How to Quiet Noisy Brakes

We’ve all experienced the ear-piercing screech of squeaky brakes at the most inconvenient times. Whether you’re picking up your boss for lunch or trying to leave your driveway early in the morning, noisy brakes are never welcome.

Luckily, with a few tools and an afternoon in your garage, you can quickly address this problem. We’ve put together a list of the items you’ll need, steps to take, and some troubleshooting tips.

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Understanding the Cause

Before diving into the causes and solutions for squeaky brakes, it’s important to note that brakes can sometimes make noise. Occasional chirps are normal, especially if you live in harsh climates. As long as you still have brake pedal feel and can slow down as usual, there’s no need to worry.

In simple terms, brake squeal is usually caused by vibration. It occurs when the brake disc, caliper, and pad interact. When pressure is applied to the disc by the caliper, the affected system emits a noise. Even if you slam on the brake pedal or adjust your speed during braking, the contact between the pad and the disc can still cause a howling sound.

If you notice that your brakes only make noise at times, it could be due to moisture that has turned to rust on the surface of the disc or pad. This can happen overnight, and some squealing may persist until all the rust has been scrubbed off. Again, this is nothing to be concerned about.

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Track day enthusiasts who use racing pads should expect some squeal. The material used in these pads is designed to withstand high heat and create additional friction, which raises the resonant frequency to an audible range. To avoid noise, many weekend racers opt for less aggressive pads or switch to different ones for their daily commute.

In these two instances, there’s no need to panic. However, if you start hearing a sharp metallic noise instead of a consistent high-pitched squeal, it’s crucial to address your brakes immediately. This type of noise likely indicates that you’ve worn your pads down to the metal, compromising your braking ability.

Tools and Products You’ll Need

To silence your noisy brakes, gather the following tools and products:

  • Hand protection (mechanics gloves with built-in grip are recommended)
  • Jacks and jack stands (check out Harbor Freight for great deals)
  • C-clamp
  • Lug wrench
  • Socket wrench (with multiple socket sizes to fit your vehicle)
  • Teflon shim
  • Brake grease or anti-seize
  • Anaerobic adhesive

Methods to Quiet the Noise

First, decide whether you want to reduce the noise or completely eliminate it by replacing the brake components.

If you prefer not to swap pads, another option is to insert a Teflon shim between the pad and caliper piston. Keep in mind that not all brake systems have enough space for a shim without causing the pad to drag on the disc. It would be a waste of money to wear down your pad just to accommodate the shim.

Using brake grease and anti-seize products is a relatively easy and quick way to eliminate that annoying sound. However, please note that applying these products to the back of the brake pad is not a permanent solution. It provides temporary relief.

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According to Popular Mechanics, one proven method to eliminate brake squeaking is to attach the brake pad backing plate to the caliper piston or housing. This technique alters the vibration frequency, putting an end to the noise. Adding the brake pad backing plate increases the piston’s mass, effectively muffling the squeal. To ensure the plate stays in place, you’ll need a quality adhesive if you want it to remain secure for an extended period. A viscous substance like glue provides the best bond. Simply press the plate firmly against the piston/housing, and the glue will prevent corrosion from dirt and water, preventing the plate from falling off.

Final Thoughts

If none of these methods work, there may be underlying defects with your car’s model. Check for any brake recalls related to your vehicle’s make and model. Although this is usually not the case, it’s worth researching, as brake malfunctions are common recall issues. If you find no brake recalls, reach out to your dealership, as they keep detailed records of existing vehicle recalls.

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OnSpec Electronic, Inc.

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