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Old 12th August 2021, 15:08   #1
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How to clean the brakes?

Brakes are a...dust magnet, rust magnet and in general are also hard to clean.

While I use a brake cleaner to get rid of the brake dust and oxidation, it is hard to reach 70% of the brake and 100% of the brake pad area.

What is a good way to clean / detail these areas? Or is removing the wheels and then cleaning them the only possible option?
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Old 12th August 2021, 16:14   #2
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re: How to clean the brakes?

Yes brakes do attract a lot of these and need to be maintained well for better life and lesser issues.
From what I know, the best solution without removing the wheels would be using a brake cleaner/degreaser, let it sit for while or as per the instructions mentioned, and then you use a pressure washer and try to clean the smaller gaps. However you are still limited by the access and the rim design, so the best option out of all would be by removing the wheels only. As that is not practical, it can be done once in a while maybe.
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Old 12th August 2021, 16:16   #3
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re: How to clean the brakes?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stribog View Post
While I use a brake cleaner to get rid of the brake dust and oxidation, it is hard to reach 70% of the brake and 100% of the brake pad area.

What is a good way to clean / detail these areas? Or is removing the wheels and then cleaning them the only possible option?
You dont need to unless you have some high end car like the Lamborghini or some supercar with big wheels that you need to show off.

If you have to clean the brakes, just use some compressed air but this is a waste of time. Just make sure you use the brakes to keep the rotor surface free of rust. While washing the car you can use water if you want.
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Old 12th August 2021, 17:16   #4
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re: How to clean the brakes?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stribog View Post
Brakes are a...dust magnet, rust magnet and in general are also hard to clean.
I have never specially cleaned the brakes. Just drive the car and the rust will go away. The brakes get cleaned by high-pressure water whenever I do a complete water wash for the car at a detailing place (usually once a month). Other than that, I never had to clean the brakes and did not face any issues in any of my cars so far.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Indian2003 View Post
You dont need to unless you have some high end car like the Lamborghini or some supercar with big wheels that you need to show off.
+1 to this. I never thought that except for supercars or really high end cars where one can show-off the wheels and brakes, we need to specifically clean the brakes.

Quote:
If you have to clean the brakes, just use some compressed air but this is a waste of time. Just make sure you use the brakes to keep the rotor surface free of rust. While washing the car you can use water if you want.
Exactly! This is exactly what I do.

Maybe it is just me and I am not finicky about cleaning every small part of the car. But especially in Indian driving conditions, it is futile to try to keep every part clean. Just drive the car and it will be fine.

Last edited by Dr.AD : 12th August 2021 at 17:27.
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Old 12th August 2021, 19:45   #5
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re: How to clean the brakes?

Can we just... err... STOP already? After having cleaned & detailed our ABC pedals (DIY - Cleaning the ABC pedals), we want to clean & detail our brake calipers and drums? I haven't done anything of the sort in 40+ years of fiddling about with a variety of cars, and never felt the need to. Brakes are generally immune to rust, dust & oxidation.

OTOH, the brakes need a bit of routine maintenance very occasionally, and that may include the need to clean off the dust. The most important components needing attention are the caliper pins. If they aren't cleaned and greased occasionally, this happens (Why would the brake pad of one side (left) wear out faster than the other (right)?).

I have my brakes attended to once in 20,000-25,000 km, usually along with a visual check for pad thickness - my cars do not have pad wear sensors.
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Old 12th August 2021, 20:24   #6
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re: How to clean the brakes?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stribog View Post
Brakes are a...dust magnet, rust magnet and in general are also hard to clean. While I use a brake cleaner to get rid of the brake dust and oxidation, it is hard to reach 70% of the brake and 100% of the brake pad area. What is a good way to clean / detail these areas? Or is removing the wheels and then cleaning them the only possible option?
Don't be too finicky about those brake assemblies. They get dirty and very quickly during the rains.

Yeah there are some exotic cars which have calipers which are factory painted or coated in a colour but those vehicles are in a different league and not used for commutes. Unless you have one of these don't bother.

More importantly do not apply detailing chemicals or wax on the rotors, calipers brake pads & hoses. You can wash of the muck with a water hose or wipe them clean with a wet rag.
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Old 13th August 2021, 08:36   #7
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Re: How to clean the brakes?

