Squeaking Noise While Driving But Not Brakes Applied: 11 Causes

Worn suspension parts like struts, sway links, bushings or ball joints are the most common causes of squeaking noise while driving but not brakes applied. As suspension components loosen, they rub and squeak. Tires rubbing in the wheel well against loose debris can also squeak, especially at higher speeds. Squeaking that occurs when turning could indicate a failing power steering pump or need to lubricate the steering column. A bad CV joint can also cause squeaking while driving. If the squeak stops when braking, worn brake pads are likely the cause – the pad’s metal wear indicator rubs the rotor due to extensive wear.

It can be incredibly frustrating when your driving experience is hampered by an annoying squeaking noise while driving but not brakes applied. You may hear this squeaking noise consistently, intermittently, or only when turning.

This squeaking noise might indicate underlying problems that may lead to costly repairs down the road. In this article, we’ll delve into the root causes of the squeaking noise when driving without applying brakes, and help you find a lasting solution to the problem.

Also Read: Groaning noise when braking at low speed

In this guide, I will also explain some brakes related issues that cause squeaking noise from cars even without braking.

For this, you have to first have an overview of working of disc brakes. If you don’t understand each part of the disc brake, it will be difficult for you to understand some technical terms I will be using in this guide. If you already have knowledge, you can jump straight to the causes section.

Some Key Insights for You
  • Worn brake pads with metal wear tabs rubbing against the rotor as an audible warning sign to replace pads
  • Stuck brake caliper pins preventing full pad retraction from the rotor
  • Warped brake rotors causing uneven pad contact and vibration
  • Stones stuck in tire treads creating friction and squeaking
  • Dry brake pad retaining clips in the caliper bracket causing pad vibration
  • Uneven tire inflation or wear leading to vibration and uneven road contact
  • Worn suspension components like ball joints rubbing and squeaking
  • Damaged CV joint boots allowing dirt inside, causing sticking and squeaking when turning
  • Loose or damaged serpentine belt/pulleys causing belt slippage and squeaking
  • Dry steering column joints needing lubrication and causing metal-on-metal squeaking

My Personal Experience With Squeaking Noise Issue While Driving

When I started hearing a high-pitched squealing noise in my 2010 Toyota Camry, I knew something was wrong. After some investigation, I realized it was coming from the serpentine belt.

The tensioner pulley had too much play, so the belt was slipping. I replaced the tensioner pulley and the squeaking instantly went away. Now my Camry runs smoother and quieter thanks to that simple fix.

Must Read: Brakes squeaking when first starting driving

Causes Of Squeaking Noise While Driving Without Brakes Applied

Here are the causes of squeaking or squealing noises in car when driving:

1. Wear Indicator Of Brake Pads Touching Rotor

wear indicator of brake pad causing squeaking noise
Wear indicator of brake pad causing squeaking noise

Wear indicators are small metal tabs attached to brake pads. They are designed to give an audible signal when the brake pads are worn down to a certain level.

When the brake pads are new, the wear indicators do not touch the brake rotor. However, as the brake pads wear down, the wear indicators touch the rotor and produce a squeaking noise.

Wear indicators are designed to make a high-pitched squeaking noise when they touch the brake rotor. This noise is intentional and serves as an audible warning that the brake pads are worn down and need to be replaced.

You will find wear tabs on either the side or the leading edge (also called ear)  of the brake pad.

parts of a brake pad
parts of a brake pad

When you apply the brakes, the brake caliper squeezes the brake pad against the rotor with more force. This extra force can push the wear indicator away from the rotor, temporarily stopping the noise. However, once you release the brakes, the noise will likely return. 

How to Fix?

The proper solution for a squeaking noise caused by wear indicators is to replace the brake pads.

Using brake pads that have worn down to the point where the wear indicators make contact with the rotors can result in reduced braking performance, increased stopping distances, and even brake failure in extreme cases.

I would only recommend OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) OEM brake pads instead of aftermarket brake pads that have sizing problems and alignment issues.

Using an inadequately sized brake pad can cause issues such as the vibration of the pad and uneven contact with the brake disc.

