Are your brakes squeaking, squealing, or grinding? Don’t let the problem continue! You can often make an educated guess about brake problems with your ears, as different brake problems have different noises. Here’s what you need to know.

Caliper, Pads, and Rotor

Your Brakes are Squeaking, What’s Going On?

Brake squeak is a somewhat intermittent noise that isn’t particularly shrill or high-pitched. When the rotor and pads squeeze together, it can sometimes cause vibrations that will lead to a squeak that comes and goes as you apply the breaks.

Generally speaking, squeaks are caused by dirty or uneven pads, or by low quality pads. To fix squeaking brakes:

  • Inspect the pads to make sure that it is indeed dirty or uneven wear that’s causing the noise. You don’t want to assume a squeak is always caused by these problems.
  • Special products are made to stop brake squeaks without effecting performance – just spray them on the back of the pads to stop squeaking.
  • Sanding the surface off the brake pad and show surface can reduce the hardening that causes these squeaks, only it might be a temporary fix.
  • Ultimately, a higher quality brake pad is the solution to most squeaking. Be sure to use brake pads that are equivalent to OEM…if you replace a quality OEM ceramic brake pad with a cheap after-market alternative, you can experience squeaking, excess dust, poor performance, and increased wear


Beware the famous $99 brake job. Shops that offer to replace your brake pads for a flat fee almost always use inferior replacement pads. While they will stop adequately, they won’t be nearly as quiet as OEM pads (and they probably wont’ last as long either).

What is Brake Squeal and What Causes It?

Brake squeal is usually a more serious problem that indicates deeper issues than a squeaks. A squeal is a high pitched noise that lasts longer than a second or two.

  • High pitched squeals typically indicate brake wear. Once you hear this, it is almost always time to replace your brake pads.
  • If the squeal doesn’t go away after replacing your pads (or if your pads haven’t worn), check for missing shims, a stuck caliper, or worn rivets. A brake technician can easily identify the cause of squealing before it becomes too dangerous to drive your vehicle.

When the Brakes Are Grinding, It’s a Little More Serious

Grinding is the more serious of the noises that may come from your braking system. A grinding noise is loud and usually very noticeable from both the inside and outside of the car. Grinds and growls happen when metal is making contact with metal, usually as you apply the brakes. If the brake pads are very worn (essentially gone), your vehicle will grind as you stop — you may also notice at this point that stopping is becoming more challenging.

If this is the case, you must immediately have your brakes serviced for a certified mechanic. It’s likely that your pads and rotors will need to be replaced as well, especially if the grinding has been going on for more than a day or two.


Sometimes grinding is caused by sticking calipers, so you check for movement on the slide pins. If this is the case, it could be that your brake pistons aren’t functioning (leaking or damaged), or it could be that your brake system isn’t pressurizing correctly.

Bottom Line

Brakes aren’t supposed to make noise. If you hear a squeaking, squealing, or grinding noise, you want to get it checked out ASAP. The sooner you take care of these noises, the less expensive they’ll be.