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Causes & Solutions: Squealing Brakes At Low Speed and With New Brakes

Causes & Solutions: Squealing Brakes At Low Speed and With New Brakes

Any strange noise coming from your car is troubling. So when you hear squealing brakes at low speed, it won’t be a surprise if you start to wonder if this is a serious problem or not. There are more than one reason for squealing brakes and since the condition of your brakes are vital for safety, any issue related to brakes should always be taken seriously.


Why does my car squeak when I drive slowly?

Surprisingly, squealing brakes at low speed may not mean a problem in certain instances. Such as the case with some high-performance brakes that usually squeal at lower speeds and with gentle braking when still new. There are also times when squealing brakes at low speed is caused by the materials found in the brake parts. An example of this is when brake parts made of metal and synthetic materials rub against each other. In some instances, squealing noises are heard after installing new brakes. 

 

Other minor reasons for squealing brakes include having a stone that is stuck in the brakes. If this is the case, most of the time it would just resolve on its own so you do not have to do anything. If it doesn’t, apply a pressure wash to remove stuck stones and dirt. If the brakes continue to squeal, check the brake pads and rotor. 

 

If you check into the owner’s manual of your car, you will find that the squealing brakes are caused by high-frequency vibration due to the rubbing of the brake pads against the rotating disc. You won’t be able to avoid the vibration in this situation since the caliper is the one that keeps the pads fastened against the disc.  

 

There are a few factors that contribute to the vibration’s frequency and intensity. It varies on the weather and road conditions such as temperature and humidity. When it gets dusty or muddy, the vibrations can increase. Another factor that affects the vibration level is the brake pad material’s condition. For instance, when the material is worn out or damaged, there will be more squealing noises. When this is the cause, you should address the problem as it can affect the brake system’s performance and working condition.

 

Warped rotors also produce pulsating, repeating series of squealing noise instead of a single continuous noise. Faulty calipers can also be a cause of squealing brakes. Another possible cause is a brake pad compound as there are some brake pads that simply produce noise throughout their lifespan because of what they are made of. If this is the case, they squeal in the morning during the first few stops but stop when the car warms up. 

 

Why are my brakes squealing with new brakes?

The reason brakes squeal with new brakes is that some auto repair shops and dealerships do not replace the old glazed rotors upon installation of new brake pads. At the least, cleaning the rotors should be included in the service if they are not replaced to avoid squealing noises. Here are common reasons new brakes squeal:

 

Metal fibers 

Many brake pads have metal fibers and squealing noises may arise when metal fibers are too near to each other. The good news is, the pad will usually wear past this point, and the noise will just go away.

 

Panic Stopping

 

If you often do hard stops or panic stops, it can result in your brake pad having glossy finish or glaze due to heat. A glaze on the brake pad can cause squealing sounds. To solve this, some auto shops will pull the pads off the vehicle and sand them down to get rid of the smooth surface.But the best thing to do is to change the brake pads.

 

Stuck in the “on” Position

 

Your brake system has caliper pins that apply and release the pads. When one of the caliper pins gets stuck in the apply position, the pad will be applied cockeyed to the rotor. In some instances, lubricating them can release the stuck caliper pins. But in other instances, you need to change the calipers. Also, you may need to replace the new brake pads and rotors. 

 

Lower Quality Pads

 

If you went with cheaper brake pads, chances are the quality is also lower than more expensive ones. Lower quality brake pads often also mean they are more prone to noise and excess brake dust.

 

Issue with the Rotors

 

When the rotors are not machined or changed with brake pads, the rotor will not have a surface that goes well with the new pads. This can also make the brakes produce noise and take longer to stop.

How do you temporarily stop squeaky brakes?

Now that you know the different reasons brakes squeal at low speed and when they are newly installed, it’s time to know how to fix the issue (or at least temporarily stop) squealing brakes.

 

One solution is to simply use a different kind of friction material. Makers have to balance a handful of priorities when selecting what brake pads to use on the car, such as grip, noise, pad life, price and dust creation. If you replace it with an aftermarket metallic or ceramic pad, the resonant of the brake pad and disc could change, and therefore, change its tune in a literal sense. Lots of aftermarket pads are made particularly for specific desirable traits like low dust or low noise. If there is still ample pad material remaining and you do not want to spend $50 or $100 on a new set, what you can do is to decouple the brake piston acoustically from the pad through buying shims made of Teflon. However, this fix does not always work.