2. Sticking Brake Caliper Pin Making Squeaking Noises

caliper pin of brake pads
caliper pin of brake pads

The caliper pin is a small metal rod that connects the brake caliper to the brake pads. When you apply the brakes, the caliper squeezes the brake pads against the rotor, creating the friction necessary to slow down or stop your car. It allows the caliper to move freely, ensuring even wear of the brake pads.

The caliper pin is protected by a rubber boot that keeps dirt out and lubricant in, reducing friction and preventing corrosion.

However, over time, the caliper pin can get dirty or corroded, causing it to stick in place. This can result in the brake pad remaining partially engaged with the rotor, leading to a squeaking noise while driving.

Uneven brake pad wear is another sign of a stuck caliper pin, which can cause decreased braking performance, vibration, or pulling to one side while braking.

How to fix?

Use a brake cleaner and a wire brush to clean any debris or rust off the pin. Also, get the debris and dirt out of the hole in which the caliper pin is inserted. You can use this brush to clean the bore of the caliper in which the pin slides.

Dip a bore brush or a cotton swab in the cleaning solution and gently clean the inside of the hole. Then apply a high-temperature brake lubricant to help it move freely. I would recommend this one.

Note: Excessive lubrication can trap air at the tip of the slide pin, causing the caliper/pad assembly to drag on the rotor. As such, always ensure that you use the correct amount of lubricant when applying it to the slide pins.

cleaning and lubricating caliper pins
Cleaning and lubricating caliper pins

3. Warped and Uneven Rotor Surface Contact

damaged brake rotor

When a brake rotor becomes glazed or grooved, it can no longer provide a smooth surface for the brake pads to clamp down on. This can cause the brake pads to skip or slip over the surface of the rotor, resulting in a squeaking noise.

However, this noise is usually only heard when the brakes are not being applied, as the pressure of the brake pads against the rotor can help to dampen the noise.

Why does a warped rotor cause a squeaking noise while driving?

When a brake rotor becomes warped, it means that it is no longer perfectly flat. Instead, it has a slight bend or curve in it. This can cause the brake pads to make intermittent contact with the rotor, creating a vibration that results in a squeaking noise.

This noise can be especially noticeable at low speeds, such as when driving in a parking lot or through a residential area.

How to spot?

When the brake rotor becomes warped, it can become glazed or grooved. Glazing occurs when the brake pads become overheated and create a layer of shiny, hardened material on the surface of the rotor.

Grooving occurs when debris such as sand or dirt becomes embedded in the brake rotor and creates deep scratches. 

We can’t visually observe warped brake rotors as the deformity caused by heat is usually very small. A couple of thousandths of an inch can cause the rotor to warp, which is too small to notice by simply looking at the rotors.

4. Small Rocks In Tire Tread

Stones Stuck In Tires can cause squeaking noise while driving

Tire treads are the grooves on a tire’s surface that provide traction on the road. They are crucial for preventing hydroplaning by channeling water away from the tire’s contact patch. This allows the tire to maintain a strong grip on wet roads.

Tire treads also play a key role in providing traction on different terrains like snow, mud, or gravel.

However, while driving, tires can pick up debris, including stones. When stones get stuck in the tire treads, they can cause a squeaking noise due to the friction between the tires and the stones. This noise is often described as a high-pitched whine.

The trapped stone creates a vibration as the tire rotates, rubbing against the tire’s surface and producing the squeaking noise.

Sometimes, when you apply the brakes, the pressure can dislodge the stone, stopping the noise. However, this is not always the case, and the noise can continue even when the brakes are applied.

How to fix?

If you do find stones stuck in your tires, you can pry the stones out of the tire treads using a tool such as a flathead screwdriver.

It is a good idea to get rid of stones stuck between tire treads as soon as possible. They can be lodged between the grooves or treads on the tires. This can cause what is called “stone drilling”, where the stone is pushed deeper and deeper into the tire as it rotates, eventually puncturing one or more plies of the tire’s tread.

If a stone penetrates into one or more of the treads, the tire might not be able to be repaired safely. The puncture can cause a weakening of the structure of the tire, and the tire might blow out while driving. 

