My car brakes are squeaky. What do I do?
Most of us know that sound. You start the car in the morning, start driving, and at the first intersection you come to, you hear a squeak. You look around. There are no other cars around. The squeaky brakes are yours! You spend the rest of your drive embarrassed by that irritating car brake sound and concerned that the squeak might be a real problem.
Well, here’s some information on brakes and why you need to be concerned if you’re hearing car brake noise when you drive.
How brakes work
Here’s a brief rundown of how brakes work:
- When you press down on the brake pedal, brake fluid is released. The brake fluid enables systems that push brake pads onto smooth round metal plates, known as brake disc rotors.
- Brake pads are attached to brake calipers that press against the disc rotor when braking, and release when not braking. The brake pads sit between the rotor disc and the caliper.
- Brake pads allows for friction, and this friction enables your car to stop.
Why brakes squeak
There are a number of causes for brakes squeaking or squealing. Here’s a few.
- You may have rust on the brake rotor discs. This can happen when moisture collects on the rotors (usually overnight) and rusts the discs. When the discs then spin, the brake pads scrape off the rust, which causes the squeak. This is not a major issue, and the best solution for this is to garage your car overnight if you can.
- A number of components go into your car braking system. If any of these components are malfunctioning, you might hear squeaks. Brake calipers, anti-rattle clips, or pad insulators might be too loose, or broken, which will cause vibration of the brake pads. If these problems exist, you need a car brakes service as soon as possible.
- You might have cheap brake pads. Cheaper brakes pads often contain a high content of metal, and these metal fibres drag against the rotor discs and cause squealing sounds. To avoid this, aim for brake pads that contain more organic material, and less metal.
- Your brake pads might simply be worn out. If the brake pads wear down, they no longer create the friction required to stop your vehicle. Worn brake pads also allow the rotor discs and calipers to touch without padding in between, leading to squeaks, and the potential degradation of the rotor discs and calipers. Worn out brake pads should be replaced.
Why brakes pads wear out
Every time your brakes are applied, brake pads wear. This wear is accelerated when you drive your car a lot in city traffic and stop and start often.
The manner in which you drive can also be a factor in how fast your brakes wear. If you regularly brake suddenly, rather than in a slow and measured way, it wears the pads faster (jolty or aggressive drivers might need more regular brake services).
The weight of your vehicle also plays a role in advancing the wear and tear on brake pads. If you have a heavy vehicle, or a light vehicle carrying a heavy load like caravan or trailer, your brake pads wear faster.
Signs brake pads are worn out (aside from squeaks)
- Your brake warning light flashes
- Your car doesn’t stop as quickly as it should, or pulls slightly to the left or right when you brake
- When you press the brake pedal, your vehicle doesn’t have the grip on the road it used to have, or the pedal doesn’t work as easily as it should, and feels like it has little resistance, or is wobbly underfoot.
- Your steering wheel vibrates or shudders when you press on the brakes
Note, some of these issues may be caused by other issues in the braking system, so it’s important to get them investigated.
Is there a difference between front and rear brake pads?
In short, yes. Front brake pads tend to wear out faster than rear pads, because they take a larger role in the braking process.
With the weight of a car moving forward, more force goes to the front of the car when brakes are applied, and hence front brakes take more of the impact. More friction and heat is created, and the brake pads wear out sooner. (Remember, this friction is what stops the car moving, so wear-down of brake pads is a necessary inconvenience.)
To cater for extra wear and tear, front brake pads are thicker than rear brake pads.
Front and rear brake pads also differ in size, as brake pads are sized according to the calipers they attach to, and calipers at the front of the vehicle are larger than those at the rear. They’re also a different shape, so front and rear brake pads certainly aren’t interchangeable.
Brakes are one of the most important components of your car. An effective braking system is vital for your safety on the road, and that of other road users.
Healthy brake pads enable your car to stop quickly, and help prevent wear and tear on your braking system. Brake pads that are worn out won’t do a proper job. Your car won’t stop as easily, and braking system components may grind against each other, causing damage.
It’s essential you get brake pads replaced as soon as they are showing signs of wear-out. Don’t wait, as you and your vehicle are at risk in the meantime.
Where do I get car brakes serviced near me?
If you’re seeking a car brake service, or you want to order brake components online, check out the Pedders range of brake parts and services for various vehicle types. We have stores all across Australia. If your vehicle is a 4wd then check out our range of TrakRyder Brake parts here. Be sure to check out our rear drum to disc conversion kit and eXtreme big brake kits.