Why Are My Brakes Making Noise? [7 Common Causes]

Do you hate when you hear that squeaking sound every time you press your brakes? Even on a brand-new disc, you may still hear that sound. So, why are your brakes making noise?

The most common reasons why your brakes are making noises are because of worn-out brake pads, worn-out brake rotors, dirty or contaminated brake pads and rotors, rusty brake rotors, worn-out brake hardware, lack of lubrication, and bent dust shield.

Let me explain more about why your brakes are making noises and how to fix them.

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Why Are My Brakes Making Noise? [7 Common Causes]

Brakes tend to make noises when something is wrong. This could be anything from a squeak to a grind, and it could be continuous or only when you press on the brakes. The first thing we need to do is understand what brake noise is.

The noise is actually a vibration coming from one of the brake components when you press on the brake. This caliper pushes the brake pads and squeezes the brake rotor which causes friction and slows the car down.

The space between the caliper and brake pads is very small. There’s a lot of pressure and there’s a lot of friction. Even the smallest things could cause brake noise. This noise could happen with brand-new brakes or with brakes that you’ve been using for a while. Here are the most causes of why your brakes are making noise:

1. Worn-out brake pads

Why Are My Brakes Making Noise [7 Common Causes]

The first and probably most common cause of why your brakes make noise is that the brake pads are worn out. A brake pad should have the backing plate and then a braking material on top. If your brake pads are worn all the way to the rivets, that’s pretty bad and this could be the reason for the noise.

The only way to know that your brake pad is wearing down is to take the wheels off and inspect them. On quality brake pads, you have something called wear indicators. Wear indicators are metal clips that stick out past the backing plate. As your brakes wear down to about two to three millimeters, they will start screeching against the brake rotor and it will let you know that the brake pads are worn out.

So, as you’re driving along and you apply the brakes the wear indicator contacts the rotor surface and makes a squeaking noise, and that squeak will let you know that these brake pads are dangerously low and they need to be replaced.

2. Worn-out brake rotors

Although the pads wear out a lot faster. the brake rotors also start to lose material.  When a brake rotor wears down, it wears down in the middle smooth part. It wears away the sides which could create an edge over time. This edge could rust, and since it’s so close to the pad, if the pad shifts at all it can make contact with the rust.

If that’s your problem, sometimes you could fix the noise with just a little bit of sandpaper. All you have to do is sand the edge of the rotor where the rust is building up, and then when you use your brakes there’s no more rust for the brake pad to contact, so you won’t get brake noise and prevent your rotors from wearing out.

3. Dirty or contaminated brake pads and rotors

If you take a look at the brake rotors on your vehicle, you will notice probably a lot of grooves. These grooves are caused by dirt getting in between the pad and the rotor. When you press on the brake pads, the dirt digs into the rotor. That could be road salt, it could be dirt from going off-roading, or maybe you drove through a muddy puddle. Basically, anything small enough to get in between the brake rotor and brake pad surface.

The grooves could also be caused by poor-quality brake pads which have bits of hard brake material scattered in them which could score the rotor surface, especially when the rotor heats up.

4. Rusty brake rotors

Why Are My Brakes Making Noise [7 Common Causes]

Another type of contamination that can make your brakes squeak is rusty rotors. Depending on where you live, rust could be an issue. Brake rotors rust really easily if there is salt present in the air. A little rust isn’t a problem at all, but if you let your car sit for a long time without driving it the rust could be bad enough.

To prevent the brand new brake rotors from getting rusty, in the packaging, manufacturers use an oil coating which needs to be removed to remove this contamination. You could use a cleaner or you could use plain old soapy water.

I prefer using brake cleaner when cleaning the rotors. So, just spray it on there, then wipe it down with a clean towel. You don’t want to forget to clean the other side as well.

5. Worn-out brake hardware

Why Are My Brakes Making Noise [7 Common Causes]

One of the most overlooked parts of changing out your brakes is replacing the brake hardware. Brake hardware is any of the components that are in or around the brake caliper and brake pads. What the brake hardware does is, it allows the brake pad to slide smoothly and quietly in the brake caliper, and as your brake pads wear out, your brake hardware wears out and it becomes difficult for your brakes to slide smoothly in the brake hardware.

That friction could create squeaks and also could create excessive brake wear. That’s for disc brakes. But there’s also brake hardware for drum brakes. Drum brake hardware is made up of springs which are very important. When you press on the brakes, the wheel cylinder pushes the shoes outwards which then rubs against the drum creating friction and slowing the vehicle down.

When you let go of the brakes, the Springs pull the shoes off the drums so there’s no more friction. There isn’t too much space between the shoes and the drum so the springs have to be in good shape and working properly to ensure that the shoes don’t continue to rub against the drum with your foot off the brake.

6. Lack of lubrication

Why Are My Brakes Making Noise [7 Common Causes]

Your brakes make noise because they’re not lubricated. So, for brake lubrication, I am using two different lubricants to lubricate two different things. I am using the copper NTCs to lubricate any contact points between the brake pads and brake caliper, and the silicon paste to grease the caliper guide pins which definitely need lubrication.

Whenever I replace the brakes, I like using copper anti-seize. Every time you press on the brakes, the braking system is under a lot of pressure. So, the first area of lubrication is at the brake caliper bracket right where the brake pad and guide meet up. It makes sense they have some type of lubrication so you don’t have metal-to-metal contact with no lubricant.

It’s also important to lubricate the brake hardware, so just get a little copper anti-seize and lubricate the top of the brake hardware. That’s everything you need to lubricate.

Next, on the drum brake backing plate, there are six contact points, three on each side that you want to add anti-seize to. And just like the disc brakes, you don’t want to use a lot of anti-seize, especially on the drum-style brakes because these get very dusty and any lubrication you use will collect dust. You just want a very thin layer on each of the contact points.

Next, use the silicon paste to lubricate the guide pins. It’s important that these guide pins are lubricated because the caliper should slide back and forth easily. So, all you do is loosen the guide pin bolt, slide the caliper out of the way and pull the guide pin out.

7. Bent dust shield

The last reason why your brakes make noise isn’t something that many people think of but is surprisingly common and that is brake noise created by the dust shield. The dust shield does exactly what it says. It’s the thin metal plate that’s behind the brake rotor and it prevents brake dust from getting all over the suspension components.

It also helps prevent water, dirt, and debris from getting all over the brakes. The problem with the dust shield is that it’s thin bendable metal. It can easily bend against the rotor and make a scrapping noise.

Is your engine oil due for a change? Visit our Car Fluid Guide Website to learn the importance of changing your oil on time, which type of engine oil is best for your vehicle, and much more.

Igor Iwanowski

I am a certified Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) mechanic since 2018. I specialize in Brake systems, dashboard warning lights, EGRs, general engine problems, EVAP and Emissions issues.

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