While driving, there are many parts of your car that can squeak. Sometimes, these squeaks may pose no actual threat, but this is not always the case. There are various reasons why your car will make a squeaking noise while driving but not brakes applied, which may or may not be connected to the brakes.
The most common reason your car squeaks is worn brake pads. Brakes will announce their end of life by making a high-pitched squeak when you brake as a reminder to replace them. The build-up of dust on rotors can also cause squeaking brakes.
When your pads clamp down on the rotors, the dust accumulated can cause the brakes to emit a high-pitched sound. The brake caliper could also be stuck. The car may also have bad alignment or a fluid leak from the suspension or steering part.
In this article, we will investigate the possible reasons and case scenarios why your car squeaks while driving.
Brake-Related Reasons Why Your Car Squeaks
Even when brakes are not applied, some brake-related issues can still cause your car to emit squeaks or high-pitched sounds.
- Brake Wear Indicator
This is the main reason for the constant squeaky sound. Modern cars have a sensor informing the ECU when the brakes are worn out and require replacement. In addition, a light now gets illuminated on the dashboard. This now causes a metallic piece to rub against the rotor, which causes a squeaky noise.
This is all the evidence you need to get your brakes replaced. How you can identify this problem is that you will hear a squeaky noise while driving, and this sound will become louder when the brake pedal is pressed.
- Stuck Caliper
A caliper is the main component of your car’s braking system because it houses the brake pads and other related brake assemblies. Lack of use and even rust can cause this caliper to seize.
If this caliper gets stuck, your brakes are constantly applied even though your foot is not on the brake pedal. This will cause an annoying squeaky sound.
A way by which you can identify this problem specifically is when your vehicle keeps pulling on one side. If you keep driving in this situation, the rotors will get heated due to the constant friction, which can cause a fire.
The brakes can seize if a car is left dormant for long periods, especially in wet environments. Corrosions can also cause a brake rotor, caliper piston, or slider pin to get stuck to the pads.
- Glazed or Grooved Rotors
Over time and use of brake pads, the rotors or disc can develop glazes, grooves, or irregular wear. This can cause a high-pitch squeal or squeak, especially with cold brakes.
It may go away when the brake heats up or remain; either way, the sound can be pretty annoying.
Also, sticks and stones may get stuck between the rotor and brake pad and cause a squeaking noise while driving. When you replace your brake pads, remove and sand or replace the rotors to give a smooth flat surface.
- Brake Material
Brake pads are designed to absorb a lot of heat and friction. So, they must be built of heat-resistant and friction-absorbing materials. Ceramics, Kevlar, and composite materials are some examples of materials used.
Unfortunately, even though most brake pads contain some metal, some low-quality pads have more than the required amount of metal.
As this pad wears down, the metal will start grinding on the brakes’ rotors, causing a loud squeaking sound to be heard.
Also, numerous brake pads are produced with a ceramic material that works well in stopping the vehicle but also causes loud noises on the iron rotor. The simple solution is to replace your ceramic pads with better ones. 
Non-Brake Related Reasons
Other issues besides the brakes can cause your car to squeak. So whether you apply the brakes or not, these issues will persist. Some of these issues include poor suspension, loose belts, bad wheel bearings, or poor lubrication of steering components.
- Uneven Tire Thread Wear
This is the first issue you should check, but it is often overlooked. The sound of your tires depends on the type/pattern of tread each. Spotting uneven wear is easier on an old tire, but you may need a tire gauge to spot it on a newer tire.
Also, as your tire tread wears down, the tire makes certain sounds that indicate its level of deterioration.
So, a tire can make a squeaking noise. But sometimes, the tire squeak is actually a symptom of suspension or alignment issues. Remember that maintaining your tires is a legal requirement and the minimum legal tread depth is 1.6mm.
Michelin suggests regularly checking your tires to make sure treads are not worn. Also, consider replacing your tires after five years of use.
- Uneven Pressure in Tires
Most people fail to check if all tires have the same air pressure as recommended by car manufacturers. The car’s balance is affected if at least one tire has a different pressure.
So, the car’s stability is compromised, and the stress is on some particular tires leading to premature wear and tear.
Not only will this reduce the tire’s life, but it will also produce a squeaking noise, especially when you are attempting to navigate a turn. Ensure you get your tires inflated at the recommended pressure to prolong the lifespan of your tires.
- Alignment/Suspension Problems
This is often caused by an accident or hitting a pothole. However, it can also be caused by fluid leakage from a CV or U joint. Also, struts or shocks can wear out over time and change the car’s alignment.
