Most braking systems will start squealing at some point, especially if you have an older car. In most cases, it’s just a sign of wear and it’s not something you’ll need to fix straight away. However, if you put it off for too long, corrosion could start taking over and eating away at your car. Luckily, even if the worst happens — it’s nothing that a regular DIY-er can’t fix within a couple of hours.
First, you’ll need to decide if you want to dampen the noise or change the braking components completely. Although the first might be a quicker fix, the latter will ensure your brakes stay in good shape for longer. In this article, I’ll show you how to get rid of the squeak for good and avoid any further damage to your car. But before anything else, let’s see what causes the noise in the first place.
Why Do Brakes Start Squeaking?
As I said, it’s normal for brakes to make annoying noises from time to time. Moreover, it’s expected of your brakes to start chirping if you live in a harsher climate. So, unless you feel your brake pedal losing its power significantly — it’s nothing you need to worry about.
A brake squeal is actually a vibration that comes from the interplay between a caliper, brake disc, and a pad. So, your brake will start making noise if you slam the pedal too hard or don’t adjust your driving speed while braking. However, if your brake only whines from time to time, it could be caused by rust on the pad. The issue could arise overnight, and it won’t go away until you scrub all of the components squeaky clean.
Additionally, if you’re a track enthusiast, the whining could start because of the material used to make your brake pads. Because racers need their brakes to be more heat-resistant and create greater friction — squeaks are expected. Luckily, you can fix this easily by choosing a pad that isn’t made of an aggressive compound. Additionally, if you use your car for both racing and in your everyday life, you could change your brake pads when you get off the track.
How to Fix Squeaky Brakes: 4 Effective Solutions
There could be a great number of components causing your brakes to squeak, such as loose parts, the rotor, drum surface or the brake pads.
To start your inspection try wiggling the calipers, brake pad, as well as other components. If they start moving while you’re touching them — they’re probably the source of the noise and you’ll need to replace them. If these parts stay in place, and the noise still occurs, you’ll have to do a more thorough inspection.
1. Check the Rotor and Drum Surface
In most of these instances, there’s no real cause for alarm and your brakes will continue working properly. However, if you start hearing a sudden shrill noise, rather than a constant high-pitched squeal — you need to change your brakes immediately. When this happens, it means your pads have been completely worn down and are slowing down your vehicle.
An irregular drum surface may cause your brake to jump up and cause chatter in your brake’s caliper and assembly. So, you should also inspect your drum surface and brake rotor for signs of wear such as scorning or grooving.
You can check how smooth the surface is by writing on it with a pen. If you get anything other than a straight line, it means the rotor is either too rough or too greasy. To stop the brakes from squeaking, you’ll need to replace the drums or the rotor. However, if the problem continues, you’ll need to apply a dampening paste.
2. Apply Dampening Paste
To stop your brakes from squeaking, apply a thin layer of a dampening paste between the caliper assembly and the pad. The paste will create a cushion that can get rid of the sound by dampening the vibration.
However, if you don’t use a high-quality product, this solution won’t last for long, and the road dirt and water will wash it off eventually. You should always use paste that’s made to withstand water and dirt, and won’t melt away over time. These are my favorite pastes to use for squeaky brakes:
3M 08946 Clear Silicone Paste
This paste can help you eliminate squeaks in your brakes, and you can use it on caliper pins and seals, as well as on cylinder seals. 3M paste features a silicone compound that will also protect your brakes from oxidation. The best part is that it’s water-resistant and doesn’t melt, so you won’t have to worry about your brakes starting to whine after you wash your car.
Permatex Silicone Extreme Brake Lubricant
The paste features a non-melting, silicone-based formula that is completely compatible with all external and internal brake hardware. Permatex offers a great solution for all types of cars, and you can even use it for track races. The paste can last in temperatures ranging from -50–3000 degrees Fahrenheit, making it perfect for extreme driving conditions. Moreover, you can use it on all rubber and metal components in your car.
