High-pitched squeal (only when in drive)

Hello! Hoping someone might point me in the right direction. I began to notice a high-pitched squealing about a day ago while driving. Some details:

  1. It’s pretty quiet, in fact, quiet enough that I only consistently notice it when I’m moving forward very slowly, though I think it’s persistent whenever I’m in drive.

  2. It’s not the brakes—they seem to have no effect on the squeaking.

  3. The noise seems to disappear when I put the car in reverse, and in some cases, it seems to still be absent for a minute or so after I put the car back into drive. But it ultimately reappears.

I have some speculations, but I’m no expert, so would love some input/suggestions of where to look.

Please share the description of your Camry… year, miles on it, engine… 4 or V6, I assume automatic transmission, correct if wrong.

Also, are any lights on the dash? New brakes or tires lately?

You should also share your guess as to the cause.

Noises are very hard to find if you are in or around the car. Much harder over the internet. So more info will give you a better guess from us.

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Sure thing: 2005 Toyota Camry LE, about 200K miles, automatic transmission, 4-cylinder engine. No lights on. No new brakes, but I did put on studded snow tires in November.

I wonder about a suspension issue. A couple of months ago steering seemed a little sluggish, though that problem was extremely mild and disappeared. Based on what I read, wondered about ball joints. But overall, very little experience with suspension problems. I also wonder about a belt issue. Don’t have much experience with that either. When the car is on and stationary, belt looks/sounds normal.

The main unique detail is that the noise disappears when I shift into reverse, and once I’m back in drive, it takes a minute to show up again. I wondered if that might clue someone into what’s happening.

The only thing I can think of is, there’s a bad engine mount that’s allowing a rotating component on the engine to come in contact with something.

Because when in drive, the engine twists in one direction, and when in reverse, the engine twists in the opposite direction.


Thanks for thoughts. Listening some more, as far as I can tell (which is a bit difficult from the driver’s seat) it may be coming from around the front L wheel.

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Does the noise only occur while moving in drive?


Yes, correct.

Then, what you might be hearing is a brake pad wear indicator touching a rotor because the brake pads are worn.

The indicators are metal tabs on the brake pads to alert you when the brakes are worn.




Hm, OK. And this might be something I’d hear in drive even when the brakes are NOT applied?

I was able to get a mechanic to take a look today—I’ll be sure to post whatever they find in a few hours.

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These indicators can make noise anytime the vehicle is moving.



The mechanic found that a backing plate was pretty badly rusted out and must’ve been scratching something, and he removed it. I wasn’t really familiar with this piece. He says he wouldn’t bother replacing it, but I’m going to ask my usual guy. . .

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That backing plate is just a splash guard for the brake rotor. You can live without it.

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Cool. Yeah, that’s pretty much what this guy said.

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Presuming the backing plate you mention is for front disc brakes. Even tho not necessary for disc brake function, personally I’d want a new or cleaned & de-rusted backing plate installed asap if it were my car.

Over the years I’ve had a few squealing-noise experiences as a fyi

  • Loose alternator belt.
  • Fan belt brushing up against a coolant hose.
  • Rear drum brake rust.
  • Failing water pump
  • Fuel injector squeal

ASAP? Why can’t this wait?

Kermit often had a squealing noise from the passenger seat “Oh Kermie”.

Thanks. Yes for the front. Yeah the mechanic who helped me didn’t seem too concerned and a couple other people have now said the same. Still I’ll probably ask I regular guy I go to… I wasn’t near home, this was a sort of urgent fix.

If OP chooses to wait, that is fine by me, just offering up my opinion.

“Dust covers or splash guards on disc brake systems can also be referred to as ‘backing plates’. These components provide a shield from brake dust and water, reducing corrosion of suspension parts. They can also act as a heat shield for fragile non-metal parts like ball joints which can otherwise be damaged by heat from braking friction.”