Nothing annoys a cyclist more than a squeaky brake. It’s even more infuriating when people have to stare at you in dismay when you pull up the brakes. But is the annoying sound the only thing to worry about? Are squeaky bike brakes dangerous?
While a squeaking brake may only appear as an annoying sound at first, it could mean a serious issue with your brakes. Often, it’s a sign that your bike brakes are becoming ineffective and thus a safety risk.
So, the next time you hear your brakes squealing, stop what you are doing and fix it. I’ll help you diagnose the problem by identifying its cause. Plus, I’ll share the DIY fix for each issue.
But before we can go through the causes and DIY fixes of a squeaking brake, let’s talk more about the safety risk.
Are Squeaky Bike Brakes Dangerous?
As I hinted earlier, the squeaking itself is not alarming. What’s disturbing is the fact that the sound could indicate the beginning of your brake’s failure.
For starters, one of the primary reasons behind a squeaky brake is brake contamination. Contaminants like dust, grease, and sand could interfere with the performance of the brake pads and rotors, reducing their performance.
Sometimes, the contaminants, mainly sand, wear down the brake pads, rendering them defective.
The other primary reason behind squealing brakes is a misaligned brake system. That itself is something to worry about as the brakes are likely to be unresponsive.
Overall, whether the problem is due to contamination or brake misalignment, a failing or already failed brake is a safety hazard.
That means you could quickly lose control of your bike and crash or hit someone, resulting in a devastating accident.
What Causes Squeaky Bike Brakes? (Plus DIY Fixes)
Let’s diagnose the problem depending on the brake type that you have.
Disc Brakes – What Causes Squeaky Disc Brakes
Generally, here are the most typical causes of a squeaky disc brake:
Most disc brakes start failing due to contamination, and a squeaky sound only suggests the problem is deep-seated.
The most affected parts are the brake pads and the rotor, which become contaminated with dirt, sand, grease, mud, and other things you pick along the way.
Usually, the more you ride your bike, the likelier you will contaminate your brake pads and rotors.
Learn to clean your brake pads and rotor as often as possible. For the best performance, use a disc brake cleaner like the CRC BRAKLEEN Brake Parts Cleaner.
Alternatively, use an isopropyl alcohol cleaner to stop squeaky bike brakes.
You can apply the cleaner to a piece of cloth and then wipe the brake pads and rotors.
b) Misaligned Brakes
If your brakes are improperly aligned, especially the brake calipers or the brake pads, then you are likely to hear a squealing sound.
Sometimes, a misaligned brake vibrates. If it happens, then the disc rotor moves from its central position (between the two brake pads).
Realign the disc rotors as they are supposed to be; between the two brake pads. That’ll allow the brake pads to touch with the same power and at the same time.
c) Bent Disc Rotors
Disc rotors are generally vulnerable to pressure, and they bend easily as a result. Overall, bent disc rotors are ineffective, and one way to show it is by squeaking.
The good news is that they are fixable.
DIY Fix (how to stop bike brakes squeaking by straightening the disc rotors)
Using an adjustable spanner, strengthen the affected disc rotor. But to ensure the rotor is well-positioned, loosen the bolts that hold it in position and realign it between the two brake pads.
Then tighten it perfectly in place.
d) Glazed (Worn-Out) Brake Pads
If you ride your bike on a rugged trail or uphill often, the brake pads will most likely heat up, resulting in the brake pads glazing over.
In such a case, the brake pads will start producing a squealing sound as their effectiveness reduces.
If your brake pads are grazed, the only fix is to replace them. This problem, however, is preventable by avoiding the most rugged trails. Instead, ride on smooth paths often.
e) Too Much Heat
Too much heat is never suitable for your disc brakes. It occurs primarily due to using the brakes often or longer, especially on rugged terrain.
So, one way for your disc brakes to show they are overheated is by producing a squealing sound. The other way is by discoloring. If the rotors are discolored, it shows the brakes have overheated.
If the rotors are overheated, you should invest in a bigger rotor as what you have is too small for the heat.