5. Brake Pads Not Retracting Fully

retaining clips of caliper bracket need to be lubricated

One reason that results in brake pads touching the brake rotor even after the brake pedal is released is the sticking brake caliper. I have already explained this above. Another reason that causes this condition is that brake pads need to be lubricated on areas where they are mounted in the caliper bracket.

The caliper bracket has a part, called a “retaining clip“, where brake pads glide smoothly when the brake pedal is pressed and released.

The retaining clips in a caliper bracket are small piece of metal that holds the brake pads in place. They are usually made out of stainless steel.

When brake pads aren’t lubricated properly, the retaining clips bracket can become dry and start to wear down. This causes the brake pads to vibrate against the rotor, which produces the high-pitched squeaking noise that you hear. 

How to fix?

To fix this, you need to remove the brake pads from the caliper bracket and lubricate the ears of the brake pads.

I would recommend ATE Plastilube Grease. Make sure you don’t apply grease to the friction plate of the brake pad as it will damage the material and brake rotor.

6. Tire Pressure Differences Cause Squeaking Noises

Proper tire pressure is crucial for safe and efficient driving. Underinflated tires can negatively impact handling, fuel efficiency, and increase the risk of tire failure. 

Overinflated tires can cause a harsh ride, reduced traction, and faster wear in the center of the tire tread. To maintain optimal performance, it is important to follow the recommended tire pressure levels specified by the vehicle manufacturer.

Uneven tire pressure can result in uneven tire wear, leading to a choppy or scalloping pattern on the tire tread. This can cause the tires to produce a squeaking noise while driving. A user even reported flat spots on their car’s tire when it started squeaking.

Uneven tire pressure can also cause tires to vibrate and generate friction against the road surface, resulting in a noticeable squeaking noise when the car is in motion. 

If the uneven pressure is more severe in one tire, it can cause the car to pull to one side while driving. This pulling can strain the tires further, leading to more noise and potential damage.

Maintaining proper tire pressure is essential for smooth vehicle functioning. It ensures even tire wear, improves fuel economy, and most importantly, enhances safety on the road. 

How to spot?

Here is how a tire looks with underinflation and overinflation:

imrpoper inflation of tires causing  uneven wear

Source: https://www.autocornerd.com/ford-f150-humming-noise-while-driving/

How to fix?

It is essential to inflate the tires with recommended air pressure. 

When you open the driver-side door of your car, you’ll see the label of recommended pressure for front and rear tires.

I have a 2018 Toyota Vitz. So, I have attached the picture of recommended tire pressure so that you can get an idea of how it looks:

recommended tire pressure

In the picture above, 165/70/R14 is a tire size. 2.5 bar is the tire pressure for the front tires and 2.4 bar is the tire pressure for the rear tires.

7. Uneven Tire Tread Wear

Uneven tire wear refers to the situation where the tires on your car wear out differently. This can occur due to a variety of reasons, including improper inflation, unbalanced wheels, misaligned wheels, or driving habits.

When tires wear out unevenly, it creates a situation where certain areas of the tire are more worn down than others. This can lead to a host of problems, including a squeaking noise while driving.

When your tires’ tread wears down, it can cause the rubber to become harder and less flexible. This can create a situation where your tires start to slip and slide around on the road, rather than gripping it as they should. When this happens, you may start to hear a squeaking noise as the tires move along the pavement.

Some users say that when your tires wear unevenly, it causes the tire to become misshapen or out of round.

When the tire becomes misshapen due to uneven wear, it makes contact with the road at an odd angle. This can cause increased friction and noise as the tire tries to grip the road surface.

The misshapen tire can also create vibrations that can be felt throughout the car, leading to squeaking noise while driving, even when the brakes are not applied. 

How to prevent it?

The standard recommendation is to replace your tires when the tread depth reaches 2/32 inches. This depth is the legal minimum in some states, but it’s generally recommended to replace tires when the tread gets below 4/32 inches to maintain reliable traction and safety.

Preventing uneven tire wear is relatively easy as long as you take proper care of your tires. Here are some tips to help you avoid uneven tire wear:

  1. Check your tire pressure regularly and maintain it at the recommended level. This will help ensure that the weight of your vehicle is distributed evenly across all four tires.
  2. Rotate your tires regularly. This involves switching the front tires with the back tires so that they wear more evenly. The recommended frequency for tire rotation is every 6,000 to 8,000 miles.
  3. Get your wheels aligned. Misaligned wheels can cause uneven tire wear, so it’s important to have them checked and aligned by a professional mechanic.
  4. Avoid bad driving habits, including sharp turns, sudden stops or starts, and driving over potholes or other road hazards.

