Brake Dust Buildup and What It Might Mean for Your Car Maintenance

February 10, 2021 9:32 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Have you ever gone out to get in your car and noticed that there’s a lot of dust buildup on one rim? That could be brake dust, and it could indicate that your car’s brake system isn’t doing its job correctly. Read on to learn what brake dust is, and why it must be removed from your Athens County, OH vehicle.

Calipers, rotors, brake pads and brake dust

Modern cars use brake rotors and calipers. The calipers squeeze the brake rotors, which produces enough friction to slow the car down. To prevent the rotors from wearing out, a brake pad is placed between the calipers and rotors.

Brake pads are responsible for brake dust, which usually looks like a gray-black dust on your rims. Brake pads are made from compressed steel fibers and additives, so when the pad is pushed against the rotor, it abrades the rotor. This is what creates brake dust. It’s a mixture of metal shavings from the rotor and dust from the pad.

Why excessive brake dust is worrisome

Some brake dust is normal. After all, it’s much better for the brake pad and rotor to suffer incremental damage, rather than the rotors and calipers to wear through. However, if you see large amounts of brake dust, that indicates a problem.

A large amount of brake dust on one side suggests that you may have a “frozen” caliper. This means that the caliper can squeeze the rotors, which helps slow the car down. However, it can’t release the rotor. That’s what accounts for the excessive brake dust: too much time squeezing the rotors. Usually, the fix is to replace the caliper, and potentially the rotor, in the event that it’s worn down too much.

Why you need to clean brake dust

Some brake dust is normal, but it can be harmful to your wheels. Brake dust will eat through your clear coat and eventually the aluminum alloy surface of the wheel. That can cause serious damage to your wheels, which jeopardizes your safety—and makes for some expensive replacements and repairs.

Luckily, it’s easy to clean up brake dust. All you need is a good wheel cleaner, a bucket, sponge, hose, soft-bristled brush and liquid wax. Make sure the wheels are cool before you start, then rinse off your wheels.

Cover your rims with the wheel cleaner, and let it sit for about a minute. Brake dust gathers in the crevices and cracks, so spray the wheel cleaner into every surface. Use your brush to scrub the rims, including the crevices, and rinse immediately. (Don’t let the wheel cleaner sit with the brake dust on the rims for a moment longer than you have to, as it could damage the rims.)

Once you rinse the wheels, dry them off and coat them with liquid wax.

If your brakes need some extra TLC, Dana’s Tire Center can help. Don’t let brake dust in Athens County, OH damage your car—call us today to schedule the brake service you need.

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