Why Do Brakes Squeal?

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If your brakes sound like someone dragging their fingernails across a chalk every time you use them, it's time to have them inspected and repaired. A squealing sound coming from the brakes is not only annoying, it’s downright dangerous, especially if the squealing continues after the car warms up.

In most cases, a squealing sound can be traced back to worn out brake pads or if the car uses a drum brake system, the brake shoes. While deteriorating brake pads are the usual cause of squealing, there can be other causes.

How brakes work

Car brakes come in two different types, disc and drum brakes. A disc brake has a rotor, which is attached to the hub of the wheel, and calipers that hold the brake pads. When the brake pedal is pushed the force is transmitted hydraulically through the brake line, which then forces the brake pads to squeeze the rotor, slowing or bringing the vehicle to a stop. Drum brakes, which are more common on older vehicles, work on the same principle. A drum is attached to the wheel and inside of it are pads or brake shoes, when the brake pedal is pushed the brake shoes push against the drum bringing the car to a stop.

What Causes Brakes to Squeal?

The most common reason disc brakes squeal is because the brake pads are worn out. Disc brake pads have a piece of metal built into them, which is called a wear indicator. As the brake pad material wears away the wear indicator starts making contact with the rotor, which produces a squealing sound. When you hear the sound it's time to have your brake pads checked and most likely replaced.

If the brake pads are not replaced they will eventually wear through completely, and the backing plate will start wearing grooves into the rotor. At this point the squealing noise will be replaced by a grinding noise, and the repair bill will go up substantially.

When the brake pads are replaced the rotors need to be resurfaced. If they are not resurfaced or the job is done incorrectly, there is a good chance the squealing will get even worse.

When it comes to drum brakes the most common cause of squealing is poor contact between the shoes and the drum or brake shoes that have worn out. Regardless of which one is causing the problem the brakes should be inspected and repaired as soon as possible.

Keep in Mind

  • Car brakes will often squeal when they are hot or under pressure. Mountain driving can often lead to squealing brakes.
  • High-performance carbon-metallic brake pads are prone to squealing.
  • All brakes will squeal from time to time. The time for concern is when it becomes a consistent squealing.

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YourMechanic Brake Pad Replacement Service

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Number of Reviews

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Rating Summary
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11,350
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Jose

8 years of experience
33 reviews
Jose
8 years of experience
BMW 325i - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Redwood City, California
I had a few mechanics from YM and _all_ of them arrived late (some even 2 hours late) , but not Jose! He arrived right on time! I gave him the keys and let him do his job. I am a curious person so I asked him a few questions about his techniques and he had no problem answering them all with detailed explanations! He did run into a problem on my car because of stripped bolts, but he literally went above and beyond and found a way to remove it. Best mechanic ever.
Lexus CT200h - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - South San Francisco, California
Jose was on time and did a great job on my brakes. He was friendly and explained the entire process. Would highly recommend.

Augustine

11 years of experience
35 reviews
Augustine
11 years of experience
Chevrolet Equinox - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Rio Rancho, New Mexico
Augustine was amazing. He was the perfect example of customer service all around. While he was working, I was recommending him to my neighbors. Next time I need work, I will be requesting Augustine specifically!!!!! Please give him a raise or bonus!!!
Toyota Corolla - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Albuquerque, New Mexico
Mr. Sanchez showed up on time and finished replacing my rotors and break pads. He was very informative and treats your car like his own. He was very time efficient and communicated very well. I highly recommend Mr. Sanchez’s services!!!!

John

26 years of experience
552 reviews
John
26 years of experience
GMC Yukon XL 1500 - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - League City, Texas
I am so happy John is back. I trust him very much. He is efficient and has a tremendous amount of mechanical knowledge. He is a true asset to Your Mechanic.
Ford F-150 - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Alvin, Texas
I like John because he is very knowledgeable about all my vehicles. In addition he is very organized regarding how he performs his work.

Wesley

8 years of experience
45 reviews
Wesley
8 years of experience
Dodge Nitro - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Peoria, Arizona
Great experience. Very professional, friendly, and knowledgeable. Highly recommended and will continue to use for future work.

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