Model 3 Brakes Squeal When Reversing and Turning in Humid Weather

About three weeks after taking delivery of my Model 3, I began encountering brake squealing under very specific conditions:

  • The car is sitting for a few hours.
  • The weather is humid.
  • The car is slowly going in reverse.
  • The car is turning.

Here’s audio of the problem:

Audio of Brake Squealing When Model 3 is Reversing and Wheels are Being Turned

I’ve worked on brakes myriad times over the past decades and this kind of problem usually happens when condensation accumulates on the caliper brackets. And, it happens when braking in any direction (forward or reverse), regardless of whether the wheels are being turned or not.

Thus, it’s strange that the squealing only occurs while reversing and turning the wheels. I have two theories, both involving the lack of caliper grease. One is simple: The caliper brackets need more caliper grease.

The second is more involved and explains more of what might be the problem. The calipers and/or the caliper brackets shift out of place when the brakes are applied in reverse and the car is turning, indicating that the calipers and/or the brackets may not be set properly, or that the brakes’ structural housing is faulty. In this extreme position, the brake parts slide along a section that lacks grease. And thus, the squealing.

This problem is had by many. Read the posts on Tesla’s forums about Brakes screech only when I’m backing up

And, lastly, I had to insist that Tesla in Milford, where I went for service, keep my car for observation over many days to replicate the issue, as they couldn’t do so in the short time I was in their shop. They wouldn’t believe me, even when I provided them with the audio recording I listed above. It took them two days to replicate the problem; see my update below.

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Update

Tesla carried out the repair sometime between 13–14 October 2019. (I brought my car in for service on 11 October 2019.) The verbatim resolution from my invoice:

Test drove car with customer could not duplicate noise, let car sit outside to cool off and test drove car again backing up and turning, could not get car to make any abnormal noises, inspected brakes, wheels and tires, Let car sit outside overnight, verified noise, disassembled, cleaned and lubricated and de-burnished, let car sit overnight and retested, noise is no longer present.

Published by Roy

I am an instructor, programmer, and composer based in New York City.

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8 Comments

    1. I took the car to Tesla in Milford on 11 October 2019. They initially wouldn’t fix the problem, even though I supplied proof of the issue by providing recorded audio. After I insisted that they keep looking for the problem, Tesla was able to replicate the issue and “fixed” the problem that weekend.

      Within a week of getting the car back, the problem returned.

      I’m keeping a log at http://roy.vanegas.org/tesla/problems/ of the problems I encounter with the car.

  1. Has the brake squealing continued? I took delivery of my Model 3 in late December 2019, within weeks the same issue presented when backing up [regardless of weather, vehicle has always been garaged both at home and at work – heated]. Took to service center in early February 2020, brakes were burnished, squeaking returned within 50 miles [2 days later]. Took it in again, they did the same service, squeaking returned within 30 miles [2 days later]. Was told to turn off regenerative braking once a month for a day or two and brake heavily to clear off rust. Husband’s Model 3 [took delivery May 2018] has never had this issue, still to this day does not have any brake squeaking. We use both vehicles for the same type of driving [commute to work – same distance, we actually carpool and trade off which M3 to use]. No one at service center can tell me why it’s happening on my vehicle at not his. Very frustrating and annoying as the squeaking is quite loud – literally loud enough to wake neighbors up.

    1. The problem has subsided considerably in the four months since the brakes were serviced. Now it only happens about once every two or three times it rains.

      “Clear off rust”??!! That’s ridiculous. If anything, rust would create a barrier between the metal of the rotors and the pads. In any case, the squealing is almost certainly coming from the friction caused by the calipers sliding along the caliper brackets, both of which are metal and get treated by caliper grease in order to avoid squealing.

      The calipers and/or caliper brackets are faulty by some minuscule factor in size, the result of a bad batch of parts. Once Tesla exhausts that batch, they’ll replace with properly-manufactured calipers and brackets.

      Do keep me and anyone else reading these posts updated.

      1. I had the same issue with my M3 that I bought in October 2019. Within a few months had the same squealing noise enough to turn heads while backing up and less or turning. I am in Toronto so it does get quite cold here. The car was not in a garage. CS looked at it and said they couldn’t replicate it so did some minor servicing and sent me back. The noise since then has reduced in warmer weather but not gone away.

  2. I’ve had the same issue off and on since took delivery of car in Dec 2018. My first service I got the “burnished” fix and it seemed to work for awhile. It definitely seems worse after rain or higher humidity and/or when driven less. Has anyone ended up with a definitive fix?

  3. Are you pushing brakes when you hear this? I mean are you just going reverse and you hear this or you hear it when pushing the brake pedal as well?
    Thanks

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