Why are my brakes squeaking?

September 21, 2016

Everyone has had those heart-stopping images of brake failure accidents flash into their mind: whether it was because they hit the wrong pedal, they felt their brakes shudder, or their brakes let out a shrill squeal. The shrieking noise of brakes is never a welcome one, but the real question is is your safety really at risk?

I pull up to a stop light just down the road from my house, and there’s an awful screeching sound that has to be my brakes. All the horror stories that I’m sure we’ve all heard about brake failure accidents come rushing back into my mind (and probably into the mind of the driver in front of me). I miraculously stop behind the car in front of me at every light on the way home. When I walk into the house, I ask my dad what the problem might be. All I really want to know is whether or not I should drive to work the next day.

Here’s what he told me: car brake systems don’t just fail. It’s only after a long process of slow deterioration that they’re actually unsafe. In other words, while the sound is usually a concern, it probably won’t be dangerous immediately. On one hand, if the sound you hear is a piercing, rough, metal-on-metal sound, then you should be worried – your brakes could not only fail to stop your car, but they can also damage other parts of it! On the other hand, if you’ve recently had work done on your brakes, and the sound is a soft squeal, it can be the type of brakes that are on your car. Many performance cars come with brakes that have a high metal content, making them squeak  when the brakes are applied. If it’s worth it to you, there are a few anti-squeal compounds that you can use to prevent this noise, if you want to keep the high performance brakes, but make it easier on your ears.

If, like mine, your car isn’t a performance car, and the sound wasn’t a metal on metal sound, then you should take a look at your brakes. If there is grease on any of the brake parts, your brake pads could be wearing pretty low. If there is rust on anything, then it might be your rotors that need to be replaced. Either way, you should take your car in to your nearest repair shop to get them checked out. Sometimes, it might just be the road conditions. If the roads you drive on are dusty or sandy, your brakes will squeak more because of the residue from this kind of driving. Sometimes, even humidity can affect braking noise. To be safe, it’s best to have a professional look at them and decide whether or not your safety is at risk.