Whatever the cause, the vehicle will squeak if the suspension has been disrupted or the lubrication has leaked out.
This causes a squeaking noise from the wheel while driving. This sound is going to be more prominent when you accelerate or turn. Others signs include; if your vehicle rides rough on a smooth road, the steering wheel wobble, and a car pull to the left or right.
- Loose Belts
This is another cause of a squeaky noise in your car. There are two types of belts in a car that can make noises. But we’ll be focusing on the serpentine belts rather than the timing belt because the timing belt makes a slapping noise associated with engine problems like rough idle or stalling.
The serpentine belt, also called the drive belt, is a belt that connects multiple components of the engine, such as steering to the crankshaft, AC fans, water pump, alternator, etc., to each other. The average lifespan of this belt is usually 100k miles, and after that, it becomes loose.
Therefore, the belt is most likely to squeak when you first start the ignition or when your car has been exposed to water. The squeak should become louder when you suddenly decelerate or accelerate your vehicle and turn on the air conditioner.
This is because any of these actions put more stress on the belts, which causes a louder squeak to be heard.
- A Worn Out Cambelt
If you notice that your car squeaks when you press down on the accelerator, the most likely problem is a loose or worn-out cambelt. The cambelt is the part of your car that controls the timing of the internal combustion engine.
If you’ve never had your cambelt replaced and your car is a few years old, consider checking your cambelt at the mechanic.
- The Steering System
The steering system is not exempted when investigating the source of your car’s squeaky noise. This can be a result of a drop in the steering fluid. Another cause may be a lack of lubrication of steering parts like the ball joints and seals, which can dry out.
If you hear a squeaking when turning, you should include the steering wheel in a list of potential suspects. It means that your steering needs to be replaced or the parts need lubrication.
- Engine Overheating
An overheating engine will often let out a whistling or low pitch squeal. This happens when the engine coolant reaches its boiling point, and the excess pressure escapes as a whistle.
It’s sort of like how our electric kettles inform us when the water is ready. But in this scenario, your car tells you that it’s time to see the mechanic.
If the sound coming from the hood is high-pitched, you’ll need to be very careful. Touching the radiator cap will be a bad idea and can leave you with burns.
How to Fix the Problem
If the squeaking noise comes from the brakes and surrounding parts, here’s what to do;
- When fixing brake pads, use an anti-squeal adhesive.
- Ensure all the brake elements are free of stones, dust, or other foreign objects during maintenance.
- Use appropriate lubrication, like an anti-seize compound designed for extreme temperatures. Apply it to only the back of the brake pads. Do not apply it on the brake pads directly.
- Replace the brake pads. Sometimes, you can only eliminate this problem if the brake pad material is replaced with something of higher quality.
- If your squeaky brakes are due to driving conditions, ensure you change your driving habits. For example, when driving down a steep road, you can downshift to a lower gear or the B gear in hybrid cars to let engine compression do all the work instead of your brakes. Also, reduce your load weight if your brakes squeak when your vehicle is full.
If other factors cause the squeaking noises, here’s how to fix it;
- If the noise is caused by wear on the parts of your car, try lubricating the affected parts.
- Check your tire’s pressure and correct them as needed.
- Take your car to the mechanic and have them check for alignment issues in your vehicle.
- Check your power steering fluid. If it’s low, top it off.
- Pop your car hood and check the steering belt for slack. Reseat or replace the belt, as the case may be.
Can Your Brakes Squeal When Not Applied?
Brakes can squeal without being applied. Squeaky brakes are actually very common, and it does not always mean that your brakes are completely worn out.
If your brake squeals, don’t conclude they are on their last legs. There are various reasons why brakes squeal even when they are not yet applied.
What Should I Do If My Car Is Squeaking?
Observe where, when, and how the squeaking occurs. For example, is it an intermittent squeaking when driving? Does squeaking happen when you start the engine, while the car is idle, accelerating or decelerating, when you apply the brakes, press the clutch or turn?
Once you’ve narrowed down the list of sources and discovered the problem is. Visit a mechanic and explain the situation to them. Whatever the cause of the squeaking, it is vital to act fast to prevent the anthill from becoming a molehill.
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I really hope that this guide has been very helpful to you. I know that many of these problems are harder to troubleshoot and fix on your own. If it turns out to be too much for you to handle, visit your mechanic. But this article will give you an idea of what to expect when you get there.