Never cleaned the brakes of any of my cars as there is no need to. But more than the brakes, its important to properly clean the alloy wheels of brake dust. You'll see lots of it after high speed drives & your car wash pappu will never bother doing the rims properly.

As Indian2003 & Dr.AD said, drive to clear up the layer of rust.
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Old 13th August 2021, 10:10   #8
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Re: How to clean the brakes?

I think the term "clean the brakes" is an overloaded term, that may not just mean blowing compressed air/water, or running the car.

I recently had a problem where if I didn't use the car for 3-4 days, there would be a "thak" sound the first time I moved it. This used to happen even if the handbrakes were not engaged during this time. I never faced this till now even when the car wasn't used for a relatively long time. We know this is a common problem, as seen from many other threads.

The service center did a "cleaning of the brakes" (the exact same was mentioned in the bill). This involved removing the wheels, removing any brake dust, greasing the calipers, checking that wheels move freely, and probably a few other minor checks. The problem got fixed after that, and I've not faced it since.
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Old 13th August 2021, 11:49   #9
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Re: How to clean the brakes?

Quote:
Originally Posted by PearlJam View Post
I think the term "clean the brakes" is an overloaded term, that may not just mean blowing compressed air/water, or running the car.

I recently had a problem where if I didn't use the car for 3-4 days, there would be a "thak" sound the first time I moved it. This used to happen even if the handbrakes were not engaged during this time. I never faced this till now even when the car wasn't used for a relatively long time. We know this is a common problem, as seen from many other threads.

The service center did a "cleaning of the brakes" (the exact same was mentioned in the bill). This involved removing the wheels, removing any brake dust, greasing the calipers, checking that wheels move freely, and probably a few other minor checks. The problem got fixed after that, and I've not faced it since.
I never thought we ever need to clean the brakes ourselves. It is done during regular service and I witnessed it once. It is something that I definitely will not try at home as it is not just a simple DIY, for me at least.

Yes, I get a 'thak' sound too if the car is moved after 4 or 5 days!. No other issues later on.

Only time there ever was a noise was after driving in Badami for a day or so in such muddy conditions that it was like a mini desert. After exiting Badami, on the highway for the 100 or so kms, there was a shrilling noise whenever the brakes were used. Got me concerned a bit, then I realized this could be the result after the mini desert drive and chances of sand/mud inside. Just kept driving the next day and reached Bangalore. Noise just disappeared on its own.
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Old 13th August 2021, 17:06   #10
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Re: How to clean the brakes?

Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
I have my brakes attended to once in 20,000-25,000 km, usually along with a visual check for pad thickness - my cars do not have pad wear sensors.
I check my pads for wear at every summer and winter season when I change my wheels in April and November. While at it I remove the rear calipers and lube the pins with silicon grease.
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Old 15th August 2021, 09:56   #11
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Re: How to clean the brakes?

Cleaning the assembly is mostly done when changing the pads. Simply hit the caliper and discs with a brake cleaner and just wipe it off. Pretty simple and straight forward. Helps remove the build up of brake dust inside of the calipers and also keeps the brake noise to a minimum.
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Old 15th August 2021, 12:07   #12
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Re: How to clean the brakes?

Keep driving your car regularly and you'll not face even one issue related to the brake rotors. Regular, normal use is the best way to keep the rotors rust free. Otherwise, the thought of separately cleaning the brakes is like wanting to clean the tyres regularly. It's a futile exercise.

And of course, change your brake fluid every 2 years & the pads whenever needed. If you drive regularly, your rotors would never rust & skimming would never be required.

On the other hand, not driving a car for long can have disastrous effects w.r.t. brake rotor rusting, especially in coastal areas. The rust forms, the pads jam, we still drive, the car doesn't gain speed, the brake starts smoking, it's too late to realise now & damage is already done. Fellow D-BHPian @Leoshashi faced this exact issue with his impeccably maintained Maruti 800 (even though he doesn't live in a coastal region).
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Old 17th August 2021, 07:02   #13
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Re: How to clean the brakes?

Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
Can we just... err... STOP already? After having cleaned & detailed our ABC pedals (DIY - Cleaning the ABC pedals), we want to clean & detail our brake calipers and drums? I haven't done anything of the sort in 40+ years of fiddling about with a variety of cars, and never felt the need to.
Well said. A prime candidate for D-I-Why.
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