Hey, Why Is My Car Squealing When I Drive?

The squealing noise is caused by the following:

  • Faulty axle seal
  • Stuck brake caliper
  • Heat-cracked rotors
  • Worn-out brake pads
  • Bent brake rotors
  • Low-quality brake pads

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Four common causes for a squealing noise from the vehicle and their related parts.
Do you hear a Squealing noise from your car when driving? When the car makes noise, it is essential to find the cause and fix it. Is the noise audible when you accelerate? Does it only occur when you turn your air conditioning or defroster on? Additional clues include hearing the squeal when driving at low speeds near a concrete wall, and the noise goes away when you apply your brakes. Paying attention to your car and sharing these details with your trusted mechanic saves you money when getting the proper fix.

Is Your Car Making A Squealing Noise While Driving

The squealing is caused by stuck partially-applied brakes or worn-out brake linings. The linings are designed to squeal over time as if saying "replace us" to the motorist. But there might be alternative common causes.

The most common causes for a car squealing are:

  • Faulty axle seal: A faulty axle seal can cause squealing noises by allowing lubricant to leak out, leading to inadequate lubrication of axle components. This can increase friction between metal parts, causing squealing sounds.
  • Stuck brake caliper: A stuck brake caliper can cause squealing noises due to the constant friction between the brake pads and the rotor. When a caliper gets stuck, it fails to retract properly, keeping the brake pads in constant contact.
  • Heat-cracked rotors: When rotors are subjected to excessive heat, they can develop cracks on their surface. These cracks can create uneven wear on the brake pads, leading to squealing noises.
  • Worn-out brake pads: Worn-out brake pads can cause squealing noises due to the wear indicators built into the pads. As brake pads wear down, these indicators, usually small metal tabs will purposefully start screeching, yelling that you need to change them.
  • Bent brake rotors: When a rotor is bent, the distance between the rotor and the brake pads fluctuates, causing the pads to touch the rotor unevenly. This uneven contact can lead to vibrations and squealing noises.
  • Low-quality brake pads: Low-quality brake pads can cause squealing noises due to their composition and lack of effective noise-reducing features. These pads may be made from inferior materials that produce more friction and noise.

Brake rotors, ball joints, pads, calipers, and other brake system parts are crucial to your safety. When discussing with a mechanic, it's common to describe the sound as a squealing brake or squeaking brake sound.

You can do a quick inspection of your own by checking your vehicle's wheels to see if they have an open-type design. In some cases, you may see the brake wear indicator, which is the culprit of making a brake squealing and squeaking sound that only ceases when pressing the brake pedal.

Let's Get To The Bottom Of It!

  • Q: Do you notice leak spots behind the vehicle?

    An axle seal leak can produce squealing noises in a car. This crack occurs because of built-up pressure from clogged vents or seals that fails due to bearing or axle wear. Additionally, built-up motor oil on the rotor surface, a bad wheel bearing seeping grease into the braking surface, or rear brake shoes can add to the factor.

  • Q: Is your car braking on its own without you pressing the brake pedal?

    Sometimes, a car can have partially-applied drum brakes and a sticking caliper. As a result, the car lightly brakes even if you're not pressing the brake pedal.

  • Q: Are you using low-grade brake pads?

    Your car's rotors might be having a few heat-caused cracks, which commonly accompany squealing noises. Anything that can cause rotors to overheat can push for this issue, which occurs more often on cheap brake pads.

  • Q: Do you commonly drive over dusty terrain?

    Squeaky and squealing brakes can be a sign of worn pads, brake dust, faulty brake material, or in some cases, even aftermarket brake pads.

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Vehicle Health Inspection Proof

Explore the following typical inspection results that show a potential cause for the symptom and select the one you believe is similar to your vehicle's issue.

Axle seal leaking

The image shows a failed axle seal leaking grease on the brake linings and the backing plate of the wheel. This car needs the contaminated ceramic pad replaced and the grease leak corrected.

While doing the Vehicle Health Inspection, the mechanic noticed leaking grease on the vehicle's brakes. This damage occurs because of built-up pressure from a clogged vent or a loose seal that fails. These issues commonly develop due to bearing or axle wear.

Besides making noise, this issue might vibrate the car's steering system or pulsate the brake pedal. You might feel a burning oil or rotten egg smell when you use the brakes during traffic.

While the vehicle's brakes may still work, they'll underperform. Sometimes, a greasy brake lining causes the wheel to lock up at low speeds or in loose gravel. A quick way to differentiate grease from brake fluid is to see if it rinses off with water; grease won't, but brake fluid will.

A complete brake system evaluation needs to happen. Then, the mechanic needs to repair the brake system and make it work efficiently for everyone's safety; this includes not reusing greasy brake linings.

Does the issue look like this? if not accessible your shop will document it
Brake caliper noise

The image shows a sticking brake caliper and hardware contacting the brake rotor. The faulty hardware makes a screeching noise at low speeds, stopping when you press the brakes.

