Brake Dust on Wheels: Basics, Causes and Removal


brake dust wheels causes removal

There are several elements of a vehicle that will be covered during standard detailing services, and one such element that sometimes tends to be a bit understated with some clients is car wheels. While wheels are primarily considered a practical vehicle component by most drivers, they also play a big role in aesthetics, especially their chrome sections that give off shine and sparkle while driving or parked.

At Automotive Protection Services, we’re happy to offer numerous car detailing services covering the full interior and exterior of your vehicle, including wheels and tires. One common issue we help clients with: Brake dust, which in some cases can be a disruptive form of dust that’s tough to remove from your wheels using traditional car washing methods. This two-part blog series will begin by going over what brake dust is and how it’s caused, then dig into the basic general process for removing brake dust from your wheels.

What is Brake Dust?

Brake dust refers to a combination of actual dust plus various small metallic particles, which are generally in the mix as the wear off your pads and rotors during driving. Over time, this combination of substances may build up on your wheels, and can be particularly damaging to the finish of modern alloy wheels – these are often painted, powder-coated or clear-coated, and brake dust can create issues in each of these settings.

Because these wheel types are more common in them, European vehicle models seem to have more common brake dust issues than others. However, both American and Asian cars do still deal with brake dust in some cases – and in these cases, traditional car washing techniques often won’t remove it.

Causes of Brake Dust

As we noted above, one part of brake dust is the metallic particles that come from other areas of your vehicle. However, without the right combination of particles from the road itself, these metallic particles won’t cause any issues. However, various kinds of dirt, sand, road tar and even bugs are able to combine with these metallic particles to create harmful brake dust, at which point professional cleaning is often required.

Our next several sections will go over the general steps a detailing pro will generally follow to remove caked-on brake dust from wheels.

High-Pressure Water

One important thing to know about brake dust is that it’s not only on the outer surface of wheels when it builds up. It also shows up on other surfaces, such as the back of the wheel, the brake caliber, suspension elements nearby and even the tire itself.

For this reason, reaching brake dust is the first challenge. For this, we use a high-pressure blast of water from a pressure washer to attack this dust, spraying around and through wheel spokes, on the tire itself, and on all other areas of the wheel.

For more on brake dust on your car’s wheels and how detailing services will remove it, or to learn about any of our car detailing, window tinting or other services, speak to the staff at Automotive Protection Services today.