Brakes squeaking is one of the most nerve-wracking sounds a car can make. Sometimes it happens when we drive our four wheels in the morning, especially when it is cold and the noises are gone after using the brakes a few times. Other times it is a continuous high-pitched squeal that indicates a more serious situation. 

Why do car brakes squeak?

The reason behind this excruciating noise is simple. Rotors are made of metal, and metal sometimes vibrates, creating sounds that most people consider annoying, to say the least. Reasons for those vibrations vary, but in no case should they be underestimated.

The most common causes for squeaking brakes are:

  • Debris, such as small stones, trapped between the rotor and brake pads. It will cause noise until the debris is ground down completely or falls out by itself. If not, a visit to a mechanic would be required to disassemble brake pads and remove the foreign object.
  • Poor quality parts. When you buy expensive spares you don't just pay for the logo. Cheap parts are made of lower quality friction materials that can cause squeaking noise. For example, an uneven (also called warped) rotor will create vibrations leading to those irritating sounds. The only solution available here is to buy better, more expensive brake pads or rotors. Or both.
  • Worn brake pads. They usually last between 20.000 and 60.000 miles, depending on how good you are with braking techniques (engine braking, etc.). Pads are fitted with a metal indicator that starts making noises when it is time to replace them. When you hear them, it is time to visit your trusted mechanic.

Brake pads matter

If you want to avoid squeaking noises in your car, you should know that there is a direct connection between the type you use and the noise comfort when driving.

There are three main types available:

  • Semi-metallic. Robust, durable and inexpensive. Your vehicle was most likely equipped with these when you bought it. The downside is that they do not function well in extreme temperatures. They also tend to underperform when overheated.
  • Non-Asbestos Organic (NAO) pads are made of fibre, glass, rubber, or kevlar. Their main advantage is sound comfort. Quiet as they are, Non-Asbestos Organic pads also wear much faster and in the process, produce lots of brake dust.
  • Ceramic brake pads are the best of both worlds. They are very quiet, just like the NAO's, while lasting even longer than semi-metallic. You might not like the price tag here, though. Ceramic pads are generally designed for performance and luxury cars.

Regardless of what brake pad type you prefer, it is always wise to spend some extra money for quality. Going for a budget version means low quality, and low quality usually means more noise.

Upgrading to ceramic pads is always a good idea if you can afford it. They offer superior comfort compared to semi-metallic. Made of extremely durable compounds, they offer stopping power that is almost as good as in the case of noisy semi-metallic pads. Sometimes even better. They excel in noise level, being the quietest option currently available and handle extremely high temperatures offering quick recovery. As we have already mentioned, the disadvantage is that they are not the most budget-friendly option.

Avoiding squeaking brakes

A mechanic checking out the brakes of a car

If you live in a country where the weather can be harsh, rains and sub-zero temperatures are a regular occurrence you should consider a garage. It will not only protect your car's brakes from frost and elements but also keep the paint in a good condition.

Another solution is to elevate your driving skills. A lot of strain on the brake pads and rotors comes from motorists who don't know how to handle their vehicles properly. The first thing to learn is, as we have already mentioned, engine braking. Rather than using your brakes, drivers should downshift into a lower gear. It only slows the car down, so we don't recommend it for emergency braking. However, this technique is a perfect way of reducing the speed, for example, when driving downhill. You also need to keep in mind the distance from other cars here.

You can also limit the load on your car. The heavier it is, the more pressure it puts on the brakes and tyres. Consider how you can remedy this, empty your boot and don't put anything inside your car unless you really need it. In fact, every excess kilogram inside your vehicle matters.

The most important thing about squeaking noises coming from your brakes is never to ignore them. 9 times out of 10, it will not be anything serious, and the sound will go away. If, however, the problem includes debris, poor quality or worn parts, the sooner you know about the problem, the sooner you can remedy it. In effect, your car will perform better and offer you the comfort and level of safety you need.