Any type of noise coming from your car can be a concern. If the noise is annoying, like a constant squeak, it can add a headache on top of the stress of troubleshooting and repairing your car.
Squeaking is the byproduct of two materials rubbing against each other. This can occur anywhere within the wheel’s subsystem — from the steering system, suspension, brakes, or the tires themselves. Read the rest of this guide for a more detailed explanation.
To help deal with this problem, I put together this guide. I pinpointed 12 reasons why your car wheels might be squeaking, and I found an additional 3 potential squeak-makers that aren’t tied to your wheels. I will also give a solution to each of the problems.
How Does Squeaking Occur?
It might seem like a silly question, but it’s something that you might not have thought about in the past — how does squeaking happen in the first place? What’s really going on?
As it turns out, squeaking is just the byproduct of two materials rubbing against each other. When you rub your hand against a rubber couch too hard, you’ll hear a squeak.
When it happens in your car, it’s just a symptom of a larger issue. A squeak itself is pretty harmless, but not when it’s coming from materials colliding in your car somewhere.
Is Squeaking Always a Bad Sign?
In most of this article, I’m going to assume that squeaking means something is seriously wrong with your vehicle. In certain cases, as you’ll see in a second, squeaking means there’s a mechanical issue that could lead your car to break down and your tires to blow out.
That’s not always the case though.
You’ll hear squeaking if you wear certain pants and sit on a leather seat or your shoes rub against your floor liners in a certain way. I would still suggest finding out where the squeak is coming from, but I wanted to clarify that it isn’t the end of the world if you hear a random squeak.
It becomes more troublesome if you hear consistent squeaks that often occur after you do a certain task (like braking, turning your wheel, or accelerating).
The Problem with Ignoring the Squeak
Since a squeak can sometimes be harmless, is it a good idea to ignore it? No. As I mentioned, any amount of consistent squeaking should be dealt with as soon as possible.
I explained that squeaking is the byproduct of two things coming in contact. In the world of cars, any amount of contact is a bad contact. It’s the reason why lubricants are used in the first place.
To translate that idea, any amount of squeaking should be concerning.
A squeak means friction between parts. Friction leads to both parts wearing down and eventually failing. If nothing else, the parts will fail a lot sooner than they otherwise would.
A squeaky car door is pretty innocent if you can pinpoint the noise. A squeaky wheel? Not so much.
Your wheels are one of the most important components of your vehicle. They (should be) the only part of your vehicle that ever comes in contact with the road as you drive.
Your wheels are responsible for your car’s performance, how often you need to get gas, whether or not you can take a turn at certain speeds, and they’re the reason your car can move forward at all.
When your wheels are squeaking, it’s a bad idea to ignore it. I know that there’s always a fear of troubleshooting an issue because it could need an expensive fix and the process could take a while.
With squeaky tires, you can find and fix the culprit within 5 minutes, depending on what’s wrong. Since you’re reading this guide, you’re already off to a good start, I would just urge you to move forward with the repair before it’s too late.
The problem with ignoring the squeak is that it can snowball into a bigger, more expensive, more time-consuming issue pretty quickly. If a looming tire blowout is causing this squeak, your car could get totaled if you ignore the squeak.
Can You Fix Squeaks on Your Own?
You’ll get a better understanding of this answer in a few minutes, but it really varies. For experienced DIYers with plenty of mechanical experience and the right tools, any of these issues can be fixed.
You’ll notice that all of them are mechanically based. Most of the solutions entail taking out the squeaky part and replacing it or adding lubricant to the part — both of which are easy enough for the right person.
However, a lot of the solutions also involve taking things apart. If you don’t trust your ability to disassemble and correctly reassemble a car part, it’s easiest to take it to a mechanic.
There are definitely videos online that will walk you through how to do something like fixing your car’s alignment (spoiler alert). Some people will still prefer taking the car to a shop, and I don’t blame you.
To answer the question: yes, you can technically fix the squeak on your own, but it depends on how confident you are in your abilities.
Is a Squeaky Wheel an Expensive Fix?
Most of the time, the fix is pretty inexpensive. The cheapest solution is just refilling your car with air which is free. Other inexpensive fixes just require a little grease or lubricant to be sprayed on the afflicted part.
If you take your car to the shop for them to fix it, you can expect to pay a few hundred bucks for this repair.
Why Your Car Wheels Squeaking: 12 Causes and Fixes
The toughest part of knowing why your wheels are squeaking is the troubleshooting stage. It’s not easy to take apart your steering system, so these causes and fixes should give you a better place to start.
1. It Could Be the Road Condition
If the squeaking occurs randomly and can be repeated over the same stretch of road, it could just be poor road conditions. If there’s construction going on or the road is worse for wear, there will be plenty of things that can cause squeaking.
In this case, squeaking will also come with extra vibration as you’re driving and a rougher ride.
Solution: Start by driving over the same strip of the road a few times and see if your car squeaks each time. If it doesn’t squeak outside of this piece of road, then you can blame the road condition.
2. Bushings are Bad
In the connection between your tire and axle, there are bushings. These are also called ball bearings, and they serve a single purpose: they help your wheels spin smoothly.
