begin to rust. Once this happens the shoes will scrape against the backing plate, causing a rhythmic squeaking noise with the rotation of the wheels. Most new vehicles have disc brakes on all four wheels, but drum brakes are still used on the rear wheels of some cars.

The best way to prevent this noise, or repair it, is to keep the contact points lubricated, either with a high-temperature anti-seize compound or a lube called Moly Paste 60. You use it on the back of brake pads and on all brake pad/shoe contact points, not on the brake pad or shoe surfaces themselves.

If you're looking for a lube to use on the caliper slide pins, use a Hi-Temp Wheel Bearing Grease like Amalie. If you use high-quality products when doing your brake jobs, the time spent doing the job will be well worth it. In the long run, you'll have longer-lasting brakes with no headaches.

Clean and lube these contact points if your drum brakes squeak.

Clean and lube these contact points if your drum brakes squeak.

More contact points to lube on drum brakes.

More contact points to lube on drum brakes.

Moisture can cause a lot of damage. Look at this spring clip, it's completely disintegrated.

Moisture can cause a lot of damage. Look at this spring clip, it's completely disintegrated.

Scraping Noise From Wheel While Driving

More on Brakes by Eddie Carrara

Give Me Your Feedback!

As always, leave me your feedback and comments. All questions are welcome, and no question is stupid. Describe your problem the best you can, and sooner or later we will reach a conclusion and come up with a solution.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: My brake squeaks at very low speeds, between 2-5 mph when applying my brakes. But at higher speeds, I have no problem and no squeaks. What could this be?

Answer: It could be caused by the type of brake pad installed in your vehicle. Have you had the brakes replaced recently? Do you know if you have OEM (factory) brake pads?

Question: I hit a curb, and now my car makes a screeching sound every time I apply the brakes. What is it?

Answer: Most likely your rotor backing plate is bent, or you may have bent something else near the brake caliper. I highly recommend having someone look at the damaged area and give you a full estimate on the repairs, just to be safe.

Question: When I let my car sit, and I start my car every day there is a squealing noise and a little grinding when I start driving and apply the brakes. I have had multiple mechanics look at it, and they say there is nothing wrong. I have a 2017 Hyundai Accent; I think it might be my front rotors or a caliper sticking, what should I do if the problem continues?

Answer: Anytime a vehicle sits for a few days the rotor will start to form a light coat of rust on the surface. The think coat of rust will cause a slight grinding noise and squealing noise when applying the brakes the first couple of times until the rust wears off.

Question: I recently had back and front brakes done on my car and there is a squeaking noise every time I brake. What is causing this?

Answer: Did you use OEM brake pads or did you use aftermarket pads? Aftermarket pads are usually the cause of these types of squeaks.

Question: My brakes make a screeching sound only sometimes when I drive. It doesnt seem to be caused by anything in particular (sometimes when I first start driving in the morning and sometimes even half way through the day). The sound is really high pitched. Is it the brake pads?

Answer: Most likely your brake pad wear indicator is just starting to touch the rotor. I recommend having your brakes checked soon just to be safe.

Question: I put new disc brake pads and rotors on the rear of my 2005 Uplander. One wheel squeaks loudly when going in reverse and braking. I applied the disc brake grease to ends of pad's tabs when installed. What could be causing this?

Answer: You should apply the grease to all contact points. You may want to check your rotor backing plate clearance to the rotor, and also check all your anti-rattle clips, sometimes they can be off-center and touching the rotor.

Question: My brakes just started squeaking when I hit the brake. My pads are about three years old. How much longer can I go before I need to replace them or should I replace them now?

Answer: I recommend having your brakes checked first. Brakes can last a long time depending on mileage and driving conditions.

Question: I have a 2015 Dodge Dart GT. It is making a weird noise like hydralic/grinding kind of noise when you come to a rolling stop while applying brakes. Just had new roters put on back and front roters machined. Doesnt squeal or any of the usual stuff, also only occurs at slow rolling type stops. Any idea?

Answer: If this noise just started after resurfacing and replacing the rotors, it's possible you're just hearing the new pads contacting the new rotor surface.

Question: When I put my foot on the break of my car it squeals like a bus; my advisor did not mention brake pads. What do you think the issue is?

Answer: Brake pads are the most likely problem. Either they are getting low, or you have a lack of lubrication on the contact points.

Question: My brakes have been making a high squeaking sound, so I got them changed. However, they still make that squeaking sound. I notice it was especially loud while driving really slowly up a big hill, or also sometimes when I’m neither accelerating or braking, but just letting the car move by itself. What is the cause of this, and how do I fix this?

Answer: I recommend bringing it back to the mechanic who replaced the brakes and have them take another look, you may have a anti rattle clip out of place or something between the rotor and backing plate.

