Blog Car Care Advice 4 Reasons Why Brakes Squeal When Cold (+Proven Solutions)
Car Care Advice

4 Reasons Why Brakes Squeal When Cold (+Proven Solutions)

Looking for a mechanic near you for maintenance or repair? AutoNation Mobile Service brings the shop to you. Get a free instant quote today.
Get a Quote

Brakes squeal when cold weather sets in due to various factors, but the squeaking noise typically subsides as they warm up.

So, when does a brake squeak require immediate attention? 
And how can you fix them?

No need to worry. 
We’re here to answer your questions so you can drive through frosty conditions without squealing brakes.

This Article Contains:

Let’s get started.

3 Reasons Why Brakes Squeal When Cold Weather Kicks In

Here are three reasons why your brakes squeal when the mercury drops:

1. Moisture and Ice Formation

Cold weather brings with it increased levels of moisture in the air. When this moisture comes in contact with the brake components, like the brake pads and the rotor surface, it can lead to ice formation. As the brakes engage, the friction between the icy surface can result in your brake squealing. 

2. Rust Buildup

Rust is the outcome of oxidation — a chemical reaction between iron, oxygen, and moisture. If your car sits idle in cold weather, rust can build up on the brakes. When you use the car again, the brakes squeal due to the initial contact between the brake pads and the rust-covered rotor surface

3. Brake Pads Hardening Or Wearing Out 

As it gets colder, your front and rear brake pads may get less flexible and lose some grip. This means you might need to press the brake pedal harder. However, doing so can lead to faster wear of the brake pads, causing vibrations or a squeaking noise.

In most cases, squealing brakes may not immediately impact driving, but there are specific situations that should raise alarm bells.

When Do Squeaky Brakes Require Immediate Attention? 

Whether you own an old or a new car, a squeaky brake should have your attention if:

  1. The brake squealing continues even after they’ve heated up. Persistent brake squeal might be due to a worn brake pad, damaged rotor, or other issues that require inspection and necessary repairs.
  1. The squeaky brake noise is accompanied by additional symptoms such as grinding noises, vibrations, and the vehicle pulling to one side when braking. Here’s what they mean: 

    • Grinding noises in a drum brake can result from worn brake shoes, causing the metal backing plate to rub against the drum. In disc brakes, grinding while braking indicates the brake disc and brake caliper rubbing against each other. If it’s grinding while driving, it may be debris between the brake caliper and rotor. 

    • Vibrations may point to problems with brake components.

    • Pulling to one side could indicate uneven brake pad wear or alignment issues.
  1. You notice that your brakes are not as effective as usual, or you feel unusual sensations such as a spongy brake pedal, delayed response, or uneven braking when you apply them. These may be signs of brake fluid or brake lining issues, worn brake pads, or other mechanical problems.
  1. You notice unusual odors or burning smells while braking. This scent is often associated with excessive heat. Brakes overheating can occur for various reasons, such as prolonged and intense braking, a dragging brake pad, or a malfunctioning brake caliper.
  1. The ABS (Anti-Lock Braking) or brake warning lights are illuminated on your vehicle’s dashboard, indicating that the vehicle’s onboard systems have detected a fault in the brake system. These warning lights could signify issues with the ABS, brake fluid levels, or other critical components, so it’s best to have a mechanic inspect the issue.

Wondering how to stop this annoying brake noise?
We’ve got you covered. 

How to Fix a Brake Squeal

Fixing a brake squeal or squeak involves basic troubleshooting and technical knowledge. If unsure, you should ask a mechanic for help. 
Here’s how a skilled mechanic would handle noisy brakes:

  1. The mechanic will listen to the squeaking noise to confirm it comes from the brakes.
  1. Next, using a jack, they’ll lift the car safely and securely to access the brake components.
  1. They’ll remove the wheel and inspect the brake pad, rotor, and other components for wear or damage.
  1. If there are issues, the mechanic will use a brake cleaner to clean the front and rear brake components thoroughly. They will replace worn-out brake parts, such as pads or rotors, with new ones.
  1. After replacing, they’ll reinstall the brake parts and correctly tighten the wheel bolts or nuts.
  1. Finally, they’ll conduct a test drive to confirm they’ve fixed your squeaking brakes.

Next, we’ll explore ways to prevent a brake squeal or squeak through proactive steps and maintenance.

How to Keep Brakes From Squealing In Cold Weather 

Follow these tips to prevent squeaking brakes in cold weather:

  1. Use your vehicle regularly, even in cold weather, to prevent the buildup of rust on the brake rotor. 
  1. Whenever possible, park your vehicle in a covered or sheltered area to reduce exposure to moisture and minimize the likelihood of rust formation on the brake components.
  1. Drive at a low speed and apply the brakes gently and gradually when you begin driving. This allows the brake pad to make initial contact with the brake rotor, removing any surface rust or ice and reducing the chances of a squealing noise during subsequent use.
  1. Regularly inspect the brake system for signs of wear, damage, or rust. Address any issues promptly, and consider installing new pads before they become a squealing noise source.
  1. Apply anti-squeal lubricants or brake grease to the back of the brake pads. These products can help reduce vibrations and noisy brakes.

In addition to these essential tips, choosing the right brake pad is imperative.

Which Brake Pad Material Is Best for Cold Weather?

Modern vehicles come equipped with organic, semi-metallic, or ceramic brake pads.
Here’s a quick view of how they perform in cold conditions:

Fix Cold Weather Brake Noise for a Safer Drive

While a brake squeaks in cold weather is common, knowing when to address it is crucial for safety and performance. This guide helps you recognize signs of concern and provides tips on fixing and preventing squeaky brakes.

If you require assistance diagnosing or installing new brake pads, contact AutoNation Mobile Service

Our skilled technicians can manage brake issues from your driveway. We also provide a 12,000-mile or 12-month warranty on all repairs, providing peace of mind.
Contact us today for brake repair services or any other automotive assistance.