It isn’t uncommon to hear a squeaking sound coming from your brakes from time to time. This can be due to a number of factors including dust being on the brake pads or general wear. When deciding whether your brakes need attention, it’s best to assess the situations in which they’re squeaking.
Firstly, it’s completely normal for your car’s brakes to squeak first thing in the morning. As the brake pads warm up, they’ll make a small amount of noise. If your car had been parked outside in the damp air overnight, your brakes may even need to grind off a thin layer of rust that has built up. This can also be the case if your car hasn’t been driven for many weeks or months.
If the squeaking continues long into your commute, you may need to pay more attention. The most likely explanation is that your brake pads are nearing the end of their lifespan. Instead of letting them wear away to nothing, manufacturers install wear indicators in their pads. Wear indicators are small strips of metal specifically designed to screech in contact with the brake rotor and let you know it’s time for a replacement. If this is the case, it’s best to bring your vehicle to your mechanic for a brake replacement.
Another explanation for the squeaking may be if you’ve put your brakes under strain recently by braking for an extended period with a heavy vehicle or trailer. It’s possible your brake pads have overheated and “glazed”. This process, where your brake pads harden due to the heat stress, results in much less friction between the pad and the brake rotor. Your braking will be less forceful as a result, and you’ll notice that they start to squeak consistently.
Another possibility, the best-case scenario, is that a bit of debris from the road has made its way between the brake pad and the rotor. A small pebble or piece of grit is more than enough to disrupt their relationship and produce a squeaky brake. Luckily, just removing the brake pad to check for the issue may be enough to dislodge it.
Is it safe to drive with squeaking brakes?
As a general rule, it’s unwise to ignore a consistently squeaking brake for any length of time, as the sound is informing you that something is wrong or disrupted with one of the most important parts of your vehicle. Your brakes need to be dealt with before any damage takes place or you’re involved in a preventable accident.
For example, if you’ve ignored the squeaking sound of your brake pad’s wear indicator, eventually the brake pad will completely wear away and your brake will be pressing metal into metal to slow you down. At this point, your car is no longer roadworthy and is unsafe to drive.
If you feel that your brakes have been squeaking consistently for a week or more, or your car isn’t braking in the way you expect it to, it’s smart to either look at them yourself and assess their state or take them to a professional for a thorough inspection.
Can I fix my own squeaky brakes?
The easiest way to fix your squeaking brakes is a brake pad replacement. Provided you have the right tools and consult your owner’s manual, brake repair is something anybody interested can manage. If you’re not comfortable fixing your own brakes and want to be sure that it’s done to the highest standard, taking your vehicle to a qualified mechanic is your best option.
Additionally, as your front two wheels take more of the braking impact, they will likely need replacing more frequently than the back two wheels. However, it’s recommended that you check each individual brake when replacing a problematic one, to ensure that they’re in good working order. You should also inspect the brake rotor as these need to be replaced when they show significant signs of wear (or roughly every 100,000km).
If you’ve been noticing a squeak every time you stop at a red light, it’s time to bring your car in to our expertly trained team at Highfields Mechanical, so we can send you home with the safest brakes possible.
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