Are Squeaky Brakes Dangerous?
Rim Brakes – What Causes Squeaky Rim Brakes
Generally, here are the most typical causes of a squeaky rim brake:
Just like disc brakes, most rim brakes produce a squealing sound due to contamination by dust, mud, grease, and other small contaminants that you pick along the way.
The contaminants build up over some time, which means it’s often a case of not cleaning your brake for some time.
Clean your rim brake using an effective degreaser like the Finish Line Citrus Bicycle Degreaser. In particular, ensure you clean the brake pads thoroughly as they are the most prone to contamination.
You can remove the contaminated brake pads and then sand them with a fine-grit sandpaper.
b) Misaligned Brakes
If the brake calipers are out of alignment, the brake pads will rub against the rim, causing a squealing sound. Similarly, if the brake pads are loose or the brake cartridges are not secure, the brake will squeal.
DIY Fix (Squeaky Bike Brakes Fix)
Adjust your brakes, especially the calipers, if they are out of alignment. Also, tighten the brake cartridges if they are loose.
While at it, ensure you angle the brake pads 1-2mm close to the wheel.
c) Worn Out Brake Blocks
Rim brakes could also produce a squealing sound if the brake blocks are worn out. Watch out for uneven wearing or glazing or complete wear to determine what fix to adopt.
If the brake blocks are unevenly worn out, use a file or fine-grit sandpaper to smoothen them. But if the brake blocks are worn out, go ahead and replace them.
d) Untrue Rim
If your rim is bend (an untrue rim), the brakes will rub against it, what we call a brake rub.
You can tell if the rim is untrue by giving it a spin. If it doesn’t spin freely, then the rim is untrue.
Straighten/true your wheels using a truing stand like the CXWXC Bike Repair Stand (View on Amazon) if it’s untrue.
Here’s a post on bike wheel straightening/truing that you can use as your guide.
FAQs about Squeaky Bike Brakes
1. Why Are My Bicycle Brakes Squeaking?
Your bicycle brakes could be squeaking because the brake pads or rotors are contaminated by grease, dirt, dust, or mud.
If that’s not the case, it could be that your brakes, especially the brake pads or brake caliper or both, are misaligned.
2. Do Squeaky Brakes Need Replacing?
Sometimes, you only need to degrease and sand your brake pads to stop the squeaky sound. So, a squeaky sound doesn’t always mean that you should replace your brakes.
You should only replace the brakes if they are worn out or have failed.
3. How Do I Stop My Bike Brakes From Squeaking?
Here are the steps to take to stop your bike brakes from squeaking:
- Release your brake and pull out your brake caliper
- Clean your dirty brake pads using a degreaser
- Degrease your wheel, too, before putting the brake back as it was
- Lastly, tighten everything using an Allen key
4. What Can I Spray On My Brakes To Stop Squeaking?
Consider using Permatex 80077 Disc Brake Quiet (View on Amazon). This disc brake fluid dampens brake vibrations and stops the squeaking sound.
What’s more, it protects your disc brakes against corrosion and offers them a tighter fit. That means it goes a long way in preventing loose brake pads.
5. Does Brake Cleaner Stop Squeaking?
A brake cleaner does what the name suggests, and that’s to clean the brake. It gets rid of grease, dirt, mud, and other contaminants from the brakes, which cause the squeaking.
Note, however, that since brake cleaners evaporate, they are not a long-term fix. You’ll have to lubricate the brakes after using a cleanser.
6. Can I Use WD-40 on Bike Brakes?
Ideally, WD-40 is a degreaser that you use to clean your bike components before greasing. It’s therefore okay to use it on your brake only for cleaning reasons.
You shouldn’t, however, use it as a lubricant as it’ll contaminate your brake. So, use a proper greaser after degreasing with WD-40.
So, are squeaky bike brakes dangerous? As seen, the sound could mean a serious issue with your brake, and if you don’t take any action, your brakes will fail.
And if your brake fails, you could easily crash, and you wouldn’t want that!