If your brakes are squeaking, that’s a good thing. It’s a free reminder that you need to have your brake system inspected. Take the hint and find out what needs to be repaired.
Causes of Brakes Squeaking
Without brakes, your car is not drivable. If you think you are having problems with the brakes read on to learn how to diagnose and repair.
Wear and tear – When the brake pedal is depressed, a plunger inside the brake master cylinder pumps brake fluid through break lines to the brakes. The brake fluid serves as pressure to the brake pads. The brake pads squeeze the brake discs or push the brake shoes to the brake drums. As a vehicle is continuously driven and accumulating miles some of the parts eventually wear out. Actually, all auto parts are subject to wear and tear over time. The more you drive the car the more wear and tear you can expect. The thickness of the brake pad changes over time. If the brake pad is wearing down, the thickness will be significantly reduced. If the brake pad is less than a quarter inch thick, it is time to change it.
Rust – Water, salt, debris and aging can cause rust and undesirable build up in the braking system, especially when the braking system is on the rear wheels. The rotors can also become rusted. The symptoms of this problem include noise, rusted back plates, and sticking calipers. The emergency brake may also be malfunctioning.
Materials – The brake pad harness is also made of different materials depending on the brand. If the compound is made of more durable materials, the brake pads will have a longer life cycle. Although the soft compounds perform better in urban environments, they melt when exposed to high heat. The materials used on the brake pad and rotor also play a large role in how long the brakes will last. The material may be metal, steel, carbon-ceramic, or some other combination of materials. Although the carbon-ceramic brakes will last longer, they cost more. The carbon-ceramic materials will be found in more expensive cars.
Heavy loads – The brakes become strained when you are trying to stop a car carrying heavy loads. The brake calipher squeezes the brake pads against the brake rotor when you are trying to slow down or come to a stop. The brake calipher squeezes the brake pads against the brake rotor when you are trying to slow down or come to a stop. When the brake calipher is damaged, it starts to stick, which causes the vehicle to vibrate. Over time, the vibrations get worse. As you travel at higher speeds, the shaking is accompanied by a burnt odor. You can tell which wheel has the damaged calipher by smelling around each wheel.
Demographic – Whether the car is driven down long winding roads in the country or in stop-and-go traffic in a congested city, the life cycle of the brakes will vary, depending upon the environment. Flat terrain is less demanding than steep, hilly areas. Congested city traffic wears the brakes on a car much faster than other environmental demographics. A car driven primarily on long roads with little in the way of stop signs and red lights will have higher fuel economy and will need much less brake maintenance.
Semi-metallic brands – When the clutch pedal is depressed in the manual transmission, you may hear bumping and grinding noises coming from the transmission. This is also the sound of wearing brakes.
Driving habits – The driving habits of the driver are an important factor in how long the brake pads will last. The brake shoes can become stuck against the wheel drum. Gentle drivers who do not drive like they are in a rush will get more out of their brakes than the aggressive driver who constantly pounds on the brakes.
Lack of maintenance – Your brakes should be serviced every once in a while so that the brake fluid can be flushed from time to time. The bore inside the master cylinder becomes corroded which causes leaks in the seals. You can see that the color of the fluid in the reservoir is no longer a healthy color. When the rubber seals on the brake master cylinder wear out, the brake fluid can become contaminated. When the fluid goes bad, it turns to a darker color. The brake pressure is also affected by the worn seals.
If you want to avoid brake problems or other issues and save $100s of dollars that you’ll spend at the auto repair shop, you’ll need to service your vehicle often – you can use our mechanic-rated Auto Maintenance and Repair Manual to do this. It’s basically what mechanics use to go through your vehicle to check if there are any problems that need fixing. As soon as they notice the most minor problem, they’ll ask you to fork out some money even though it’s a problem you can fix yourself in minutes – the manual will teach you how to maintain your vehicle every few thousand miles and it’ll teach you how to fix minor problems that mechanics will ask you to pay for; saving you money in the long run.
A lot of our readers have the Auto Maintenance and Repair Manual printed on their garage wall and 92% of them haven’t visited the auto repair shop in the last year because they know what to do to avoid problems. All it takes is giving your vehicle a little attention every few thousand miles and you’ll never spend money at the workshop again.
Time to Change the Brakes
Most brakes should routinely be replaced after 25,000, 50,000 or 70,000 miles. The life cycle of the brakes is extended when the tires are rotated twice a year. If things go wrong before the routine replacement, the brakes should be repaired as needed. Most vehicles come equipped with a brake warning light on the dash. Most times, the brake warning light activates when the brake fluid is low or leaking, the brake pads are worn, or the brakes themselves need to be replaced. The light will also activate for a bad speed sensor. If the brake light stays on continuously.