 

Another option is to go with a high-end ceramic based pads since the different characteristics have the potential to solve the squealing problem. They may also come fitted with Teflon-coated shims. But there are some calipers that do not come with adequate extra travel in the piston bore to let any shimming without causing the brakes to drag, especially when your pads are still new and unworn. When this happens or if the shims won’t do the trick, you can get a similar acoustic decoupling through simply coating the back face of the pad’s backing plates with hot temperature brake grease or anti-seize compound. This tweak won’t fix the problem permanently though like the shims. This is because water and road dirt will wash it away over time.

 

Keep in mind that simple aerosols should not be applied onto the pad’s friction material. The brake system is there to make a car slow down so anything that could lessen the system’s effectiveness in any manner is simply a bad idea. Moreover, both the pad and rotor wear down and have surfaces that crumble eventually and the spray-on tweak will grind off along with it. 

 

Another way to solve your squealing brakes at a low speed problem is to stick the brake pad’s backing plate to the caliper housing or the piston, effectively growing its mass. This way the system’s resonant frequency gets out of the range that makes squealing noises. Super Glue won’t do the trick. It requires something that can withstand elements like water, dirt, salt and particularly the heat that cars have to experience daily. 

 

It is recommended that you use anaerobic adhesives that are applied as either a toothpaste-like goo or a lipstick-style film. It’s simple to apply this product. What you have to do is, first, take off the pads and clean them up, or use fresh pads. Clean the spot on the piston and caliper where the pad backing plate touches. Now you can apply the adhesive to the piston, do the reinstallation of pads, and reassemble the brakes. The Anaerobic product will remain gummy until applying the brakes and squeezing out the oxygen. Afterwards, they’ll stick the same as glue. 

 

Remember to get rid of any corrosion or road dirt from the mating parts when installing any parts of the brake system. To work properly, the brake pad and piston should be able to slide in and out, especially for worn pads and rotors. A brake cleaner, a file or wire brush may be needed to clean up any sliding parts, but you have to make sure nothing will jam your caliper and make it drag. If you are unable to get the piston back into the caliper using your hands, try using a C-clamp with an old brake pad or a small chunk of wood between the clamp and the piston. If it or any component does not move properly or is extremely corroded, change it (it won’t cost you a lot). Also put a thin film of high-temp brake grease to any sliding surfaces while in there since lubricated parts reduce noise. Make sure not to have any grease or anti-seize get into the pad or disc. Wipe off any greasy handprints on the surface of the disc before reinstalling the wheels. 

 

If you are not confident in fixing the issue by yourself or if you are unsure of the reason why your brakes are squealing in the first place, have them inspected by a professional mechanic. You cannot risk driving with squealing brakes as it can lead to accidents. 

How much does it cost to fix squeaky brakes?

 

Worn pads or drums is a common brake problem. Brakes use friction to stop the vehicle so as expected they wear on along with the pads. Brake pads need replacement after a while. You will know if your brake pads need to be changed as you will hear an increasing squealing sound whenever you hit the brakes. If you fail to replace them immediately, it will come to a point when the rotors and/or drums will also need to be replaced making it more expensive to fix. Replacing pads may cost $75 to $100 while replacing a drum, rotor and/or caliper can cost you several hundreds depending on the seriousness of the problem.

 

If you decide to bring your car to a service center, expect to shell out anywhere from $150 to $1000 for a brake job. The cost will depend on the condition of pads, rotors, and brake lines, and the cost of labor. To avoid getting overcharged, act like you have experience or are knowledgeable with the nature and cost of brake repairs when dealing with the service representative. 

Can you drive with squeaky brakes?

Yes, you can drive with squeaky brakes. The next question is, should you drive with one? The answer depends on the reason for the squeak. The typical reason for this is a dust buildup especially when you have semi-metallic brake pads. If you are able to do a couple hard brake cycles and the squeaking stops at least temporarily then chances are it is just brake dust and it isn’t a problem. But if it continues then it could mean it is time to replace your brake pads. Typically, brake pads have little metal tabs on them and are made to start rubbing against the rotor when the pads are worn down telling you that they should be replaced. The rubbing creates a very loud squealing noise whenever brakes are applied and no matter how hard they are applied. When this is the case, it is highly recommended to get them replaced as soon as possible.

 

Conclusion

As mentioned earlier, squeaky brakes can be a sign of different things, and it does not always necessarily mean your brakes are bad. But they can also be a symptom of an issue that needs to be addressed right away. You can check the pads and rotors on your own. Usually, you won’t have to remove the wheels. Wait until the rotors are no longer hot and use your hand to feel the rotor’s texture and use a flashlight to check the profile of the pads. The rotors must be glass smooth and if they aren’t it means the pads are wearing down and causing grooves in the rotors. The pads must look beefy. If you are unsure what’s the cause of squealing brakes at low speed or when they are newly installed, have your brakes inspected by a professional mechanic as soon as possible.