How to Clean Brake Discs

Jack Dreyer | Thursday 15th June 2023 11:00am

An auto technician cleans a brake disc using aerosol brake cleaner.

You may dust and hoover the inside of your vehicle and clean and polish the outside, but have you ever thought to clean your brake discs?

Many cars come with smart alloy wheels. However, the downside of this is that you can see straight through to the dirty brake calipers and discs underneath. Yet, this doesn’t have to be a problem. Below, we’ve outlined a method that demonstrates how you can clean your brakes as well as how to prevent brake dust.

How to clean your brakes

In order to access your brakes, you should jack the car up and support it on an axle stand. It may be best to clean the brakes individually so, once the car is securely off the ground, you should use the wheel nut to take the wheels off one at a time.

Once the first wheel is off, you’ll need to remove the brake caliper so that the brake disc is fully accessible. You should be able to remove it by taking out the caliper bolts. Then, the caliper should slide up and off the brake disc. It may be a bit tough to remove, so keep wiggling it until it becomes loose. Set the caliper aside.

Once the caliper is off, you’ll be able to remove the brake disc for cleaning. It will be held in place by a few bolts. These should be removed and the disc should slide out of place.

You can give it a clean with an old rag and some brake cleaning fluid. You may notice a line of rust around the disc rim, but this is fairly normal. Apply the brake cleaning fluid to the disc and use your rag to gently wipe the surface.

Once you’ve cleaned the disc, it might be a good idea to check it for signs of wear. This is absolutely worth doing at this point – especially now that you’ve gone to the effort of removing the disc. If you can see heavy pitting or score marks anywhere on the brake disc, then it should be replaced. If you’re happy with its condition, then put it back in place using the correct bolts. Make sure to screw them in tightly.

Repeat this process for the other three wheels.

If you want to, you can also clean your brake calipers. You can do this using the same process as above. For tougher areas of dirt, use a wire brush. However, when you’re cleaning the caliper, be careful not to damage the piston seal.

When you’re using brake cleaner, you should ensure that you’re in a well-ventilated area and try not to breathe in any fumes. You should also be careful not to get any brake cleaner on your driveway as it could stain the area.

How to clean rust off brake discs

Heavily rusted brake discs.

Rust is quite common on brake discs because of the material they’re made of – usually cast iron – and their significant exposure to the elements.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much that you can do to prevent this rust from building up. The easiest and most efficient way to get rid of rust on your brake discs is to drive the car; by driving and regularly applying the brakes, the rust will scrape off the discs, revealing the shiny metal underneath.

Unless the brakes haven’t been used in so long that the rust has become extensive, it shouldn’t impact performance all that much once you’ve applied the brakes a few times.

What removes brake dust?

A technician inspects a heavily worn brake pad, likely in need of replacement.

While it doesn’t necessarily impact performance, brake dust can be pretty damaging to your wheels and your car’s paintwork due to its highly abrasive nature. Every time you brake and the brake pads rub against the discs, tiny metal particles are thrown off the disc.

Over time, these can build up to produce a fine dust which is corrosive to the paint on your car’s wheels. Therefore, this dust needs removing, but how can you do it without scratching your car’s paintwork?

The easiest way to clean your wheels is using a mixture of warm water and washing up liquid. First, you should use a hose to spray off the worst of the dirt and dust, otherwise these may scratch the metal further. Once you’ve done this, use a wheel brush and the soapy water to clean the wheels. Make sure you get into all the nooks and crannies. To get into the really small corners, you could use an old toothbrush. Once you’re happy that you’ve removed most of the dirt, give the wheel another hose down and dry it with terrycloth.

How to prevent brake dust build up on wheels

Unfortunately, brake dust will always occur because of the way your brakes work. However, you may be able to try a brake dust shield. This is a gadget that attaches to the inside of your wheel to prevent the dust from settling on your wheel. They usually come in packs of two and can easily be fitted at home.

Trouble with your brakes?

If you’re getting any trouble with your brakes and don’t feel confident with working with them – take your car a professional for dependable, trustworthy work. Find your local Kwik Fit centre and book in for a free brake assessment.

Tags : Brakes

Any facts, figures and prices shown in our blog articles are correct at time of publication.

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