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Ask the NAPA Experts: How Do I Stop My Brakes From Squeaking in Reverse?

Ask the NAPA Experts: How Do I Stop My Brakes From Squeaking in Reverse?

Do your car brakes squeak when backing up? Ordinarily, your car brakes should do their job without making a sound. But, when brake noise does occur, it is telling you to pay attention. If you are asking, “How do I stop my brakes from squeaking in reverse?”, follow this guidance by the NAPA experts to get to the bottom of your brake issue.

Common Causes

You can boil down most causes of brake squeal in reverse to components either touching each other when they should remain separated or moving when they should remain still. Here are the most common causes of squealing brakes.


Rust is never a good thing on any vehicle component. In this case, when brakes squeak in reverse, it is possibly due to a thin layer of rust on the brake rotor surface. Due to the way disc brakes work, the brake rotor friction surface is not protected by paint or any other type of coating. The outside edges and inside surface (if vented) are possibly coated, but anything that contacts the brake pad will just get worn away. That means the brake rotor friction area is prone to having a light layer of rust form, sometimes overnight in the right conditions. Usually though, it takes the vehicle sitting for an extended time for rust to form. When you back up the first time, the rust gets scraped off by the brake pad, which can make noise.

Dirty Brakes

Your brakes are under a constant barrage of road debris, brake dust, dirt, mud, slush and anything else you drive through on a daily basis. That gunk can build up and become caked around the braking system components. It may sound odd, but brake pads and shoes need a certain amount of freedom to move so they can back away from the disc rotor or brake drum surface. If there is a layer of brake dust in the way, the brake pad or rotor can’t move away like it should. When that happens, the brake pad or brake shoe drags loosely against the brake rotor or brake drum, making your brakes squeal in reverse.

Water and Foreign Objects 

If the brakes get completely soaked, you might hear a noise as the water is wiped from the friction material. The noise should go away as the brakes dry. You can also tap the brakes lightly while rolling to help speed up the drying process by generating heat. It is rare, but sometimes things like rocks, sticks or other road debris can get stuck. For example, a rock might get lodged between the brake rotor and dust shield. Depending on how the rock gets caught, it might not matter when rolling forward, but becomes jammed up in reverse. 

Worn Brake Pads

Brake pads wear down just like the soles of your shoes. As brake pads wear down, they get too thin to do their job correctly. Some brake pads have sensors that warn when they are too thin, but the more common method is a brake wear sensor. The brake wear sensor is a metal tab that is mounted on the brake pad and aimed at the surface of the brake rotor. When the brake pad is too thin, the brake sensor contacts the surface of the brake rotor, sometimes making your brakes squeal when in reverse or when driving slowly forward. When in doubt, check the brake pad thickness.

Dragging Parking Brake

Parking brake shoes

If the parking brake assembly is out of alignment or not adjusted correctly, it can contact the brake drum, making a scraping sound. Don’t assume that because you have rear disc brakes that you don’t have a drum parking brake, as many vehicles have a small drum brake assembly hidden behind the rear brake rotor. Take a minute to look over your parking brake and make sure everything is clean and properly adjusted.

Stopping The Brake Noise

If your brakes make noise when backing up, there are a few simple solutions. Start by inspecting the brake system. Cleaning your brakes is also a good idea, so you can rule out things such as dirt, dust and other crud as the problem source. Make sure to lubricate the things such as the caliper slide pins that need to move. Check the thickness of brake pads and brake shoes. Check a repair manual for your specific vehicle to see if the vehicle should have anti-rattle clips installed on the brake calipers. These clips, which help keep the brakes quiet, often go missing as time passes.

Ready to stop that brake noise in reverse? Just head over to your local NAPA Auto Parts store or shop NAPAonline for everything you need to do the job right. At participating locations, you can order online and pickup in store or opt for curbside pickup. Don’t feel like leaving the house or don’t have the time? Order on NAPAonline to get One-Day Shipping on 160,000+ products. However you choose to shop, make sure to take advantage of NAPA Rewards to receive 1 Point for every dollar you spend. When you earn 100 Points, you automatically get $5 off your next purchase! 

If taking apart and cleaning your brakes isn’t something you feel comfortable doing or if you just don’t have the time, you can always visit your local NAPA Auto Care center. Our team of ASE-certified technicians have the expertise and the training to diagnose your brake system issues. As a bonus, your brake repair is covered by our free 24-Month/24,000-Mile Peace of Mind Warranty (parts and labor on qualifying repairs and services), which spans across the entire nationwide NAPA Network, including 17,000+ NAPA Auto Care center locations.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Brian Medford View All

With an automotive writing career spanning over two decades, Brian has a passion for sharing the automotive lifestyle. An avid DIYer he can usually be found working on one of his many project cars. His current collection includes a 1969 Olds Delta 88 convertible, BMW E46 sedan, and a slant-6 powered 1975 Plymouth Duster.

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