They are called “ball bearings” because there are a series of metal spheres that can be found inside the bushing. These spheres create a low-friction environment as they roll over one another. With enough of these spheres, you’ll achieve fluid rotation that doesn’t come with a huge loss of energy or other mechanical issues.
However, things can go wrong if something happens to these spheres. All it takes is one of them to get damaged, stuck, rusted over, or get a flat spot. After that, you’ll get a squeaking noise.
In this case, the squeak is caused by the metal balls not rolling perfectly.
Solution: Start by jacking your car up enough so the wheel in question can spin freely. Grab it with your hands and jostle the wheel back and forth. This is a test to see if there’s any play (which there shouldn’t be). If there is play, then you can assume the bearing needs to be replaced.
You’ll need to remove the wheel, brake pad, disc, bearing cover, and bearing bolt. After that, the wheel bushings can be removed, inspected, and replaced.
3. It’s an Especially Hot Day
Heat will expand materials, and this happens within your car. The metals and plastics in your wheel assembly will expand on especially hot days (particularly when your car is exposed to direct sunlight).
That means that things that typically don’t rub against each other, will now start rubbing and squeaking.
Sometimes it might just mean squeaking inside of your cabin when you move the steering wheel, but other times it could present as squeaking around the wheels themselves.
Solution: Wait for things to cool down and see if the noise goes away. If you park in a garage overnight and notice squeaking in the morning, it probably isn’t due to the external temperatures. Since this is an environmental cause, there’s no real solution.
4. Your Car is New/ Freshly Detailed
Another scenario that can cause temporary squeaking has to do with getting your car detailed. The products used to clean a car could make their way into your wheels and on your tires’ rubber. For the first few miles after washing your car, there might be a squeak present.
This should go away after enough driving.
Solution: Drive your car for the day and see if the squeaking goes away. Alternatively, give your car some time to dry off after washing it next time.
5. Your Suspension Needs Lubrication
The suspension keeps you comfortable as you drive your car. The biggest thing that it does is absorb the force from potholes and uneven surfaces as you drive.
Every car’s suspension system has dozens of little connection points and components. In newer cars, the suspension pieces that need to be lubricated are typically sealed and deemed “lubed for life”.
For older cars, this isn’t the case. If your wheels squeak after going over a bump, then it could be due to the suspension.
Solution: The solution is pretty simple and it revolves around lubricating the squeaky parts. For the suspension fittings, you could use a grease gun. Apply a generous amount. For your springs, a silicon spray will work better. The squeaking should completely go away after greasing each part and driving for a few miles.
6. The Car Is Peeling Out
If you hit the gas too hard from a dead stop, you’ll do a “peel out”. This is when your wheels spin faster than they can get a grip, so they spin on-air before launching you forward.
If you do a quick peel out, it could sound like a chirp or small squeak before you start moving.
For cars with lots of horsepower, this is surprisingly easy to do. I was test-driving a BMW M5 and could peel out even after shifting into 4th gear. A lot of drivers know how to do this purposefully, but it could be really confusing when it accidentally happens.
Solution: Try easing your foot onto the gas pedal when you accelerate. If this problem only occurs from a dead stop or when you shift up, then there’s a good chance that you’re just doing a mini peel out and don’t know it. If you drive a manual, try starting from 2nd gear and see if you hear the same squeak.
7. The Tires are Underinflated
The suggested pressure in your tires is actually very important. If your tires are too low, too much of the tire will come in contact with the road as you drive along.
This will lead to excessive rubbing which could sound like squeaking at lower speeds. The squeaking becomes more noticeable through turns because the sidewalls will deflect and rub against the road more.
8. Your Brake Pads are Nearly Worn Out
Most brake pads come with a built-in “squealer”. This is a metal part that is used to give an audial clue that your brake pads are running low.
By design, the squealer will come in contact with the brake rotor and make an annoying squeaking noise when you apply the brake.
If you only hear squeaking when you apply the brakes, that’s a hint that it could be this issue.
Solution: Jack up your car, take off the tire, and inspect the brake pad from the side. You can see how much rubber is present before taking off the assembly. If it’s too low, then put replacement brake pads in the assembly and put your tire back on.
9. Your Tires Need to Be Replaced
Another culprit of your squeak could be your tires. If they have flat spots, unevenly worn treat, not even tread, any surface defects, or damage to the rim, you might hear a squeaking noise.
In addition, you’ll probably notice rhythmic thumping noises or shaking through your steering wheel while you’re driving.
All it takes is a single low spot on one tire for a squeaking noise to pop up.
Solution: If the squeaking gets faster as you accelerate and slower as you decelerate, there’s a good chance it’s the tires. Check the health of your tires and replace them if you find any problems.
10. Your Vehicle Is Misaligned
Tire alignment is the process of making sure all four tires are parallel with each other and pointing in the same direction. It’s something that a mechanic does.
If there’s any misalignment, your tires are essentially fighting against one another. If the misalignment is major, you’ll feel some serious rattling through your steering and your vehicle might even vibrate as you drive.
