Brake Dust

13 09 2012

Dale Bertram“Consumer Reports, which does extensive consumer-satisfaction research, does not include a question about brake dust in its studies.  The magazine doesn’t see brake dust as a reliability problem, said David Champion, who heads the magazine’s automotive testing. “It is something that is annoying that you clean off, but it is not actually a failure of the brakes,” he said.”

I’m sure most of us have experienced this…you drive through an automatic car wash and when you get home you notice the clean shine of your entire vehicle…until you look down at the wheels.  What is that grime on the wheels?  That is brake dust.  Brake dust is metallic particles, carbon fibers and adhesive residue from your vehicle’s brake pads that attaches to your wheels.

To keep it from building up it should be removed weekly as it essentially bakes on to the surface of alloy wheels.  It is recommended that you wash the wheels when they are cool to avoid streaking, discoloration and pitting. The adhesive residue in the dust causes it to bond firmly with the wheels and since they are most often acidic it starts a corrosion process.  The metal filings in the dust usually oxidize with the metal of the rims causing galvanic corrosion to occur. If you are removing the dust yourself be careful not to inhale the dust or the vapor from cleaning products especially designed to remove the grime.  This can be toxic and if you are asthmatic, harmful.

If your vehicle seems very prone to brake dust, you might consider having brake dust shields installed.  They come in a variety of colors, are inexpensive and easy to install.

You might also consider higher quality brake pads as poor quality ones produce a lot of dust. Having your brakes checked regularly (quarterly) is recommended as many times an adjustment is needed and this helps stop excessive dust.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Brakes made from organic materials (glass and rubber) wear faster so create more dust than brakes made from semi-metallic and metallic material. Ceramic brake pads have less metal and therefore less dust is created.
  • Brakes installed improperly can cause excessive dust.
  • If you have installed larger diameter wheels to your vehicle the size of the brakes and pads need to be larger as well or they will wear out quickly and increase the amount of dust during the process.
  • If the springs are worn it causes continual rubbing and if the pads are always touching the rotors you get an increase in dust.
  • Overloading a vehicle with weight, driving hard, short stop and go trips, and leaving your foot on the brake pedal all increase brake dust.

Though experts are not certain, brake dust may be causing another issue.  A deposit of orange dots are showing up on the back of light colored vehicles…even brand new ones sitting on car lots.  Even if you can’t see it on darker vehicles you can feel the bumps, like a rash, on the vehicles.  Some suspect it is caused by rain and dew or acid rain.  Others feel it is actual brake dust that is being blown back and settling on the vehicles.  A car that is outside gets moisture on its surface from the elements and this causes the metal filings to rust and stick to the paint.  Clay removes these deposits and protects the vehicle.  It is suggested that you get your vehicle detailed twice a year to prevent this build up.

Now we know that brake dust, though not harmful to your vehicle, is a nuisance and if you feel annoyed by it you are not alone as it is a top complaint among consumers.

Happy Motoring!

 

 

 

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