Why Are My Brakes Squeaking When I Drive?

August 9, 2016

Our brake systems are critically important and, unless you have Fred Flintstone feet, you’re going to need them. When your brakes start making noise, you should first determine under what conditions and from what area of the vehicle you hear it.

Noise heard while braking is an indication of brake wear and the brakes should be inspected. Brakes are very much a safety item, and delaying repair is not a safe strategy. In fact, delaying repair can potentially lead to more expensive repairs because worn brake pads can wear down to the metal backing. When the squealing turns into a grinding, the brake rotors are likely being damaged (often requiring replacement).

How much time do I have when my brakes are noisey?

Usually, you will see a warning light before you hear any noise. Most manufacturers have included a system that will alert you to low brake fluid or worn brake pads. If you ignore the warning light, then the noise is probably next.

A squealing noise typically indicates worn brake pads, although a slight squeaking noise can mean the brakes are overheating, especially if the brakes are still cold in the morning. If the noise goes away after your brakes are warmed up, you are probably fine. If the noise continues, have your brakes inspected soon, but you don’t need to veer across five lanes of traffic to pull over to the side of the road and call a tow truck. You can drive with squealing brakes, but remember that the noise is a warning. When you have the time, get them inspected, and sooner rather than later!

If you ignore the squeaking – and the dirty looks from fellow drivers – you will eventually hear a grinding sound, a lovely cacophony of metal scraping on metal. Now, your rotors are being damaged, which is serious. Warped rotors almost always need replacing. If you ignore that sound, you will eventually hear your own screams, either from looking at your repair bill or when you fly off a cliff after your brakes have failed completely.

How much does brake repair cost?

It’s always a good idea to use RepairPal’s Fair Price Estimator to get a range before you take your car into the shop for service. The cost depends on where you live, the extent of the damage (replacing brake pads versus rotors), and the parts involved.

The bottom line on your brakes –

Brakes are pretty much one of the most important safety features on your vehicle – you need them to stop. While you can put off getting those “IMAWSOM” vanity plates for a while, it’s never a good idea to put off a brake system inspection. Check out the RepairPal Fair Price Estimator and go to a certified repair shop as soon as you can. Your car – and your fellow drivers – will appreciate it.

Don’t forget that August is Brake Safety Awareness Month! Take time this summer to head into a RepairPal Certified shop near you and get those brakes checked. Don’t know where your closest shop is? Use our shop locator tool and ensure safe travels ahead.

About the Author

Kimberlea Buczeke is an automotive expert at RepairPal, the leading online source of auto repair resources and estimates. With many ASE Master certified mechanics on staff who have decades of experience, RepairPal knows all the fine points of car repair.

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