Squeaky brakes put the fear in every driver. We all start thinking the worst when we hear a noise. Will they still work when I need them to? Do I have the money to repair them? What am I going to do without a car? But sometimes, there's no need to panic. Squeaky brakes don't always mean that you're one step from disaster. In fact, most of the time it's a perfectly normal noise. So, should you worry about your squeaky brakes? We've created an easy to follow diagnosis process to give you the clarity you need. If your brakes start making any sort of noise, this is the process you should follow. We'll help you get to the bottom of your problem!  

 

What Sort Of Noise Do You Hear From Your Squeaky Brakes?

Some noises are natural. An occasional short, high-pitched squeak or a light swishing or grinding sound isn't too serious. If your stopping distance isn't affected, or the noise goes away quickly, don't worry too much. Chances are, there is a simple explanation for a small amount of noise. If your noise sounds like sheet metal ripping, you need to book a brake repair immediately. This is not a natural noise and usually means that your brake pads have worn down to the wear indicator. This small piece of metal will rub against the brake rotors when your brake pads need changing. Don't ignore this noise.  

When Do You Notice Your Squeaky Brakes?

Disuse can cause squeaky brakes as a layer of rust and other dirt builds up on your brake pads over time. However, your braking system can clear this off without any issue. Do your brakes squeak at low speed? On a cold morning? If you can answer yes to any of the above, and it's not a harsh, grinding sound you shouldn't worry too much. Be sure to monitor the noise, including if it gets any more frequent or any worse. If the noise is persistent (i.e. every time you brake) or frequent, it's possible that your brake pads are worn. A slight persistent squeak could be the first sign that your wear indicator is rubbing.  

Have You Recently Changed Your Brakes?

When was the last time you had a brake check? If it was recent, the noise may be your new brakes bedding in. They take a little while to adjust, so it's normal to experience a small amount of noise after fitting. If you still notice squeaky brakes a few days after your fitting, they may be fitted incorrectly. This can cause you a lot of problems, so it's worth contacting the garage who fitted them to get the problem sorted.   new brake pads fitted to a car - these can cause squeaky brakes  

What Causes Squeaky Brakes?

There are a few reasons why squeaky brakes develop. If you're concerned by the squeak, but don't think it's an urgent problem, you may be able to improve it on your own. You should always consider external and environmental factors before worrying about squeaky brakes.  

Excess Weight Combined With a Heavier Car

Even the smallest car weighs a lot. A Smart Car weighs more than a tonne, a Vauxhall Corsa up to 1 and 1/2 tonnes, and a family car like the Ford Galaxy can weigh a whopping 2 tonnes! That's without the extra weight we add when we use the car. If you frequently drive around with a full car and a heavily laden boot, your car needs a lot more energy to slow down. This increases the pressure on the brakes and makes them much hotter. This pressure may create some noise - but it still should be minimal. If the excess weight isn't necessary, remove it where possible. A lighter load will always help increase the lifespan of your brakes. This reduces your running costs in the long term!  

Cold Weather

If your car is light but the temperature is barely above freezing, you might still experience squeaky brakes. The weather is a key factor for several reasons. If you're feeling the cold, it's likely that your brakes are as well. Metal contracts when exposed to cold temperatures and expands when it's heated up. The noise you may hear is likely to be your brakes readjusting to the changing temperature. It shouldn't last for too long and it shouldn't be too loud either.   snowy, winter road: a cold, icy road like this can cause squeaky brakes  

Moisture in the Air (Affecting the Brakes)

The other main weather factor is rain. Water and metal don't mix well, often forming rust. This process is known as oxidisation. If your car sits in repeated heavy downpours, its metal components may suffer. Dew, rain and other moisture in the air can cause a thin layer of rust to form on your brakes. A slight squeaking or grinding when you first set off on a damp morning is the system removing this. Again, it shouldn't last very long and it shouldn't be very loud - but it's perfectly natural.  

Glazed Brake Pads

Of course, some causes are much more serious than others. Over time, your brake pads may become glazed. This means the brake callipers are a bit sticky, leaving the brakes partially applied. This will produce the squeaking noise. Glazed pads are more of a problem because the quality of your brakes is reduced. If you hear a high-pitched noise and feel like your braking distance has increased, book an appointment with a local garage. A technician can sand the brakes easily, removing the stickiness and the noise.  

Thin or Worn Brake Pads

This is the most severe cause of squeaky brakes. If your brake pads are worn, your car won't stop effectively and leaves you at risk. Look out for the grinding sheet metal noise we mentioned earlier and always keep track of brake pads replacements. They have a distinct lifespan, so it's always worth knowing when they might be wearing thin.  

old rusted car brakes

If your brakes look like this, you should think about buying replacement parts as soon as possible!

 

How Can I Stop Squeaky Brakes?

Now that you've diagnosed your issue, it's important to act upon it. Even something as simple as removing heavy objects from your boot can have an impact. Most of the issues we've discussed will go away on their own. Once your brakes warm up or remove the rust, the noise should go away. Drive gently early in the morning, brake early to avoid slamming the pedal down and keep using your car and it's brakes to keep them in top condition. If you suspect that your brake pads need replacing, a mechanic should inspect them as soon as possible. It's easier than ever to book a brake check with Book My Garage! Enter your postcode and registration number to compare garages in your area and start saving time and money!  

 

Recap

Squeaky brakes aren't always indicative of a major problem. If you notice a noise, it's important to monitor it but don't panic until you've followed our simple process. Here's what you need to remember:

  1. A gentle squeak every now and then is less worrying than a persistent grinding noise
  2. Squeaky brakes on a cold or wet morning may be more to do with the environment
  3. Take urgent action if you notice a noise and a drop in braking performance
  4. Book My Garage offer a quick and easy booking system to help sort your squeaky brakes sooner!