8. Worn Suspension Parts Can Squeak When Turning

suspension components bushing and ball joint

Suspension components are the parts that connect your vehicle’s frame to the wheels, ensuring a smooth and comfortable driving experience. They include ball joints, control arms, struts, shocks, sway bars, bushings, tie rods, and other similar parts.

When these suspension components wear out, they can start moving and rubbing against other parts, resulting in a squeaking noise while driving. This noise may become more noticeable when going over bumps or turning corners, as these actions cause the suspension components to move around even more.

Ball joints are a crucial part of the suspension system. They connect the steering knuckle to the control arm and tie rods, allowing for proper movement and rotation of the suspension system while keeping the wheels aligned.

However, when ball joints become worn out, they lose their ability to provide the necessary support. This can cause the suspension to become loose and generate noise while driving. You can find ball joints in the connections of tie rods and control arms.

tie rods components

Control arms are another essential component of the suspension system that connects the wheel hub to the chassis of the vehicle. They provide support to the suspension system and allow for proper movement and rotation.

However, when the control arms become worn out, they can no longer provide the necessary support, causing the suspension to become loose and make a squeaking noise while driving. 

Other reasons for squeaking noise while driving can be bushings, springs, and struts.

Bushings are also rubber boots providing a cushion between the suspension components and the vehicle’s frame, preventing metal-to-metal contact and reducing noise. Bushings can also wear out and cause squeaking noise while driving.

You will observe bushings in the connections of tie rod, control arms and sway bars. These bushings are around the ball joints.

How to fix?

In some cases, the worn-out components may need to be replaced entirely, while in others, they may simply need to be lubricated or adjusted by replacing the bushing around the ball joint.

To lubricate worn-out ball joints, you can use a grease gun to add grease between the ball and socket. This can be done by forcing the grease in under pressure via a nipple or by using a needle to carefully lift the boot and add grease to the joint. 

You can also poke the needle into the boot of the ball joint to fill the grease but make sure to seal the little pinhole with tire patch gel or glue. You can use this grease gun with this grease injecting needle.

9. Failing CV Joints Causing Popping Sound

bad cv joint
bad cv joint

CV joints, or constant velocity joints, are an essential component of your vehicle’s drivetrain in front-wheel drive. They are responsible for transferring power from the transmission to the wheels while allowing for smooth and efficient rotation. 

A CV joint is made up of several components, including the CV boot, which protects the joint from dirt and debris, and the bearings, which allow the joint to rotate smoothly. As the wheels turn, the joint allows the axle to move up and down, keeping the wheels in contact with the road. 

Your vehicle has two main types of CV joints:

  • Inner CV joint
  • Outer CV joint

Inner CV joints connect the transmission to the axle shafts, while outer CV joints connect the axle shafts to the wheels. Both types of CV joints are critical to your vehicle’s drivetrain, and both can cause problems if they fail. 

To learn more about CV joints, you can read my guide on how CV joints can affect transmission.

When a CV joint starts to wear out, it can no longer move smoothly. Instead, it may start to bind or stick, which can cause a variety of noises, including a squeaking, popping, or clicking sound when driving.

This noise is often more noticeable when you’re turning, as the CV joint is under more stress in this situation. 

How to fix?

You need to check if the rubber boot of the CV joint is damaged. The rubber boot encloses grease and bearing and protects the bearing from dirt and debris.

If you see the grease leaking behind the wheels of your car, the chances are that the CV joint boot is cracked. Other chances are that the bearing inside the rubber boot is damaged.

10. Bad Serpentine Belt Tensioner Bearing Can Squeal

car serpentine belt pulley system
car serpentine belt and pulley pulley system

A serpentine belt is a long, continuous belt that powers multiple components of a vehicle’s engine. The components include a steering pump, AC compressor, alternator, etc.

