Why do brakes squeal until they are warmed up?

If you live in a cold area, you are probably used to your brakes squealing until warmed up each morning you start to drive your car.

This is especially true if you often park it outside, leaving it to the mercy of snow and the elements overnight. But why do brakes squeal until the engine is warm?

This usually happens because of the existence of a small layer of snow or ice between the components of your car’s braking system on each wheel.

The snow or ice is usually caused by extreme temperatures of 0 degrees Celsius and below. During winter, many places across the United States and other parts of the world typically experience such temperatures.

Possible Causes Of this Problem

There’s only one possible cause of this problem as you saw above. To help you better understand it, let me first explain to you some crucial mechanical components of a car’s braking system as found inside each wheel:

The brake caliper

It houses the brake pad and the piston, each of which plays a key role in a car’s braking system.

The brake pad

Contacts your disc/rotor through the caliper, causing friction that slows or brings the car to a stop when the brake pedal is engaged.

Brake disc/rotor

Designed to rotate with the wheel, a brake disc or rotor is typically clamped by the brake pad fitted to the caliper from both sides with pressure from the piston.

When the brake pedal is engaged, the pad applies friction to the disc or rotor. This activity slows down its rotation and that of the wheel thereby slowing down the car or bringing it to a halt.


Serves to enable the brake pad to make contact with the brake disc or rotor.

Now, if you come from a cold place where temperatures usually drop below freezing point, a tiny layer of ice can easily pile up between your brake’s components(especially the pad and rotor of each wheel) overnight.

Consequently, when you engage your brakes for the first time while driving your car the following day, the ice will exacerbate the friction force that is exerted on the brake rotor/disc by the pad on each wheel.

This increased friction force on the brake rotors or discs is what causes the squealing noise when the braking system components on each wheel haven’t warmed up enough to cause the snow or ice to melt away.

This noise will go on each time you engage your brake system until after the affected components have warmed up enough, melting away the accumulated ice or snow.

Is It Normal for the Brakes to Squeal When Cold?

The short answer is yes. This is due to ice or snow, which increases the friction between some components of your automotive braking system as found in each wheel.

It’s this increased friction occurring when the brake system is in use that causes the long high sound.

How To Fix Squealing Brakes

There are many ways to fix this problem including installing brake shims and applying some grease to certain contact points on the calipers.

Shims can help make this problem go away by absorbing the vibration and noise caused by the friction force, which occurs during braking.

Brake grease, on the other hand, works by reducing this friction force. All these mechanical solutions will result in a quieter and more enjoyable driving experience.

It’s also recommended that you avoid parking your car outside where there’s snow. Instead, shelter your car in the basement or parking lot that’s inside a building.

How Much Does It Cost + Labor?

The cost depends on the solution you choose. For example;

Installing brake shims

You can buy brake pad shims for as little as $6 per piece on Amazon. It takes about 30 minutes to 1 hour to install one brake ship, depending on the car and the mechanic’s skills.

Installing a shim on all four wheels thus can take between 2-4 hours, all factors remaining constant. On average, the hourly rate for most mechanics in the United States is around $75 to $130, with dealerships typically charging higher prices.

You can therefore expect to pay a total of $309–$529 on average, depending on the car and mechanic.

Applying brake grease

Getting your brakes greased usually costs around $50 or less. Sometimes, your mechanic will provide this service for free, especially if you are paying for other brake maintenance or service work.


Cars that are often parked overnight in snow tend to have brakes that squeal until heated up. This automotive braking behavior is usually a result of a thin layer of snow that piles up on certain components of your brakes on each wheel.

But once those components warm up, the snow goes away, and the noise disappears on its own. The good news is that you can prevent your brakes from having this behavior by installing brake shims and/or greasing your pads regularly.

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