How Winter is Tough on Your Brakes & What You Can Do to Help Them

Close-up of wheel on winter environment

Brakes are important parts on your vehicle year-round, but especially so in the winter. Winter driving and the harsh elements of the season can put your vehicle through a lot, especially when it comes to something as vital as your brakes. At Charlesglen Toyota, we want to help out you and your brakes this winter by outlining some of the biggest hazards for them during this time, and what you can do about it. From snow & ice to salt and rust, follow along as we diagnose these brake issues.

Take a look through more of our blogs here:

7 Reasons Why Winter Tires are so Effective

5 Tips on How to Drive Safely This Winter

4 Reasons to Switch to Winter Windshield Wipers

The Importance of Proper Wheel Alignment on Your Toyota

Snow & Ice

Snow, water and ice can all find their way into both the brake pads and rotors, and are able to provide a lot of consistent damage over the season. Water settles inside your brakes, the temperature goes down overnight, the water freezes and thus causes tight grinding noises when you start your car up again. Thankfully, the heat generated from your brakes eventually melts all of this ice, but as this cycle continues throughout the winter months it puts your brakes through an unforgiving amount of wear and tear. Park your vehicle in a warm spot, where possible, and keep an eye (and ear) out for any lingering issues.


Salt is a necessary evil during the winter driving months, acting to help melt ice on the roads so your vehicle can gain the traction it needs. Salt has another side, though, wreaking havoc on car parts and accelerating rust buildup. Since your tires, and thus brakes, are low to the ground and receive the brunt of attack from salt, you need to act as often as you can to help minimize any lasting damage. A great idea is to get a car wash every few weeks, especially one that tackles the underside of your vehicle. Not only will this help salt from eating away at your brakes, but from it attacking your entire vehicle.


Whether through that pesky salt as we outlined above, or just through general wear and tear over the years, rust will build up on your brakes. We all know that typical squealing noise of brakes in bad condition, and that can come from said buildup of rust. You may just hear squealing initially on startup and never again throughout your trip, but that’s just a temporary buildup (like from overnight) that gets rubbed off, and doesn’t mean your vehicle is free and clear from rust. If you hear any noises like this it’s time to get your brakes checked for rust or brake part wear.

Front-on view of Prius with doors open and people about to get in

Listen to How Your Brakes Sound

One of the best things you can do to keep up on your brakes during the winter is by simply just listening to them. Every once in a while, turn down your stereo, listen to your brakes and note what you hear. Here’s what those sounds you here may mean:


  • Silence: Everything’s good! Turn your music back on and make sure to take a listen again in a few weeks.
  • Squealing or squeaking: Either of these sounds are usually a warning that the brake pads are beginning to wear down. Just because it’s a warning doesn’t mean you’re good to keep driving, this is your sign to take your vehicle in for brake service.
  • Grinding or growling: These aggressive sounds denote something much more serious. This usually means the brake pads have completely worn away, with this sound coming from a grinding directly into the rotor. You need to bring your vehicle in for brake service now, as it’s not only damaging to your vehicle but also threatens your safe driving.


Whether you’re hearing some of those annoying squealing or grinding sounds and your vehicle is ready for brake service, or if you just have some questions regarding your brake’s and their health, our Charlesglen Toyota service team is here for all of your needs. Our local Calgary dealership is here to help you and your vehicle get through winter safely.