Squeaky Brakes: Common Causes and Possible Solutions
Making sure your car is functioning properly is an important responsibility if you’re a driver. Oftentimes, you may be able to determine that your vehicle needs some sort of repair by feeling how it drives, or if the calendar dictates that its time for certain regular maintenance tasks.
Additionally, if you hear unusual noises coming from your car, that can also be a sign that it’s time to have it checked out. Squeaky, squealing brakes can be a common complaint, especially after DIY brake repairs. Even with new parts, brakes can emit annoying noises. Auto mechanic Eric Obrochta shares his tips for safely replacing brake pads in a way that helps eliminate squeaks and squeals.
Hi, my name’s Eric O. I have over 16 years experience as a professional mechanic and independent shop owner here and upstate New York and today I want to talk to you about your brakes. Now in today’s day and age and what seems to be an endless amount of information available to us, it’s been my observation that many folks have ventured into the DIY aspect of auto repair. Well this could be good and can save you some money, make sure you arm yourself with the knowledge and know-how to complete the task.
Another equally important aspect to consider besides arming yourself with the proper knowledge and tools, shop manuals, educate yourself on the system and the how tos of it is safety. Safety is absolutely number one. Here in the shop we use a lift to raise our vehicles to work on, to secure them. But at home, I assume most people don’t have that convenience, so you’ll be using jacks and jack stands, so make 100 percent sure that you understand clearly how to lift and secure your vehicle to provide yourself with a safe working condition.
And with that being said, if you are unsure about your ability to complete your auto repair in any way, make sure you take your car to a professional auto mechanic.
Now working as a professional mechanic in a shop, we get some DIY-ers come in occasionally that have replaced pads and rotors on their own vehicle and now they’ve got this annoying squeal. They’ve got their brand new components there, they’re pulling up to the stop sign and they just get the “errrrrrrrr” loud squeal. They don’t know what’s up. They want to know why. I’m going to show you some brake pad replacement tips and tricks that we do in the shop to help eliminate squeaks and squeals.
As I’m pulling this brake caliper off this vehicle so we can have a look at this brake job, keep in mind the parts use are quite important in this process. You’ve got that old adage, “You get what you pay for.” Well, that kind of stands true with brake parts. Don’t skimp on brake parts. Last I checked stopping shouldn’t be an option. Make sure you look and see what your vehicle came with from the factory in reference to the friction material. You know, did it take ceramics, did it take semi-metallics…and just replace it with the equivalent to that.
Besides replacing your brake pads with the correct friction material, your brake disc is also equally important. You want to make sure that it is within its service limits. as far sickness, if you plan on reusing it. If it’s not, you want to make sure you replace that with a high quality replacement rotor also. Now this is from my observation from doing, you know, thousands and thousands of brake jobs, that we assume that our break noise—our brake squeals—come between the brake pad friction material and the brake rotor.
Now that can be in some cases, but I have discovered in most cases, it’s where we have a metal-to-metal contact. So you can see where these brake pads were riding on the brake caliper, you get your outer pad and brake caliper ears; your inner one on your brake caliper piston, we’ve got a metal-to-metal contact there. We also have a metal-to-metal contact with the ears of our brake pad on the brake pad hardware. Now anywhere that we have a metal-to-metal contact, that we have you know minute amount of movement, we can get noise and we can get squeals.
Get this brake caliper bracket off here. I’ll show you guys a few tricks and tips that we do as professional installers to help eliminate brake noise. It is actually a simple yet often overlooked aspect of the brake pad replacement procedure. One of the things I can mention, is brake pad hardware. Now brake pad hardware is often neglected, too. Make sure you replace it when you’re replacing your friction material. It wears out just like the pads do.
And prior to installing your new brake pad hardware with your new friction material, it’s very important—it’s probably one of the most important parts of it—that the mounting surface where the brake pad hardware attaches has to be clean. As you can see, these brake pads are just replaced. I’m just going to give you a good shot of that. You can notice the amount of buildup and rust and crud that is on these. They were not cleaned up and they certainly weren’t lubricated behind them prior to installing the hardware on a brand new set of pads. It’s our practice here in the shop to use a sandblaster to clean out the areas of the caliper bracket before installing the new hardware.
And the key to this whole procedure is lubrication. You actually lubricate these metal the metal services behind the brake caliper hardware, and this will eliminate tons of squeals believe it or not. The same goes for our metal-to-metal contact that we’re going to see on the friction material and also on our caliper guide pins—anywhere we have this metal to metal contact is a potential spot for noise and often very overlooked and neglected.
Now that you have that lubed up, we’re going to go ahead and install our brake caliper hardware on top of our freshly clean bracket and lubricated bracket. I’m going to show you the next step in noise prevention—that is going to be lubricating our caliper guide pins. This is kind of a comment setup for a disc brake here. We’re going to take and just lubricate our guide pins. Now you can get too excessive with these so make sure you look at your service manual at their recommendation—these you don’t want to overdo.
So we’ve gone ahead and mounted our caliper bracket. Now we’ve got our pads in place we’ve, already installed our brake caliper hardware and we paid close attention to the mounting surface of the brake caliper hardware and the amount of rust and crud was built up in there. Like I say, often overlooked and neglected, but very important as far as brake pad operation, allowing your brake pads to sit in here freely—it’s very important. You should never have to fit or hammer in your brake pads ever. They should always just float in here nice and free. Lubricating that will keep those from rusting in the future and also help that with that metal to metal friction and potential noise area.
The next break installation tip I can give you is on the actual brake caliper itself. Now the important part of this is, just like it was on the caliper brackets—cleanliness. We want to make sure that we remove, you know, rust and scale and dirt debris, and brake dust—whatever else builds up here on the brake calipers from these ears, from the caliper piston itself. If any of these components are worn or rusted, you know, beyond repair, obviously at that point that have to be replaced. But the installation procedure that will show you it will stay in the same whether you’re replacing the caliper reusing your old one.
I’ve gone ahead and got rid of all the debris and rust buildup that was on this caliper, went ahead and cleaned it off with some brake parts cleaner. I’m going to go ahead and lubricate the brake caliper and like I said, this is often overlooked. So I just put a little bit of our brake caliper grease on the brake caliper ears and then also on the brake caliper piston face where it’s going to have that metal to metal contact with the outer portion of our brake pads.
Once that’s done, I’m going to take and install our brake caliper—this is where things can get kind of messy and you have to be pretty mindful of what you’re doing. You don’t want to contaminate your friction material with grease—you don’t want to get grease on the wrong side of your pads that can make quite a mess when you have to pull it off and clean everything. So be careful and observant when doing this portion of it.
We’ll swing our caliper right down on our pads. I’ve already lubricated are pins so we’ll stick those back in, we’ll tighten up to factory specs…we’re just about done.
All right folks, I hope you found this useful. As simple as it seems, it is often overlooked and we see it all the time, you know, whether it’s a DIYer or even sometimes in professional installation applications, we see this aspect of the brake system overlooked. The lubrication of these metal-to-metal contacts will eliminate noise. Make sure you’re cleaning your caliper bracket. Make sure you’re replacing your brake hardware. Use high quality brake pads and rotors and you’ll be happy. And just remember folks, if I can do it, you can do it.
Thanks for watching.