The brakes in your car may tend to squeak quietly from time to time. They may even do it quite often, or even worse, they may squeak on a regular basis, and loudly. Why have they suddenly become your enemy? Are they just reacting to your lack of proper care? Let’s try and solve the mystery together.
What are car brakes, exactly?
When you’re thinking about brakes, you should bear in mind you’re thinking of a whole braking system. Its most important elements are:
- brake pads, which catch the brake disc, thus generating variable friction,
- brake discs, i.e. round metal discs attached to every wheel (unless the vehicle is fitted with drum brakes at the rear axle, in which case the brake discs are only attached to the front wheels). Combined with the brake pads, they are able to effectively stop the vehicle.
- master cylinder, which presses the brake pads to the disc with the use of brake callipers with pistons.
There’s one more important thing we need to mention:
There are two types of brakes: disc brakes and drum brakes. You may come across smaller vehicles with the latter fitted at the rear axle.
When do brakes start squeaking?
Brakes are most likely to squeak when:
- their different elements stop working evenly,
- the pads are pressing the disc unevenly,
- the friction created by the pads pressing against the discs varies in different places,
- the pads are worn,
- your car has incorrect pads,
- the pads and/or discs are not installed properly,
- the drum brakes have started corroding,
- the pads are not fitted as tightly as they should be,
- your new brake pads are not working properly with the old/worn disc,
- the brake callipers are loose,
- the brake discs have grooves which result in the pads pressing against them unevenly,
- overheating of the discs results in cementite (i.e. iron carbide) gathering on their surface,
- the brake pads are dirty.
Minor negligence resulting in major losses
Cars are a bit like the human organism: you may fail to take proper care of just one little thing and have to suffer serious consequences for ages anyway. Ignore the squeaking braking system and you will see exactly what we mean.
When the sound turns into an unpleasant grinding, this will mean the pads are totally worn and instead of paying a small sum of money, you’ll need to make a bigger investment. In other words, you will be forced to replace the whole brake discs while an earlier reaction would mean you’d only need to replace the pads themselves. It doesn’t seem too cost effective a strategy to us.
How do you take care of the squeaking brakes?
Can you handle the problem on your own or should you have a professional do the job instead? The Internet is full of very useful advice as well as manuals but we strongly advise you to have a mechanic resolve the problem. It will simply be done faster and better.
Summary / warning
Some people say you can get used to pretty much everything. Squeaking brakes are just one of these things you stop paying attention to after a while. It’s not the sound itself that should bother you, though; it is the influence of the whole braking system on driving safety. Remember this, too: it is not just your safety but also the safety of your passengers and the people you may crush into that you should bear in mind here.
Malfunctioning brakes not only mean lengthened braking distance. In fact, brake problems may also result in your car failing to start.
The good news is that repairs really don’t need to be very costly. Just listen to what your car is telling you and you’ll be able to react early.