Why Do My Tires Squeak While Driving?

Squeaking tires while driving isn't just annoying — it could be a warning of a serious problem. Don't ignore that squeak.

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Tires are one of your vehicle’s most important systems and they take a lot of abuse. A squeaking sound from your tires is, of course, a nuisance, but it can also indicate that other parts of your vehicle are worn or damaged. Here are some of the most common causes of tire squeak and what you can do to fix the problem.

Underinflated or Overinflated Tires

Under- or overinflated tires are the number one and most obvious cause of tire squeak, especially when turning. The tread area contacting the road surface is greatly reduced on tires that are under- or overinflated. This causes tires to deform, slide sideways and squeak. Follow your vehicle manufacturer’s recommended specifications for tire inflation and make checking your tire pressure part of your monthly maintenance routine.

Pro Tip: Tire pressure is important to your car’s overall safety and performance. Tires that are under or over inflated are prone to blowouts, negatively impact fuel economy and braking and steering responsiveness. Pick up a tread depth gauge and air pressure gauge online or at your local parts store and use them regularly. Replace any tire that has tread measuring 4/32-in. or less.

Uneven Tread Wear

A suspension system that is out of alignment causes tires to be dragged rather than roll smoothly. This triggers uneven tire tread wear, which can cause that squeaking sound when driving, braking and turning. Suspension system alignment is best left to a pro.

Pro Tip: A vehicle needing an alignment may also experience reduced steering response and decreased tire life, as well as compromised braking and traction. Besides having your tire shop perform an alignment, rotating your tires every six months or 6,000 to 8,000 miles helps even out normal wear patterns, making your tires run quieter and last longer.

Abnormal Tire Wear

Worn, damaged or bent suspension parts, wheels or wheel hub bearings, caused by an accident or hitting a pothole or curb, can cause tread cupping, feathering or scalloped wear. Any of that can make tires squeak. A trip to your repair shop is best to diagnose and correct abnormal tire wear.

Brakes

Is it possible the squeaking you hear is coming from the brakes and not your tires?

A metal tab (brake wear indicator) attached to the brake pad backing plate will rub against the rotor while driving, making an unpleasant squeaking noise and alerting the driver that it’s time for new pads. If the wear indicator is causing the squeak, the noise should stop when stepping on the brakes.

Worn, missing or broken brake caliper hardware can cause the caliper to drag and rub on the rotor, which can also produce a squeaking noise. If you narrow down the source of the noise to the brakes, replacing brake pads and rotors can be a DIY project.

Or Is It Something Else?

Although uncommon, loose or rusted wheel covers, or loose or overtightened lug nuts can cause tires to squeak while driving. Your best bet is to have a trusted mechanic check your vehicle’s wheels for any physical damage. And never just re-tighten lug nuts. Lug nuts should be loosened, then re-torqued to the manufacturer’s specifications.

Your tires (plus the brake and suspension systems that work in harmony with those tires) make up your car’s most essential safety systems. Squeaking tires while driving should be checked by your mechanic before a more serious problem arises.

Bob Lacivita
Bob Lacivita is an award-winning ASE and General Motors auto technician, vocational educator, Career and Technical Center administrator and freelance writer who has written about DIY car repairs, vehicle maintenance and other self-help topics for more than 20 years.
At the age of 12, Bob took his first engine apart, a 2-cycle Briggs and Stratton from a lawn mower he found in the trash. At 14, he rebuilt a seized 256cu.in. Chevrolet engine in a 1956 Belair that he drove for three years. He spent most weekends, as well as the money he earned working a gas station, at Atco Dragway in Atco New Jersey.
Although trained as an architectural drafter, he never worked a day in that field. Still, the skills he learned helped as he renovated and rehabbed his homes. His true love was cars and so he made that his life’s profession. Bob worked for one of the largest Oldsmobile retailers in the country and earned Pontiac and Oldsmobile Master Technician Elite status as one of the top 20 GM technicians in the country.
Bob was also a Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) certified career and technical educator for 25 years, teaching automotive technology for 11 of them. He's been a Certified Vehicle Safety Insructor and an Emissions Inspector, too. Bob earned his master’s degree in educational leadership, as well as his PDE K-12 Principal Certification and his Career and Technical Education Directors and Curriculum Supervisors certificates, to become a school administrator. When it comes to education, Bob has two sayings: The kids are the best part of teaching, and teaching was the hardest job he ever had. It was the best job he ever had, too.
Since retiring, Bob has continued to maintain his ASE Master Technician; MACS Section 609 Refrigerant Recycling Certification; PA safety and emissions inspector certifications, credentials, and licenses; and participated in more than 100 hours of update technical training through MotorAge, Snap-On, Dorman Products and Automotive Technician Training Services, Mitchel1 and others.
Bob currently writes regularly for Family Handyman and works as a consultant with one of the largest automotive retailers on the East Coast, setting up an automotive technology training and apprenticeship program in partnership with a local catholic high school.
Bob and his wife lived through 40 years' worth of DIY home remodeling while parenting two (now grown) boys, and now relax by watching their three fabulous granddaughters.