The pulley, on the other hand, is a rotating wheel with a grooved rim that the serpentine belt wraps around. The pulley is responsible for driving the belt and transmitting power to the components it controls. 

Apart from regular pulleys, the serpentine belt also passes over two different types of pulleys i.e. tensioner pulley and idler pulley. 

The tensioner pulley is spring-loaded and can pivot. It is designed to apply tension to the serpentine belt, ensuring that it stays tight and doesn’t slip on the pulleys. This helps to prevent squeaking, premature wear, and damage to the belt and other engine components.

The idler pulley, on the other hand, is designed to route the serpentine belt around the various accessories and engine components that it drives. It helps to keep the belt properly aligned and prevent it from slipping off the pulleys.

Over time, the bearings in the idler and tensioner pulleys can wear out, causing them to become loose and wobbly.

When this happens, the pulleys will no longer be able to maintain the proper tension on the serpentine belt, which can cause it to slip and create that annoying squeaking noise.

How to spot?

Here are the signs that your serpentine belt or pulley is worn out and needs to be replaced:

  • Cracks or fraying on the belt
  • Broken or missing ribs on the belt
  • Belt slipping or coming off the pulley
  • Visually inspect the pulley for signs of wear, such as cracks, chips, or grooves. The pulley should also turn freely without any binding or wobbling
  • Tensioner pulley is kicking a lot from side to side and ticking marks on the pulley

Moreover, the idler pulley should be tight. If the idler pulley has any play, it will cause the serpentine belt to become loose.

A stethoscope or a very long screwdriver can also be used to pinpoint where the noise is coming from.

11. Steering System Needs Lubrication

A steering pump is an essential component of a vehicle’s power steering system. A steering pump generates hydraulic pressure that assists the driver in turning the steering wheel.

When the driver turns the wheel, the pump sends hydraulic fluid to the steering gear, which then turns the car’s wheels. This process requires a substantial amount of pressure, which the pump provides.

The steering column is a vertical shaft that connects the steering wheel to the steering gearbox or rack-and-pinion. The steering column is made up of several parts that need to move smoothly against each other, such as the shaft, the bushings, and the joints. If any of these parts becomes dry or worn out, they can produce a squeaking or creaking sound when you turn the wheel or drive over bumps.

This is because when the lubrication wears off, the metal components start to rub against each other, causing friction and creating a squeaking noise. 

If the steering pump is causing squeaking noise, you should check the pulley of the steering pump.

Final Thoughts

In summary, squeaking noises while driving can stem from a variety of sources, often indicating more serious underlying issues.

Regularly checking components like brake pads, tires, and suspension parts for wear and damage allows early identification and repair, preventing costly repairs down the road.

Though squeaks may seem trivial, heeding them provides insight into your vehicle’s health.

With vigilance and prompt maintenance, you can silence those squeaks, ensuring safe, reliable transportation.

Some First Hand Experiences Shared By Users In Different Communities

Our team conducted research across various online communities, forums, and subreddits to gather user comments and opinions on “squeaking noise while driving without applying brakes”.

User 1 says:

I drive a 2019 Mazda CX-9 and faced this annoying squeak while driving, especially at low speeds. It was actually the control arm bushings. Realized it when I took a sharp turn and the noise intensified.

User 2 says:

I own a Kia Stinger, and I had this squeaking issue when driving, particularly noticeable at higher speeds. It turned out to be aerodynamic noise caused by a loose front bumper. Fixed it by re-securing the bumper.

User 3 says:

In my Ford Ranger, the issue was with the leaf springs in the suspension. The squeak was more prominent during suspension movement. A bit of lubrication between the leaves solved it.

User 4 says:

Had a similar problem with my 2018 VW Golf Alltrack. The noise was due to a faulty suspension strut. The giveaway was a bouncing sensation over bumps, along with the squeaking noise.

User 5 says:

I had this persistent squeaking noise in my 2017 Honda Accord whenever I was driving but not braking. It turned out to be a worn-out serpentine belt. I realized it was the issue after noticing the squeak was consistent regardless of the road surface and got worse with engine revs.

User 6 says:

In my 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee, the squeaking noise while driving was due to a dry U-joint on the driveshaft. I noticed the problem because the squeak’s frequency matched the vehicle’s speed.

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