Brakes Squeak When Stopping Slow – Why?

Have you ever noticed that squeaky sound when slowing your car down to a stop? I know I’ve had many customers in my shop with that happening in their vehicles. Sometimes, it’s just normal wear and tear, but I’ve also seen customers with newer brakes with the same problem.

So why do your brakes squeak when stopping slow? Well, there are a few common reasons. Worn-out brake pads are usually the main culprit, though metal content can also be a factor. Besides, moisture building up plays a role, too.

The good news is using higher-quality brake pads and keeping them lubricated easily fixes the noise, while for brand-new brakes, the “break-in” process goes a long way. Let’s explain these all in detail.

Why Does Your Brakes Squeak When Stopping Slow? (And How to Fix It)

As I’ve said, the main cause of noisy brakes when slowing down is simply wearing down the brake pads over time. Those pads are a key part of the braking system, and once they’ve been used a lot, they’re more likely to start squeaking. 

In most cases, if you keep the brake pads and rotors rust-free, the squeaking issue should go away. This can be done by lubing them up after a thorough cleaning.

However, sometimes, it’s also about using cheaper, lower-quality brake pads that just don’t last as long before problems start. But there could be other reasons as well. Let’s look at them one by one. 

Worn Brake Pads

Worn Brake Pads

Brake pads come in different materials – some have ceramic, and others use various metals. But no matter what they’re made of, regular braking causes those pads to gradually wear down over time. 

As soon as you start hitting the brakes, that material is slowly getting smaller and smaller with each stop. Noise usually happens before the pads are completely gone, so it’s trying to warn you that replacement will soon be needed. 

If you keep driving after hearing those squeals and squeaks, you run the risk of additional problems. The brake rotors could end up getting warped out of shape. Or, if the pads get too low, the calipers holding everything in place might start getting damaged, too.

Typically, if one spot in the pad is thinner than the rest, that’s a sign you need new ones. I also recommend swapping pads once the friction material wearing away reaches about a quarter inch or less in depth. That’s when they’re just about gone.

Cheap Brake Pads

Cheap Brake Pads

If you’ve recently put new brake pads in and hear noises right away, you know it can’t be from regular wear and tear. Hence, it might be because of the type of pads you went with.

Sometimes, really cheap, low-quality brake pads made of shoddy materials like steel or graphite can squeal and squeak straight out of the package. Most people prefer avoiding brake pads that aren’t very good quality for that reason. 

But if your budget is tight and you just need something temporary, cheaper pads may get the job done even if they make noise. Still, I’d recommend going with higher-quality ceramic pads. 

Worn Rotors

Worn Rotors

Brake rotors are those circular metal pieces attached to each tire that the brake pads grip onto when you hit the brakes. Over time, the repeated heat and pressure can cause the rotors to warp a little out of shape. 

When that starts to happen, you may notice a different kind of noise compared to regular brake squeals – it’s more like a grinding or rumbling sound. The worse the warping gets, the farther your car will take to fully stop, too. 

So the braking distance becomes longer, which isn’t safe. You might also feel some vibration through the brake pedal. Both of those things should be a sign it’s time for new rotors before the issue gets worse. 

The rotor surface should look smooth, too, without any cracks, defects, or damage. If you see warping, grooves, or other issues, resurfacing might work. But a badly messed-up rotor is usually better to just replace outright before problems occur.

Something Stuck between the Pad and the Rotor

Sometimes, the issue isn’t from normal wear and tear on the brakes themselves. A little rock or piece of debris can accidentally get lodged in there while driving. Most often, it’ll work itself right between the pad and the rotor.

With a rock interfering, the brakes might not squeeze together like they should when you hit the pedal. And the longer it’s left, the more damage it could potentially do if you keep driving on it.

So, check around for any little rocks or pebbles that might be stuck in there and gently remove them without scratching anything else up.

Damaged Shims

Damaged Shims

You know those little shim pieces in there between the pads and rotors? Their job is to help cut down on noise by preventing vibration. But sometimes those shims can break or fall out, too.

If the shim gets damaged or missing, it lets the braking parts knock together more than they should when you press the pedal. All that added vibration can then translate to weird noises, even at slower speeds. 

So, poke around looking for broken or missing shims. Replacing them is usually not a huge deal—any mechanic can swap them out real quick. 

As you can see, a user in this post also pointed out that the shims shouldn’t interfere with anything in the braking system. So, remember this while installing.

Lengthy Idle Parking

If your car has been sitting unused for a long time, like if you stored it or just hadn’t been driving it regularly, the brake materials can sometimes bond to the rotors from rusting in place. 

Then, the first few times you hit the brakes after pulling it back out, there’s likely to be some weird creaking or cracking sounds initially.

For shorter periods, it might clear up quickly once things break free. But longer term storage means the pads and rotors may need full replacement before the noise stops. Leaving it too long can cause them to corrode more. So, try to avoid it at all costs. 

Also, anytime the brakes get wet – whether from rain, car washes, or other moisture – you may notice some squeaking until everything dries off again. The water trapped in there causes temporary noise issues that usually go away once dry.

Your Braking Approach

Even your own driving and braking style can affect noise levels. If you constantly slam on the brakes hard or stop abruptly, you put a lot more stress on the pads and rotors. This causes them to wear down quicker and more unevenly, leading to squeaks.

Plus, highway driving tends to be easier on brakes than city driving with all its starting and stopping. Fewer miles driven each week can translate to less wear, too.

It’s also a good idea to give new brake pads a break-in period after they’re installed. When you first start driving after the installation, you’ll want to bed in the new pads. 

Basically, you slowly speed up and then firmly press one brake pedal to slow down. Do this until you feel the brakes grab harder and any squealing stops. Then, do the same thing with the other brake pedal.

By doing this, you’re generating heat to help bond material from the new pads onto the rotors. This break-in process deposits some of that material and helps the pads seat properly.

Seek Professional Help

If you’re not very handy with car repairs or don’t feel comfortable tackling brakes yourself, it’s fine to bring your car to a shop. Brakes are no joke when it comes to safety, so if you have any doubts, it’s better to leave it to someone who knows what they’re doing.

When looking for a good mechanic, ask people you know for trusted recommendations locally. Word of mouth is best for finding someone who’ll do quality work at a fair price. I wouldn’t necessarily go with just the cheapest option, since cheap doesn’t always mean good in these cases.

Similar Posts