How to Apply Dampening Paste
Start by removing and cleaning your pads, caliper, and piston. Then, apply a thin layer of paste on all braking components. Give it time to dry down; let it sit for at least 2–3 hours, or overnight if you can. You can use a hairdryer to dry it quicker, but let the paste cool off before installing the pads.
When it dries, it will change to a darker color and become sticky. Finally, you can use a brake cleaner or a degreaser to remove any excess product. Once you’re done, reinstall all of the components and enjoy your smooth squeak-free ride.
3. Change the Brake Pads
Once the paste has dried, you should replace your car’s brake pads if they seem worn out. Before replacing the pads, you should take a look at your service manual and see what model and make the car manufacturer recommends.
To place everything perfectly, it’s important to remove all road dirt and corrosion from your brake components beforehand. So, make sure to clean the caliper and brake pad, unless you plan on replacing it. The cleaning might require a wire or a small brush, and you should keep doing it until you’re able to push the pads in and out with your bare hands.
If possible, you should try to replace them with the original parts for your car, and use a trusted supplier. However, if that’s not possible, you could also go with aftermarket ceramic or premium metallic pads. Even though these might not have the longevity of the original ones, they’ll still help you silence your brakes. Next, let’s talk about the types of pads you should use.
Organic pads are typically quieter than most, but they can’t match the wear resistance and performance of metallic pads. Additionally, they can’t tolerate heat and may cause the brakes to lose their effectiveness over time. So, organic pads might be a good short-term solution but won’t do much for your squeaky brakes in the long run.
Ceramic pads are less abrasive on the rotors, and will most likely last longer than organic ones. They will maintain the performance of your brakes while being able to endure extreme temperature changes. The only downside of these pads is that they’re more expensive than organic, and not as strong as metallic ones. However, you can still use them on most economy class vehicles.
See also: Ceramic Brake Pads: The Pros and Cons
These pads contain organic materials and metal particles, and they seem to combine the best of both worlds. Moreover, they allow your pads to retain their braking abilities without making your brakes whine. The best part is that they can increase the lifespan of your brakes by decreasing their fade.
Additionally, they’re stronger and can last longer than both organic and ceramic pads. Unfortunately, they might generate more wear on the rotor, causing it to break down quicker.
These pads are great at protecting your brakes against wear, but they make the most noise out of all of the pads. Metallic pads feature different types of metal and are used to provide better friction against the rotor. However, that means they’ll cause more wear on your rotor, especially if you have one that’s not designed for metallic pads.
4. Insert a Teflon Shim
If changing your pads doesn’t work, you could try inserting a Teflon shim between the caliper piston and the pad. Unfortunately, this solution might not work for every brake system. The reason behind it is that some brake systems don’t have enough space for the shim to fit without dragging the pad over the disc. Some people recommend wearing your pads down to make the shim fit, but I’d advise against it, as you’ll only be wasting your pads away.
What Not to Do When Trying to Fix Squeaky Brakes
Never wait around for your brakes to get worse. If you hear a sudden shrill noise, stop your car and change your brake pads as soon as possible. If you wait around for the problem to go away on its own — it won’t. Moreover, it could even lead you into a dangerous situation, as your brakes will start losing their power.
Also, when you’re choosing the paste to lubricate your braking components, don’t go with the first product you see. Steer clear of aerosols that you have to spray on your pad’s friction material. Honestly, I’m not even sure if these actually work, as I refuse to apply a product that can change the pad’s friction characteristics. These products will reduce the effectiveness of your braking systems, and may cause you to have an accident.
Squeaky brakes are a reality most of us will face, and they can give you a major headache if you don’t fix them. Additionally, they can even put you in harm’s way if left untreated for too long.
For a quick fix, you can simply lubricate the braking components with paste, as long as it’s not an aerosol one. However, if you want to have more long-lasting effects, changing the components altogether might be the best solution. As you can tell, it doesn’t take much effort to stop your brakes from whining, and it can help you increase the longevity of your car. Now that you know what causes squeaky brakes, how to fix them and what not to do — you can enjoy a smooth, squeak-free ride.
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