Question: My brakes make a noise when I release the brakes fast while stopped. What is happening?

Answer: You probably have rear drum brakes and the noise you're hearing is most likely the brake shoes rubbing the backing plate. This movement is normal but your contact points probably no longer have any lubrication between the shoe and backing plate causing a squeaking noise.

Question: I have a 2017 Ram 1500. When I pressed on the brakes, there was a squealing noise. I took it to the dealer to get it checked. They started it and found that it had a rock stuck between the backing plate and rotor. They removed it and returned the truck, but the squealing noise is still happening. Does it take time for it to stop?

Answer: No, the noise should have stopped immediately. I recommend bringing it back to the dealer and have them recheck it. I also recommend going on a road test with the mechanic once they say its fixed to be sure you do not have to return a third time.

Question: There is an intermittent squeak, almost like a bird chirping, when braking while parking, also very slightly when I start to accelerate away. What is it?

Answer: Most likely the wear indicator on your brake pad is starting to touch the rotor warning you that the brake pads are getting low. I recommend having the brake checked, check the inner pads closely because that is where the indicator is located.

Question: My brakes are squealing. Could this mean I need new brakes? My car is also saying I need a tire rotation. Would you recommend getting new brakes or a tire rotation?

Answer: I recommend having the brakes checked, and while the mechanic has the wheels off, you can have the tire rotated.

Question: My breaks pads are only three years old and I don't travel far at all. Any idea why I'm getting a squeaking noise only when hard breaking?

Answer: Sometimes brake pads form a glaze on the pad surface when used for light braking; this sounds like it may be your issue as well.

Question: I recently changed my brakes and discs on all four wheels. Why do I hear screeching sounds when I press the brake? It sounds like it’s from the front passenger side.

Answer: Most likely your anti rattle clip is not centered in the caliper holder. I recommend taking the brake pads back out on the side you hear the noise and check the shims/clips, look for any rub marks on the rotor and shims.

Question: What is the cause of the noise I hear from the back when I press the brake pedal?

Answer: Usually the noise is caused by lack of lubrication at the pad/shoe contact points.

Question: I had my rear brakes recently replaced on my chevy cavalier due to a wa, wa, wa noise when I came to a stop. It got better at first, but I'm hearing the noise again. Is this a brake problem, or something else?

Answer: If the noise changed after the brake work was complete then most likely it has something to do with the brakes. I recommend having the same mechanic check their work and advise you on what is happening.

Question: I have a 2005 4Runner V6 with 108K miles. Both rear brakes are seven years old with 55,000 miles on them and now squeak when I back up. One front brake routinely has a loud clunking noise when I press on the brake while driving forward or reverse. Is there a general rule when brakes should be changed?

Answer: There is no time or mileage interval to replace brakes. A thorough brake inspection will guide you when to replace or service your brakes. If the brakes haven't been serviced in seven years, it's probably a good idea to take a peek at them. I'm sure any lubrication at the contact points is gone by now and the brakes could use a little TLC.

Question: My car makes a really loud noise like a train horn, just left of the rear wheel, when I come to a stop. What do you think would cause this to happen?

Answer: I would start by inspecting your brake pads or shoes. If they are glazed over, it's a good possibility that is your issue.

Question: Why does my right brake make a clicking noise while driving? When I hit my brakes it makes a grinding noise, this just started happening after we had several days of rain and having to drive thru water.

Answer: I'm not sure why your brakes are making a ticking noise, there could be several reasons, especially after driving through lots of water. The grinding noise could be from the rotor being rusty after all the rain or the grinding noise could be from worn out brake pads.

I recommend having someone pull off your wheels and check the area where the grinding noise is coming from, this will give some idea on how much brake pad is left and if there is debris caught in the brakes causing some of the noises.

Question: Every time I use the brakes on my car, they start squeaking. I just bought the car from a dealership with 46,000 miles. Should I take it back to the dealership?

Answer: Yes, if there is any kind of warranty on the vehicle they should fix the squeaking for free.

Question: I have a Golf Chico 1.4, and most of the time when I press on the brakes, they make a squeaky sound. What could the problem be?

Answer: If you have rear drum brakes, you are most likely hearing the brake shoe rubbing against the backing plate due to lack of lubrication. To fix, have your rear brakes serviced and lubed at all contact points.

Question: I just did my wheel bearings by a backyard mechanic and now every time I brake I hear a squeaking sound I don’t know if he put on the wheel bearing correctly or is it just a coincidence that my brakes are worn out now?

Answer: I think the mechanic may have bent the rotor backing plate and it just needs to be adjusted. Maybe you could ask them to take a quick look at the backing plate to be sure there is enough clearance.

© 2014 Eddie Carrara