While doing the Vehicle Health Inspection, the mechanic saw damage to the caliper hardware. The caliper is sticky and not sliding as it should, leading to brake failure. This type of damage can be from too much rust on the caliper mounting slides and pins.

Besides making noise, the driver may feel vibrations in the steering system or pulsations in the brake pedal. Additionally, it's common to experience these symptoms on long drives as components heat up.

While the vehicle's brakes may still work, they'll underperform and make an unusual sound.

In this case, the shop should do a complete brake system evaluation. Then, the mechanic needs to repair the brake system and make it work efficiently for everyone's safety; this includes not reusing greasy brake linings.

Does the issue look like this? if not accessible your shop will document it
Heat cracked rotors

The brake rotor is an essential brake system component that works with brake pads and related components to ensure proper braking. This part is also known as disc brakes since it looks like a steel-colored disc behind the vehicle's wheels.

The image shows a heat-cracked rotor. The driver needs to upgrade the brake rotor and pads in this case. When rotors show signs of heat cracks, they need an urgent replacement. This type of damage typically happens when rotors are old and overstressing regularly.

The mechanic will do an in-depth brake system evaluation, and the service advisor will discuss which pads and rotors upgrade should match the vehicle's driving style and conditions. Vehicle load, driver's usual speed, and typical driving terrain are valuable information.

Does the issue look like this? if not accessible your shop will document it
Brake pad wear indicator

This inspection image shows that the brake linings are worn, and the indicator is making squeals when contacting the moving brake rotor. It's time to get new brake pads.

Many cars have brake lining wear indicators in each pad; these indicators "activate" over time when the pads are worn. The indicators purposely make squeals while driving, pointing out that the linings are too thin, making the indicators contact the brake rotor. In this case, the noise goes away when you step on the brakes. Sometimes, the noise sounds like a squeak on the brakes.

A brake lining is designed to wear over time, and its lifetime depends on many things. After this part deteriorates, there'll be no warning light; the warning will be the car squeaks. A damaged brake lining can result in loose or worn tires.

In this case, a qualified mechanic usually suggests a brake system evaluation during the inspection. Brake hardware, Calipers, Rotors, and brake fluid are commonly on the mechanic's radar. Nowadays, with companies making lighter cars to meet fuel economy standards, components are naturally becoming smaller and thinner, requiring service more often.

Does the issue look like this? if not accessible your shop will document it
Damaged brake rotors cause extra friction, resulting in squealing noises, vibrations, and discomfort

The brake rotor, also known as disc brakes, is a steel-colored disc-like component behind the wheels. The rotor is vital for the brake system and works with the brake pads and wheels to ensure proper braking.

In this case, the inspection indicated hot spots with dark areas on the rotor, which implies a critical issue. The mechanic noticed hot spots on this brake rotor while doing the inspection. This damage can occur due to sticking calipers, binding hardware, or overstress due to heavy vehicle loads.

Besides making squeaking noises, the car might also slightly vibrate the steering wheel or pulsate the brake pedal. While the vehicle's brakes may still work, they'll underperform.

A complete brake system evaluation and car maintenance need to happen. Then, the mechanic must repair the brake system and make it work efficiently for everyone's safety.

Does the issue look like this? if not accessible your shop will document it
Cheap brake pads

The image shows poorly resurfaced, glazed, or grooved rotors and pads reusing old hardware. Plus, a lack of lubrication in the proper locations. This type of damage usually disqualifies a vehicle during a DOT inspection.

Brake noises and vibrating parts commonly relate to the brake linings' surface, brake rotor condition, and damaged components that work to keep vibrations out of the human hearing range.

While shopping for cheap brake jobs is tempting, you'll need to consider the downsides. We recommend going for the best parts available for safe, sound-free, quality services to get your car running properly.

Does the issue look like this? if not accessible your shop will document it

Typical Makes

That need Squealing Noise significantly more often than average vehicle makes

  • Make:


  • Model:

    Tahoe, Suburban, Silverado 1500 1/2 Ton, Suburban HD

  • Brake Linings, Brake Rotor, Brake Calipers, Wheel Bearing & Hub Assembly

Is this the make you are driving?
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Typical Fixes to Address the Cause(s)

The following chapters bases themselves on experiences from our auto repair shop; we'll describe related problems' causes and fixes.

"Brake Pad Replacement" fixes "Brake Pad Wear Indicator"

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Hey, Why Is My Car Squealing When I Drive?
Sometimes a problem is more challenging to describe than it initially looked like. If you are not sure your problem is described by this article, please find below similar vehicle symptoms, which might describe better the issue you are experiencing.

Other things your auto repair shop might talk about:

Power steering, serpentine belt, power steering pump, power steering fluid, power steering system, air intake system, timing belt, car insurance. steering wheel housing. power steering systems. worn serpentine belt. worn fan belt.