Thursday, March 24, 2011 03:03
Keeping your car clean is hard enough without it generating its own dirt, like a puppy that hasn’t yet learned there are some things it shouldn’t do inside the house. And yet that’s what your car’s brake pads do. That fine, sooty dust you find on your expensive alloy wheels is brake dust, thrown off by the brake pads as they wear. That dust not only looks bad, it can eventually eat through the paint or clear coat on your wheels and pit the metal underneath.
One way to stop brake dust is to change to low-dust pads, such as those made of a ceramic compound, that don’t throw off as much dust. That’s tricky, though, because sometimes a change of compound can have consequences you might not like. Make sure the compound in the pads you’re looking at is suitable for your car and the type of driving you do.
Another fix is to install brake-dust shields between the wheel and the hub. While not a total solution, they can prevent a lot of the dusting you get now. But while they’re keeping brake dust in, they might also be trapping heat around your calipers and rotors. The hotter the brakes get, the less efficient they are, and dust on the wheels will seem like a minor irritation compared to the brake pedal going all the way to the floor at the bottom of a long grade. Vented dust shields can let some of the heat out––and some of the dust, as well.
Since there’s no way to completely eliminate brake dust, the best strategy is to learn how to deal with it. Ignoring it isn’t a good solution, since the dust particles are corrosive and will make a mess of an alloy or painted steel wheel in time. Instead, get a cleaner specially formulated for alloy wheels and use it at least as often as your wash your car. Most are quick and easy to use––spray it on, hose it off, and the dry the wheel with a soft cloth.
But your wheel-cleaning regimen should have one more step––a light coat of liquid wax. The wax forms a barrier between the dust and the wheel, protecting it between washes and making it easier to clean the next time. Think of it as laying down newspapers for that new puppy––there’s still something dirty on the floor but at least it’s easy to clean up.