The first step to fixing the problem is to identify what is not working. Make sure which parts are causing the squeaking before you start any repairs. Here are a few things you can do to start fixing the problem the right way:
Check the OBD2 codes – When components in your braking system go bad, the computer in your car makes a record of each event. You can use an OBD2 Scanner (view on Amazon) to check the trouble codes that have been thrown about your vehicle. The troubles codes help to diagnose many potential problems under your hood. More than one code may be thrown for your braking system as well as for other components that are associated with the brakes.
If you were able to check the OBD2 codes and you’re ready to get it fixed, do it yourself. Two of the most common options for fixing squeaking brakes is to replace the brake pads and to bleed the brake system:
Change the Brake Pads
Changing the brake pads on your car increases performance and safety. (Note: Most times the brake pads and rotors are replaced at the same time.) Use your owner’s manual to guide you in selecting the replacement parts and lubricant. If you don’t know how to operate a jack, let someone else do it.
1. Gather a ratchet and a car jack.
2. Loosen the lug nuts on each tire and position the floor jack under the car.
3. Remove the lug nuts and the caliper bolts, then set them aside. Remove the tire so that you can see the caliper and rotor assembly..
4. Remove the old brake pads from both sides of the rotor.
5. Install the new brake pads. First grease the new pads around the metal plates. Only use a very small drop of the lubricant.
6. Adjust the caliper assembly to fit the new brake pads and finish with a socket wrench.
7. Reinstall the tires. Tighten the lug nuts by hand. Re-insert the jack and lift your car up enough to be able to remove the jack stand. Secure the nuts using a tire iron.
8. Lower the car and remove the jack.
Bleed the Brake System
Typically, the brake fluid is designed to last for the lifetime of your car, or close to it. However, sometimes it must be changed. The fluid may have lost moisture resistance which means it has begun to absorb water. Air even becomes trapped in the brake fluid. When the fluid is not healthy, it causes big problems in the braking system. Here are the steps to bleed the brake fluid and refill with new fluid that will perform correctly:
1. Check your owner’s manual to confirm the right types of brake fluid. It is not a good idea to mix types. You can also ask the auto parts store clerk which kind you need for your car’s make and model. Purchase two or three of the 12 ounce cans of brake fluid.
2. Use a jack to raise your car up on a garage floor or somewhere equally as flat. Remove all four wheels. It is not advised to prop the car up on cylinder blocks. If you do not have the proper jack, take your car in to a repair shop.
3. Find the four caliper bleeding screws and try to gently remove them. If they don’t loosen, use an oil loosening spray to get them off without stripping them. Only have one screw loose at a time to keep the unnecessary air out.
4. Check the fluid level in the brake master cylinder reservoir. If you are not sure where it is, check your owner’s manual. The fluid level should be at the “full” mark.
5. Place tubing over the bleeder screw for the first brake you intend to bleed. Hang the catch container directly above the bleeder screw.
6. Have someone else pump the brake pedal several times until resistance can be felt after pressing the brake pedal. Maintain the pressure.
7. Open the bleeder screw. After the fluid is drained close the bleeder screw.
8. Check the fluid level in the master cylinder reservoir.
9. Repeat these steps on each bleed screw as many times as necessary to regain pressure in the brakes with clean brake fluid.
10. Make sure the bleeder screws are replaced tightly and there is no fluid eruption when you use the brakes.
Can I Drive With the Squeaky Brakes?
No. There is a direct, positive relationship has been found between the brakes, the brake lights, and rear end crashes. When the rotor or brake caliper are a part of the problem, the condition worsens the more you drive. The braking system is a part of your security when driving an automobile; the security of knowing you can stop the car. When that security is gone, driving becomes dangerous.
If you have problems with your braking system, find out what you can do to get it right. If you don’t have an OBD2 scanner, you can take your car to a local automotive professional who has one. Most car shops have computerized tools to perform diagnostics on your vehicle. You can also make sure that your brake pads are not eroded to the point that you should not be driving your car. You can prevent an escalating problem by having regular maintenance checks on your vehicle which typically include the brakes.
How Do I Stop the Brakes from Squeaking?
Any automotive part can malfunction and some must be replaced. When doing a brake job, it does not only mean changing the brake pads. It means removing rust from contact areas, cleaning off dirty grease, and apply new lubricant to make sure the parts can move about freely.