Driving during cold weather is not the most relaxing ride you especially if you hear suspicious brake noises. You might start wondering if your car will ever stop or if your brakes will give, causing an accident which might not only be expensive to fix, but also traumatic. But what causes these noises and how can you avoid them? One thing to keep in mind is, that not all sounds that come from your brakes mean that there are problems or damage, but just the same, you should regularly check your brakes and if in doubt, get professional opinion.
The main cause of brake squeal is the high-frequency vibrations that occur when your brake pads contact a rotor that has an irregular surface. This will make the pads bounce and vibrate, transferring the vibrations to the calipers and caliper pistons resulting in the squealing sound.
Irregular rotor surface can result when while driving you pass through a small puddle of water which freezes around the rotor, causing a temporary irregular surface. As the brakes heat up, the ice will melt and the surface of the rotor becomes smooth once again stopping any vibrations.
Vibrations are also a result of dust built up over the course of a few years. Most of the dust comes from the shoes of your brakes wearing down, which start coating the drum and cause the vibrations mentioned earlier. These vibrations can get stronger during cold conditions or because of morning dew since apart from dust coming from the brakes, frozen water droplets and dust from the road also cover the drum temporarily. Once the brakes warm up, the sound should ease a little but with the use of dust and contaminant removing products, the brakes should be cleared from dust once again and the sound is stopped.
Cast iron brake drums and rotors rust overnight and the rate of rusting quickened with cold, humid weather which will cause gritting sounds and vibrations. This rust can normally be cleaned away easily and avoided by keeping the car in a dry environment such as a garage when not in use especially during the night. If constantly wet, during cold conditions, water can freeze around the brake, increasing the rate of rusting and permanent damage to the rotor.
Being one of the most important components of your car's safety, brakes should be checked and regularly well maintained. Even if most noises mean nothing, checks from professional mechanics and preparing your vehicle before the cold season starts are a must. If a sound is unusual, or louder than usual or is related to the car also acting funny, it will probably mean that the wear and tear of the brakes is in an advanced stage. Always remember that the cold and freezing conditions, normally speeds up the process of damage and wear and so extra care must be taken.