Why Is My Front Tire Squeeking When I Drive My Car?by K.K. LowellUpdated July 25, 2023
Pinpointing the origin of a squeaking noise from a front tire may not be straightforward, but with some detective work, you can identify one or two possible causes. Note the circumstances under which you hear the squeaking sound from the tire. An incessant squeaking whenever the car is driven differs from an intermittent noise, but the former is typically easier to diagnose.
Squealing During Turns
If your vehicle emits a squeak or squealing noise from one front tire when executing tight turns, such as in a parking garage, begin your diagnostic process by examining the tire pressure. Under-inflated tires are the most common cause for this type of noise. Refer to the chart in your vehicle's owner's manual for the suggested air pressure for your tires and inflate them accordingly. Remember, a tire that appears fine might not have the appropriate air pressure.
Constant High-Pitched Squeak
Numerous cars come equipped with a device known as a wear indicator, integrated into the front brake pads. As the brake pad wears down to a specific point, the wear indicator lightly contacts the surface of the brake rotor, resulting in a high-pitched squeak every time the car is driven. Noises created by a wear indicator will vanish when the brake pedal is pressed, and the brake is applied, only to return nearly instantly upon the brake pedal's release.
Constant Low-Tone Squeak
Misalignment of the front end may lead to a squeaking due to front tire wear. This condition, usually induced by component wear or damage following a harsh bump, creates a constant noise lower in tone than a wear-indicator noise. The car might also pull to one side or wander while on the road. Checking the front tires for uneven wear, especially on the rims, is crucial as such wear can be hazardous.
Intermittent Light Squeak
A frequent cause of intermittent squeaking in front tires is a loose wheel cover. As you drive, the cover shifts on the wheel, resulting in a squeaky or squealing sound that may or may not be accompanied by a rattle. Typically, wheel-cover noises are light, intermittent, and high-pitched. Removing the wheel cover and test-driving the car can help diagnose this issue. If the noise disappears, the wheel cover is likely the culprit.
Numerous noises might seem like tire noises but are not. In older vehicles, a rusted or bent brake-backing plate may come into contact with the back surface of the brake rotor and, much like a wear indicator, cause a high-pitched squeak. This squeaking sound occurs only when the car is driven, but unlike a wear-indicator noise, it will persist even when the brake is applied. Occasionally, a small stone trapped between the backing plate and rotor can produce a similar sound.
Consider also examining your vehicle's steering wheel and suspension system for issues, such as a faulty wheel bearing, damaged ball joints, or tie-rod, which could cause squeaking sounds. The serpentine belt or alternator could be another possible cause. Regular oil changes and ensuring adequate power steering fluid levels can help prevent such issues. If tire wear, particularly tread wear, is uneven, consider having your front wheel alignment checked at a repair shop. Under-inflated tires and tire tread issues can also cause your tires to squeal on certain road surfaces, and potholes can lead to additional damage. If in doubt, always consult a professional for a thorough inspection.
Supplement A List of Possible Causes for a Squeaking Front Tire
Here are some common reasons why your front tire may be squeaking when driving your car:
- Worn Tread - If the tread is getting low on your front tires, it can start to squeak around turns as the rubber slips against the road surface. This is a sign you need new tires.
- Underinflation - An underinflated tire can cause extra friction between the rubber and road, creating a squeaking noise. Check tire pressures and fill to proper PSI.
- Improper Alignment - Misalignment causing uneven tread wear or too much negative camber can lead to squeaky turns. Have an alignment done.
- Damaged Components - Things like a bent wheel, bad wheel bearing, or worn suspension components can all cause extra vibration and noise from the tires. Have a mechanic inspect.
- Stuck Brakes - Front brake components that are sticking slightly could be heating up the wheel and causing some squeaking. Check brake system.
- Improper Lubrication - Lack of lubrication on the suspension bushings or ball joints allows extra movement that creates noise. Lubricate fittings if equipped.
- Wheel Imbalance - An uneven distribution of weight on the wheel from lost balance weights can generate a squeaking or chirping noise. Have wheels rebalanced.
- Debris Buildup - Small rocks, dirt, leaves, etc. stuck in tire treads can cause annoying noises until removed. Check and clear tires.
K.K. Lowell is a freelance writer who has been writing professionally since June 2008, with articles appearing on various websites. A mechanic and truck driver for more than 40 years, Lowell is able to write knowledgeably on many automotive and mechanical subjects. He is currently pursuing a degree in English.