Imagine this scenario: You pick up your car from the repair shop, excited to see how it feels with new brakes on the front and back wheels. But you don’t make it home before you notice the brakes are squeaking. You start wondering if the mechanic actually did the work and questioning if he did it right. New brakes shouldn’t be squeaking, should they?
Answering this question is a bit more complicated than a simple yes or no. Let’s look at what really happens when your new brakes squeak or squeal or have other problems.
Brake Squeak Culprit #1: Sticks & Stones
Squeaking or noisy brakes could be due to several reasons. That old saying about “sticks and stones may break my bones…” applies here because, when it comes to your brake pads, they will also cause your brakes to make some pretty terrible squealing or squeaking noises!
In rural areas and homes where driveways are covered by large trees, it is not uncommon for your wheels to pick up a tiny twig, a small stone, an acorn, or other debris, which can cause your vehicle to make the most annoying noises.
If the squeaking sound occurs even when you haven’t stepped on the pedal, the prime suspect is a foreign object that is stuck between the brake pad and the rotor. If the object is something soft, such as a twig, it will wear down quickly and be thrown out of the wheel very shortly.
A stone, however, can cause real damage. If the noise doesn’t disappear within a few miles, take it to back to your auto shop right away.
Brake Squeak Culprit #2: The Brake Pad Material
Your grandfather might tell you that he remembers a time when brake pads and shoes were made with asbestos—and he wishes they still were! Those old school brake pads rarely squeaked, but they also posed serious health hazards to the mechanics who unwittingly breathed in the brake dust laden with asbestos.
Many brake pads today are made of ceramic, which are great for how long they last and how well they stop the vehicle. But they can also cause a great deal of noise on your cast iron rotors. Take a butter knife and scrape it across a ceramic plate and you will hear a similar squeaking/squealing sound.
If your mechanic installed ceramic pads and they’re noisy, see if he/she would be willing to exchange them for semi-metallic pads. These tend to be a bit quieter than ceramic pads. (Please note: This is likely to involve an additional cost.)
Brake Squeak Culprit #3: The Weather
If your brakes only seem to squeak in the morning or when it rains or is foggy, it could be due to the moisture in the air. This can cause a very thin layer of rust to build up on the rotors, which will cause the pads to squeak temporarily until they warm up and you wear off the rust by stopping a few times.
Brake Squeak Culprit #4: Glazed or Grooved Rotors
Two more common causes of brake squeaks deal with the rotors.
As your brake pads wear, the brake rotor (or disc) can develop grooves, glazing or uneven wear. Whenever the brake pads are replaced, the brake rotors need to be removed, measured, and machined or replaced. This will ensure the surface is completely smooth and flat.
Similarly, if the mechanic failed to sand or remove the glaze, this can cause a very high-pitched squeak or squeal noise, especially when the brakes are cold. This sometimes goes away after the brakes heat up, but in other cases, it never goes away, which can be very annoying.
“Slapping on a set of pads” is fast and easy to do, but it usually ends up with the customer being unhappy because of noise or performance issues.
In some cases, the mechanic or shop is at fault because they’re trying to get more cars in and out, and they don’t focus on quality. In other cases, the customer may be trying to save money by choosing not to replace the rotors.
The best ways to avoid a scenario like this are to choose a repair shop, like Bockman’s, that focuses first and foremost on quality and to resist the urge to save a buck by not buying new rotors. It will cause you more aggravation in the end than it’s worth, and your new brake pads won’t last as long or perform as well as they would have with new rotors.
Brake Squeak Culprit #5: Workmanship
While we do everything we can to deliver your car back to you with noise-free brakes, we can’t say the same for every shop out there. Sometimes, squeaky brakes are due to human error or carelessness.
For example, an auto technician who’s in a hurry may have machined the rotors, but forgot or didn’t take the few extra minutes to clean and lubricate the caliper pins or to coat the rear of the brake pad with a product called anti-seize. Maybe the mechanic forgot to replace the “anti-rattle” clips, or shims, which are designed to keep brake pad noise to a minimum.
The Bottom Line
So what should you do if your new brakes are squeaking and squealing? Take the car back to the repair shop that did the work and work with them to resolve the issue.
If you aren’t sure why your new brakes are squeaking and want a second opinion, call Bockman’s Auto Care at 815.756.7413 or Bockman’s Truck & Fleet at 815.754.4200. You can also schedule a brake inspection online.
We will be more than happy to talk to you and explain all your options. Our auto technicians are ASE-Certified, so they know what they’re talking about and are guaranteed to give you all the answers you are looking for.