Car Squeaks When Reversing: What it Means and How to Fix It

Ever noticed your car making a strange squeaking sound when you reverse? It can be pretty worrying, right? We all get a little nervous when our cars start acting weird and hearing a noise you can’t explain is definitely one of those times.

It’s good to check it out, even if it’s just a small squeak. I’ve been around cars for a long time, and I can tell you, it’s better to be safe than sorry. So in this article, we’re going to figure out why your car might be making that noise when you’re backing up.

I’ll talk about how to find out what’s causing it and what you can do to fix it.

car gear shifted into reverse before it starts squeaking

What is The Squeaking Noise Your Car Makes When Reversing

First off, not all squeaks are created equal. You might hear a high-pitched squeak that sounds almost like a whistle. Or, it could be a low-pitched sound that’s more like a groan.

I’ve seen situations where this squeak keeps going as long as you’re reversing, and other situations where it starts and suddenly stops after some time. Each kind of squeaking noise could mean something different, so I recommend you pay close attention to the sounds.

Now, when does this squeaking happen? Sometimes, the noise starts right away, as soon as you shift into reverse.

Other times, it might kick in after you’ve been reversing for a few seconds or more, which would likely indicate brake pad issues. If you only hear it when you’re turning the wheel while backing up, this would likely be caused by low power steering fluid. I’ll be going over every possible cause of this squeaking noise.

Common Causes of Squeaking When Reversing

1. Engine Belt Problem

The engine belt, often referred to as the serpentine belt, is responsible for driving various components like the alternator and power steering pump.

When this belt becomes loose or damaged, it could result in a high-pitched squeaking noise when you try to reverse. The noise is often more noticeable when the engine is cold and typically comes from the front of the vehicle.

2. Brake Issues

Your braking system has various components like pads, rotors, and calipers. Over time, these parts can wear down. Worn-out brake pads or rotors often result in a squeaking or squealing noise when you apply the brakes.

In some cases, moisture can accumulate on these components, making them squeak when you initially start moving, like when you reverse out of a parking spot.

3. Faulty Gear

You may be dealing with a gearbox issue if you hear squeaking as soon as you shift into reverse. Gears need to mesh smoothly for efficient operation, and if they don’t, you’ll hear it due to wear or lack of lubrication.

Oftentimes, the squeaking sound will occur precisely when you shift from “Park” to “Reverse” and will stop once the gear is fully engaged.

4. Oil Change

Oil serves as a lubricant for many moving parts in your car. Skipping oil changes can lead to dirty or low oil levels that don’t lubricate.

When this happens, metal parts can rub against each other and cause a squeaking or grinding noise. So, keeping up with regular oil changes is a simple way to prevent this.

5. Low Power Steering Fluid

Your power steering system makes it easier to turn the wheel. If this system is low on fluid, it would need to work harder, causing a squeaking or whining noise, often when turning the steering wheel while reversing.

6. Grinding Wheel Bearings

Wheel bearings allow your car’s wheels to spin smoothly and quietly. Over time, these bearings can wear out or become damaged, leading to a squeaking or grinding sound when braking.

This noise might be especially noticeable when you’re reversing at low speeds because worn-out bearings have a harder time handling even low-level stress.

7. Moisture On Brake Rotors

Moisture can accumulate on your brake rotors, especially after rain or a car wash. This moisture creates a thin layer of rust that your brake pads will scrape off, often causing a squeaking noise.

This sound is usually temporary and goes away as the moisture evaporates or is scraped off by regular braking.

8. Irregular Tie Rod Ends

The tie rods connect your steering system to your wheels. If the ends of these rods become damaged or worn out, they can cause a squeaking noise. This usually happens when you’re making turns, including when you’re reversing and turning your wheel.

9. U-joints or CV Joints

Universal (U) joints and constant velocity (CV) joints are critical components that transfer power from the engine to the wheels. When these joints wear out, they can create a squeaking or crunching noise, especially noticeable when you’re making turns while reversing.

How to Diagnose the Problem

  • Visual Inspection of Engine Belt: Pop the hood and take a look at the engine belt. Look for cracks, fraying, or signs of looseness.
  • Brake Pad Check: Peek through your wheel spokes, and you should see the outer pad pressed against a metal rotor. It might be time for a change if you see less than 1/4 inch of the pad.
  • Listen to the Gear Shift: Turn your car on and shift it into reverse while keeping your foot on the brake. Listen for the squeak to see if it comes right when you shift gears.
  • Check Oil Level: Open your hood and pull out the oil dipstick. Wipe it off, reinsert it, and then pull it out again to check the level. Low or dirty oil can be an issue.
  • Inspect Power Steering Fluid: Locate the power steering fluid reservoir under the hood and check if it’s at the proper level.
  • Turn the Wheel: Turn your wheel to the left and right while stationary. Listen for squeaks.
  • Wheel Spin Test: Jack up one corner of your car and spin the wheel manually. Listen for noises that could point to wheel bearing issues.
  • Morning Moisture Test: If it’s just rained or the car has been washed, listen for temporary squeaks that might indicate moisture on the brake rotors.
  • Check Tie Rod Ends: Look at the tie rod ends near the wheel for wear and tear. Any looseness can be a red flag.
  • Inspect U-joints and CV joints: Crawl under your car (safely, of course) and inspect these joints for visible damage.

Solutions to Common Causes of Your Car Squeaking During Reverse

1. Repair Engine Belt

A worn-out or loose engine belt can be a nuisance, but the good news is that it’s often an easy fix. Replacing an old belt is usually straightforward and can be done with basic tools like a socket set, torque wrench, screwdrivers, and so on.

Tightening the belt might resolve the issue if it is still relatively new but a bit loose. In any case, keeping your engine belt in good condition is essential for the smooth operation of your vehicle, so don’t overlook this.

2. Repair Any Brake Issues

Brake issues can’t be ignored; your safety depends on them. If worn-out brake pads or rotors are causing the squeak, you’ll need to replace these components. You can do this yourself, but if you’re not comfortable with it, a mechanic can handle it professionally.

If moisture is causing the squeak, simply driving and applying the brakes a few times should dry them out. However, if moisture accumulation is recurrent, it might be a symptom of a bigger issue that a mechanic should investigate.

3. Oil and Fluid Changes

Never underestimate the power of clean and sufficient oil. Make it a habit to change your oil as per your vehicle’s guidelines, usually every 5,000 to 7,500 miles depending on the oil type and manufacturer’s recommendation.

Low power steering fluid can also lead to that telltale squeak. Refilling the power steering reservoir is simple and can often be done without a visit to the mechanic.

4. Address Wheel and Joint Issues

Wheel bearings, tie rod ends, and U-joints or CV joints are more complex components that usually require professional attention. Worn-out wheel bearings often need to be replaced, which is a job for an experienced mechanic.

The same goes for problematic tie rod ends and U-joints or CV joints. However, these parts are built to last, so once they’re replaced, you’re likely to enjoy many miles of squeak-free driving.


If your car squeaks when reversing, it could be due to a variety of issues, from a loose engine belt to worn-out brake pads or even low power steering fluid.

Resolving this starts by accurately diagnosing the problem, and you can do this through some basic checks I explained in this post.

However, I highly recommend getting a mechanic to check it out if you think the issue goes beyond minor causes like moisture in your braking system of low oil fluid.

Don’t ignore those squeaks. They’re your car’s way of telling you to be more observant. Whether you tackle the problem yourself or head to your trusted mechanic, acting proactively can save you a lot of trouble down the road.