In more minor cases, you’ll just hear some sort of noise coming from either the front or rear of your car. For some people, this comes as a squeaking noise.
Solution: Take your car to a mechanic and have them check the alignment of your wheels. Most mechanics and service shops have a camera and computer that can automatically check for alignment. If they are misaligned, have them correct the problem.
11. Tie-Rods are Worn
Your car’s wheels have a tie-rod. It’s part of the steering assembly and it connects to the steering knuckle of each wheel.
The tie-rods will go up and down and rotate as you move along. This helps your vehicle achieve a smoother ride while still performing critical turning operations.
Tie-rods wear out over time. If you like to drift and drive aggressively, they’ll wear out a lot quicker.
Solution: Checking the health of your tie-rod is really hard for an untrained driver. The best option is to take your car to a trusted mechanic and ask them to do all the work.
12. You Had Your Car’s Camber Tweaked
For people who want their car to look sportier and cooler, adding a camber is an option. This is when the wheels are rotated inward or outward with respect to the car.
While this might give your car a tougher stance, it can lead to a ton of problems. I highly suggest against it (after owning a car that had this mod done previously). For one, it wears your tires out much quicker.
In addition, it can add a lot of squeak to your tires as you drive. In this case, it’s a matter of a lack of grip on the road. Your tires are designed to be placed flat on the ground as you drive. When they’re angled, the tread doesn’t know what to do and your tires will slip as you drive — this happens a lot while accelerating or taking a corner.
Solution: If you want my honest feedback, you should remove the camber from your car. That’s the only solution to this problem. There are other ways to make your car look sporty without risking an accident and burning through tires quicker.
Problems That Sound Like Wheel Squeak
It’s always hard to pinpoint a noise as you’re driving along. Due to this fact, you might not know for sure where the squeaking noise is coming from. Here are some other common issues that sound like wheel squeak, but have nothing to do with your wheels.
Power Steering Issues
In modern cars, a power steering system is installed. This makes it a lot easier to turn your steering wheel and subsequently move your wheels.
Your power steering system has fluid, hoses, gears, and a pump to circulate everything. If any of these components become damaged, then you’ll lose your power steering and will get a squeak as you move your wheels.
Solution: Start by checking your power steering fluid. If it’s low, top it off and drive around. If the issue still persists, you’ll need to take your car to a mechanic. Troubleshooting this on your own is a long and tedious process.
Speaking of steering, there’s a belt that ties everything together. This isn’t technically part of the power steering system, but it ties it to the transmission and engine. It’s also called a serpentine belt, and it’s a big deal.
If the belt is damaged or loose, you’ll hear a squealing noise from the front of your vehicle. If the belt breaks and falls off, your car will probably break down and you’ll see a series of warning lights pop up on your dashboard.
Solution: Pop your hood and locate your engine. The steering belt works its way through a lot of different gears and components. Grab it and pull it to check if there’s a lot of slack. If so, it will need to be replaced or reseated. It’s easiest to have a mechanic do this for you.
Something in Your Car Squeaking
There’s also a simpler answer to this problem — maybe there’s something in your car that is squeaking. I had a car with leather seats in the past, and there was this random squeaking that would occur whenever I had a passenger.
I thought it was a suspension problem because of the added weight. After a lot of troubleshooting, I found out it was just a squeaky rail on the passenger’s seat.
That’s to say that the squeaking problem might just be something in your car rubbing against something else. Maybe there’s something in your glove box that squeaks against the wall or something in your center console.
Solution: Drive around with a passenger and put their ear to the test. Ask them to open things, move things around, and see if you can make the squeaking stop. This is the opportunity to find out if the squeaking is actually occurring from outside the vehicle.
Loose Lug Nuts
There are nuts that are used to fasten your wheel to the threaded stud that it calls home. Any time you change your tires or take your tires off to do repairs, you need to retighten these lug nuts. For reference, they’re the pieces that look like metal acorns that you can see when you look at your rim.
If they’re too loose, your wheels could wobble a little and cause a squeaking noise. You might also feel vibrations as you drive at highway speeds. I will say, this problem can be disastrous if it isn’t immediately fixed.
As you drive, your wheels vibrate which will ultimately loosen your lug nuts even more. With enough vibration, lug nuts can come off and your wheel can pop off from its housing and you’ll be driving on three wheels, scraping metal and doing serious damage to the undercarriage.
Solution: This is another easy fix. Start by using your hand and seeing if you can loosen any of the lug nuts with just your hand. You might want to wear gloves because this is going to be a dirty part. If any of them are able to be hand-loosened, you should tighten all of the lug nuts on all of your wheels.
You can do this with a tire iron. To tighten, rotate the nuts clockwise (righty-tighty). All of them should require a little effort to fully tighten, but not too much force so the lug nuts don’t snap off.
I really hope this guide helped you find the squeak in your car. I know that a lot of the issues are tougher to troubleshoot and are really hard to fix on your own. Regardless, this should give you the insight you need to stop that annoying squeaking noise. For more car guides, look at the rest of my site. Also, check out my list of recommended car products.