What Is Brake Dust?

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It's time to wash the car, but when you get to the wheels they are covered by a hard to remove gray dust. Even after you clean it off, it comes back quickly. Welcome to the world of brake dust. The good news is brake dust is completely normal and is not a symptom of failing brakes; the bad news is every time you use your brakes you create more brake dust.

What is brake dust?

The gray-black dust that often covers a vehicle’s wheels is called brake dust. Basically, brake dust is made up of iron particles and is caused by the grinding of the cast iron brake rotor by the brake pads. In addition, brake dust also contains some of the metallic elements of the brake pad and carbon residue, which also comes from the brake pad.

The majority of modern brake pads are semi-metallic. A bundle of steel fibers is compressed and then fused with other additives to build a pad. Steel fiber can actually make up 20% of the brake pad so when it is pressed against the brake rotor it scratches the rotor and creates brake dust.

It's possible to buy non-metallic brake pads, which are made with Kevlar fibers, but they are expensive so very few automakers use them as standard equipment. In the industry, these types of brake pads are referred to as organics and tests have shown that they outperform as well as outlast normal brake pads. In addition, there is a significant reduction in brake dust as well as rotor abrasion.

Why it's important to clean brake dust

While brake dust is not indicative of a malfunctioning brake system, it can be harmful to the wheels if it is never cleaned. Brake dust can corrode the clear coat and over time it will eventually eat into the aluminum alloy surface of the wheel.

Fortunately, cleaning brake dust is not that difficult and the main ingredient is elbow grease. Your local automotive shop should sell wheel cleaner, which will come in handy when dealing with brake dust. Here is what you will need:

  • Bucket
  • Sponge
  • Wheel cleaner
  • Hose and nozzle
  • Soft bristle brush
  • Liquid wax

How to clean brake dust

  1. The wheels should be cool before you start.

  2. Rinse off the entire rim off with water, which will remove grit and dirt that may scratch the wheel during the scrubbing.

  3. Cover the rim with wheel cleaner and allow it to soak for 60 seconds. Make sure you get the cleaner into all of the nooks and crannies of the wheel as this is where dust tends to accumulate.

  4. Use a soft bristle brush and scrub the surface of the wheel, make sure the brush gets into all of the small, recessed areas of the wheel.

  5. Rinse off the wheel cleaner as soon as you have brushed the entire wheel. Do not leave the wheel cleaner on the wheel for any length of time.

  6. Dry off the wheel immediately after rinsing.

Applying a coat of paste wax every few months will help protect the wheel as well as make them easier to clean the next time brake dust builds up.


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Number of Reviews

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Rating Summary
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10,227
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Rigoberto

9 years of experience
706 reviews
Rigoberto
9 years of experience
Chevrolet Equinox - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Niles, Illinois
Rigo was great! He got there early, finished the job early, left everything clean. He changed my rear pads and rotors. The original quoted time was 90 minutes, he was done in about 60. He knows what he is doing and I am recommending him to all my friends and coworkers.
Mercedes-Benz C250 - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Chicago, Illinois
Rigo is a maverick hands down. Don’t take your car for work elsewhere. Especially great at Mercedes—this guy knows his profession! I will be using him for everything related to my car going forward.

Arturo

25 years of experience
35 reviews
Arturo
25 years of experience
Kia Forte - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - San Diego, California
ARTURO is great! very professional , fast, replaced my front brake pads and oil an filter change. everything now works and works well. Brakes have much improved stopping power and engine is smooth and quiet.Arturo is also kind and thoughtful. "Your mechanic" is very fortunate to have Arturo Lopez represent your company. I enthusiastically recommend him and "Your mechanic> as a fine operation Best regards to the Team Peter Marto
Nissan Maxima - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - San Diego, California
Arturo was prompt and completed my brake repair, including new rotors in a very efficient manner. I am very pleased with the quality of the work and the parts and will definitely look to have him service our other car in the near future.

Scott

32 years of experience
345 reviews
Scott
32 years of experience
Lexus IS250 - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Denver, Colorado
Always on time, speedy, professional, and pleasant to interact with. The work is always consistent and we'll done. I can't reccomend Scott highly enough!

Michael

10 years of experience
15 reviews
Michael
10 years of experience
Nissan Sentra - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Conyers, Georgia
He was promptly on time and got the job done efficiently in a timely manner. I really appreciate the rapid respone on getting the job done! I would most definitely use this service again.

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