Squeaky car brakes: What you need to know

By Allstate

Last updated: January 1

Squeaky brake pads can be unsettling to hear. It's not always cause for panic, according to CarsDirect, but it's best not to ignore it. Here are a few reasons why brakes might squeak and how they should be addressed.

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What causes squeaky brakes while driving?

Brakes endure a lot of stress, says CarsDirect. Brake pads create heat when they apply friction to slow down a vehicle. Over time, it's not uncommon for all that hard work to cause them to produce weird sounds. If your brakes squeal, grind or hiss, consider the following:

Poor installation

Cheap parts and improper installation methods can lead to squeaky brakes and other problems, says Les Schwab Tires. A common culprit is a poorly lubricated caliper that ends up sticking. The caliper encloses the brake pads and pistons, according to Goodyear, and creates friction with the rotors to slow down the wheels. A caliper that sticks, explains carparts.com, can reduce braking ability and may cause the car to "drag" as it rubs against the rotor. Eventually, it can wear the brake pad down, leading to loud scraping sounds.

Carparts.com encourages you to address this issue ASAP. Bring your car in to a mechanic, if you can.

Brakes need to 'warm up'

According to Popular Mechanics, brake friction may produce hissing or grinding sounds when brakes have accumulated dew and rust overnight. Rainy mornings can also cause brake pads to make noises. The sound should go away once the brake pads have scraped the rust off the disc.

Les Schwab Tires warns, though, that condensation may cause brakes to rust over time. They advise keeping the car in the garage, if possible.

Modern brake materials

Vehicles have gotten heavier over time due to upgraded parts and safety features, says Popular Mechanics. This has given rise to the use of metallic and ceramic materials on brake pads. These materials are better at slowing down heavier vehicles than their predecessors. But they also make for noisier brakes. This typically isn't anything to worry about.

Brakes need to be replaced

According to Axle Addict, brakes pads have what is called a "wear indicator." It's a metal tab that scrapes the disc once the brake pad is worn and needs to be replaced. A squeak is one thing. But scraping may mean the brake pads need to be replaced.

Ways you can fix squeaky brakes

Upgrading to aftermarket brake pads is one way to silence harmless squeals, says Popular Mechanics. Many aftermarket parts are specially designed to reduce noise. Consult your local mechanic for options.

Additionally, Popular Mechanics encourages trying anaerobic adhesives. These are adhesives that bond well to metal. It requires removing and cleaning the pad and caliper. Then you would smear the adhesive on the piston. Try this method only if you're comfortable taking a part and reassembling the brake components.

It's worth mentioning again that serious brake issues should be addressed by a mechanic immediately.

What if your new brakes are squeaking?

As mentioned above, ceramic or metallic pads or moisture can cause pads to squeak. This type of squeaking is usually harmless, says Popular Mechanics.

But new brake pads can also squeak because of a foreign object, explains Bockman's Auto Care. Twigs, pinecones or rocks may get stuck between the brake pad and rotor. Squeaking may occur without stepping on the pedal. If that's the case, take your car to the shop ASAP before the rotors are damaged.

Are brake pads covered by insurance?

Insurance doesn't cover standard maintenance that comes with owning a car. That includes replacing worn brake pads.

But brake pads that are damaged in an accident may be covered. It depends on your policy. Comprehensive or collision, for instance, could help cover you for roadway collisions, fallen trees or vandalized or stolen wheels. Reach out to your car insurance company if you're ever unsure about what's covered or the specific coverages on your policy.