Your Motorcycle Is Squeaking…What Now?

Your bike is squeaking, you’re embarrassed, annoyed, and would do anything to put an end to this misery. You just pulled up to your girlfriend’s house and her dad is outside now pointing and laughing at you. The first objective here is to isolate the cause of this humiliation.

For starters, make sure you haven’t run over a bag of cats or any other small rodent-like animals. The next step would be to bring the bike to a stop and perform a general inspection.

Assess any obvious mechanical failures like leaks or damaged parts. Also determine if the bike squeaks while moving or standing still, and running or off.

As a general rule, your motorcycle will squeak while riding if the braking surface is contaminated or if the pads and rotors are misaligned. If you’re bike squeaks when sitting still and running, you may have a more significant issue like internal engine failure.

Why Are My Motorcycle Brakes Squeaking?

If you have ruled out any catastrophic failures, your squeak is most likely coming from the front or rear brakes.

Some motorcycles have front and rear disc brakes, and others have drum brakes in the rear. The concept is similar, but for the sake of this conversation, we will discuss a disc brake system because you most likely aren’t riding some prehistoric dinosaur of a motorcycle and also want to be able to stop abruptly if necessary.

Contaminants like dirt, oil, or road debris can come in contact with the braking surfaces and will cause an audible squeak. The result is uneven contact between the pads and rotors resulting in the squeaking while riding.

A little piece of dirt or gravel from an unpaved or dirty road can contaminate your braking surfaces causing a squeak.

These contaminants may be difficult to identify and will require the wheels to be removed to better inspect the pad-rotor contact surface. Inspect the pads for any oil that may have been absorbed. Check the rotor for hot spots or physical debris that may be preventing smooth contact. Also examine the pads to see if they are cracked.

What Can I Do To Stop My Brakes From Squeaking?

Now we have isolated the issue to the brakes and need to solve the problem.

The most cost-effective solution if this is possible in your situation would be to simply clean the brakes. Any auto parts store will have a product called brake cleaner and you can hose off the pads and rotors then reassembled to recheck.

Do not use WD-40 or any oil-based chemical to clean the brakes on your motorcycle. The will cause more damage by contaminating the pads if they aren’t already.

While you have the brakes apart, consider rubbing the brake pad with some sandpaper to create a new surface to contact the rotor. It would be ideal to turn or machine the brake rotors. This is a similar concept to sanding the pads but requires a machine to precisely remove a fine top layer from the rotor.

The idea here is to create a fresh surface for the rotor and pad to make contact with proper alignment.

Use this photo of a front brake setup as a reference for putting the words to a picture.

In the picture above, the rotor is the round metal disc. The gold caliper wraps around the rotor and the pads sit inside. The wheel should be able to spin freely with no grinding or squeaking when lifted off the ground. The rotors are bolted to the wheel so remove the entire assembly to gain better access to the pads.

If this does not solve the issue, simply replace the brake pads and rotors. Upon installation of the new parts, make sure you lubricate all components and consider applying a brake quiet product to the new pads. If you don’t lubricate the slides that run inside the caliper to guide the pads, your brakes might bind and cause further possibly worse conditions.

It is not recommended to reuse rotor bolts as they are torqued to a very specific measurement and if compromised can pose a critical safety risk.

What Are Other Potential Causes Of Squeaking?

In the unfortunate set of circumstances that a full brake job has not solved your noise issue, we need to look at other areas of the motorcycle.

First off, determine if the noise occurs when the bike is moving or static.

If the noise is audible when the bike is sitting still, there is some significant engine issue. Inside a running engine, there are hundreds of moving parts moving around at very tight tolerances. Anything from the valves, timing chain, tensioner, camshaft, etc. can cause an unwanted noise to emit from your steed.

Any of the above-mentioned items would constitute a major issue and should be addressed immediately at your local service center.

Most motorcycles don’t have rubber belts like cars so you won’t have the traditional issue of a rubber accessory belt or tensioner being the cause here.

If the bike is still making an unnatural noise while moving and the brakes are brand new, consider checking the other mechanical components that are in motion. Items like your chain, sprockets, even axles are worth inspecting at this point.

When you took off your wheels, your axles were exposed, which presents a great opportunity to apply some grease before reinstallation.

Even the suspension components can make a squeaking noise from the front forks or rear shock. If the forks are leaking oil, the internal components are not being lubricated and you may here an audible squeak when going over bumps.

The same idea applies to the rear shock and associated rubber bushings.

The motorcycle chain needs to be under the proper amount of tension to be in good working condition. Also, while the rear wheel is off, check out your sprocket and damper bushings to make sure nothing has gone awry. The teeth on the sprockets should be nice and sharp with no rounding. If these components are out of spec you may hear squeaking.

What Are The Best Brakes For My Motorcycle?

I always recommend to use original parts produced by the manufacturer of your motorcycle. They typically come with a warranty and are designed to fit perfectly.

Some parts, like brakes, have very competitive offers from aftermarket companies which work as good if not better than the oem.

One thing to keep in mind regarding brake parts and squeaking is the compound you choose for your brakes. If you choose a very hard brake pad for your motorcycle, it may last longer before wearing thin, but will likely be much noisier. A softer brake pad will wear faster but be more quiet.

What Noises Should My Motorcycle Be Making

We have discussed a wide array of negative noises and the causes of those noises that might come from your motorcycle. It’s important to keep in mind that bikes make a lot of noises that are totally normal and should not raise concerns.

In general, good sounds your motorcycle should make are typically defined as smooth, consistent, and predictable.

When you start up and rev your bike, the input should create a predictable output that is not only predictable but flows smoothly. Compare this to a bike that is sputtering or misfiring.

While riding, if you give input to the brake lever by pulling, the brakes should respond smoothly with uniform pressure. You should have any modulation or inconsistent feel.

Take care of your bike and it will take care of you.

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