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Our 2000 4runner just started making a noise a few days ago. It’s not very noticeable unless you roll down the window. It is high pitched, and when it happens it’s intermittent, never a longer tone than a quarter second, rather like a bird singing in fact. It seems to stop while I’m touching the brakes, no matter what speed I’m going or how softly I touch the brakes. It seems to mostly happen when I’m gassing or idling. Coasting at higher speeds sometimes produces the sound, sometimes doesn't. It doesn’t happen while in park even if I gas it. Happens when the AC is on or off.

What’s making that noise, or how do I figure that out?

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Could be vacuum leak, but I’ll let someone with more experience elaborate. Because if it does not happen when parked, I am at a loss. –  theUg Jul 17 '13 at 2:29
    
if it stops on touching the break paddles then it could be just the brake paddle's touching the frame somewhere and making that sound. The vibrating frequency of the engine would be matching the frequency of the paddle and goes away at a higher speed probably this could be the problem as much i could say just try to tighten the pats of the brake peddles hopefully –  Akash Jul 17 '13 at 10:06
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1 Answer

It sounds like your brake pads are about worn out. On disc brakes there is a small metal piece attached to the pad which, when there is enough wear on the pads, will start rubbing against the rotor and making the noise you are describing. It goes away when you touch the brakes because it is being forced against the rotor, not just riding against it. I affectionately call this the "squealer" (not sure what it's called in the real world, but the name is apt). Have your brakes checked and change if needed.

Hope this helps.

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