Dear Car Talk:
My 2013 Toyota RAV4 has a very loud and annoying rotational squeak coming from the front passenger wheel. The noise stops when I apply the brakes.
In the last three years, I have taken it to three different garages. I have been told it’s not safety related, but no explanation is given as to what it is.
The noise is fixed when I get it back, but within a week, it’s back to squeaking. Any suggestions other than running it into a brick wall? Thanks! -- Mary
Lucky you, Mary. We happen to have a special at the garage this week. We’ll drive it into a brick wall for you for only $159.95.
I agree that it’s probably not safety related. I think it’s just your brake pads vibrating in their housing. Or, as we professionals call it, brake noise. It’s very common, which doesn’t make it any less annoying.
Here’s what’s happening. The brake pads sit in the caliper bracket. And the pads are held in place by spring-loaded clips, so they can move a little bit, but not too much.
If they are allowed to move around too much, they oscillate very quickly, and produce a high-pitched squeal. If you have a disc rotor that’s slightly warped, that can contribute to the noise, too. But the primary cause is pads that are vibrating against the metal bracket. When you step on the brakes, you push that pad against the brake disc, which temporarily stops the vibrating.
So how do you address it? Usually, the first thing shops will try is to add some special grease to the backs and ends of the pads. That helps, but it can wear off. Like after a week.
So the more complete solution involves replacing the “brake hardware.” Don’t worry, it’s not as expensive as it sounds. When brake pads are installed, they’re supposed to come with a brake hardware “kit.” It includes a shim that goes between the back of the pad and the caliper bracket. It’s usually coated in Teflon or something that will not squeak. The kit also comes with spring-loaded clips that hold the pads in place.
If your brake hardware is old and never got changed, that could explain why your pads are vibrating too much. For instance, if you went to a shop that was lazy or if they used aftermarket pads that didn’t come with the Toyota hardware, they may have left your old hardware in there.
So my suggestion would be to visit the dealer. They’ll have Toyota factory pads and all of the original and correct brake hardware. Tell them what the problem is and ask for their recommendation. If they shrug, ask them if they’ll replace all the brake hardware for you and use all the pieces in the kit.
I feel certain that’ll get rid of the noise for at least a week, Mary.