You’re driving along, everything is going great, your vehicle has been performing flawlessly. Then you brake to slow down for a changing traffic light – like you’ve done a thousand times before. Only this time, you hear an annoying loud squeak. Before you hit the panic button, we need to look at this situation a little deeper. For example, has it been over 40,000 since the vehicles last brake job? Or did you just have these components replaced? Or were they replaced maybe 5-7,000 miles ago? Let’s “brake” these scenarios down and get the skinny on these noises.
First of all, if you own a vehicle that does not get driven much (say under 6,000 miles per year) and the squeaking (or possibly a slight grinding noise) happens only the first one or two times the brake pedal is depressed, and then the noise stops – that is just oxidation. Moisture builds up on brake rotors and causes some extremely minor surface rust. It’s so minor, it’s usually a glazing that’s hard to see. If this is the case, there is usually nothing to worry about.
If your brake components have just been changed recently, (less than 1,000 miles ago), this too, can be a normal noise. Sometimes there is a short break-in period (no pun intended), especially when it comes to brake pads. The squeak comes from a very slight vibration (drivers can’t even feel it) between the pad and rotor when you step on the brake pedal.
OK – let’s say you have some mileage on your brake components. If your under the 8,000 mile mark, it may be a piece of road debris (salt, sand, etc. – very common in winter), that has sandwiched itself between the brake pad and rotor. A simple cleaning on the components at any competent shop should take care of that problem. If your vehicle is on the higher end of the mileage spectrum (say 40,000 miles) since the brakes have been looked at, it may be time for some service work. Lastly, if you hear noises other than a squeak (like a grinding), if you feel a vibration in the steering wheel when you brake, if the brake pedal feels different than it normally does, or if you’ve noticed any change in the way your vehicle brakes (like pulling to one side or requires more pedal pressure), then you should have the brake system inspected at once.