Clean EV Brakes Like a NAPA Pro
Modern electric vehicles are amazingly frugal with their energy. High-capacity battery packs mean longer driving range, but regenerative electric car brakes also help by returning energy back to the battery when slowing down. That means less wear on brake pads and brake shoes, but it does not mean that you can leave those components out of routine maintenance. Even if the EV brake pads aren’t worn out, they still need serviced and cleaned periodically. Learn how to clean EV brakes from the NAPA experts.
Why Do EV Brakes Need Cleaned?
Regenerative braking has become more prevalent with electric vehicles. It is an excellent system for returning energy to the battery pack, whereas it was previously wasted as heat via friction. But EVs still need standard physical brakes that grab a brake rotor or push against a brake drum. Those brake systems have moving parts that need to remain ready when called upon. Relying solely on regenerative braking means those physical brake parts just sit. Road debris, road salt and other grime settles with time, and deterioration can affect the abilities of those physical brakes to do their job.
What Exactly Needs Cleaned?
Anything that moves in the brakes system needs cleaned and lubricated if necessary. Brake rotors should have any surface rust removed with a wire brush. You also need to grease caliper slide bolts with the appropriate lubricant. Brake pads need removed from the caliper, and any rust removed with a wire brush from here as well.
Steps for Cleaning EV Brakes
Before you get started, you will need a few supplies and tools to properly clean your EV brakes like a professional—head to your local NAPA Auto Parts to make sure you have the following:
- Safety Goggles
- Brake Parts Cleaner
- Floor Jack (rated for your vehicle’s weight)
- Jack Stands
- Wheel Chock
- Lug Wrench
- Socket Set
- Brake Grease
- Brake Pad Compressor
NOTE: This is a generic overview of EV brake cleaning focusing on disc brakes. Please refer to a vehicle specific repair manual for the exact procedure for your make/model. Some vehicles with electronic parking brakes may need special equipment to retract the caliper piston. If you are unsure whether your vehicle has an electronic parking brake, we suggest visiting your local NAPA Auto Care center.
- Start by picking and clearing a suitable workspace. You should choose either concrete or asphalt for a solid foundation under the jack and jack stands. Take a moment to sweep away dirt or debris. Your clothes will thank you later.
- Put the vehicle in “Park” and set the parking brake. Chock the wheels (front and back of the tire) that will stay on the ground.
- Refer to your vehicle owner’s manual to locate the correct lifting point under the chassis. Do not guess! Some electric vehicles are very heavy and could get damaged if lifted incorrectly. Use the floor jack to lift the end of the vehicle you on which you are working and rest the vehicle on the jack stands at the appropriate support points.
- Use the lug wrench to remove the wheel.
- Inspect the wheel hub for any signs of corrosion. Remove any rust you find with a wire brush.
- Remove the brake caliper from the mount and support it using a piece of wire or hook to hang it from the chassis. Do not allow the caliper to hang from the brake hose.
- Remove the brake pads. Remove any rust you find on the back of the pads or brake caliper mount with a wire brush. Take time to clean the brake caliper mount where the brake pad tabs are slotted.
- Remove the brake caliper slider pins and clean off any grease.
- Spray the brake caliper mount with brake parts cleaner (wearing safety goggles and gloves) and allow it to dry.
- Apply new grease to the brake caliper slider pins and reinstall them.
- Apply a thin layer of brake grease to the brake caliper mount in the slotted area where the brake pad tabs are held.
- Reinstall the brake pads.
- Use a brake pad compressor to compress the brake caliper piston(s) fully. Reinstall the brake caliper.
- Repeat for the opposite side.
- Once you are done cleaning and lubricating the brakes, it is important to pump the brake pedal several times before trying to move the car. This closes the gap that was opened when the brake caliper pistons were compressed. Pump the brake pedal until it no longer falls to the floor and feels firm again.
- Reinstall the wheel, taking care to tighten the lug nuts in a star pattern to the correct factory torque rating.
- Remove the vehicle from the jack stands and remove the wheel chocks.
Again, this is a generic overview of the EV brake system cleaning process. Refer to your owner’s manual for specific brake service intervals.
Side Note for Tesla Owners
Some Tesla models have a built-in “brake burnishing” setting. Buried in the Service Mode menu is a Brake Burnishing Mode. This mode temporarily turns off the regenerative braking system, putting all the braking effort onto the brake pads and rotors. The Brake Burnishing Mode walks the driver through the correct accelerating and braking steps to refresh the brake pad and disc brake rotor surfaces. While this procedure is usually only done after replacing brake pads or brake rotors, it can sometimes also solve squealing brakes. It isn’t exactly “cleaning” the brakes, but NAPA would not have the best experts in the business without passing on this knowledge.
If you are ready to clean your EV brake system, head over to your local NAPA Auto Parts store or shop NAPAonline for everything you need to do the job right. At participating NAPA Auto Parts stores, you can order online and pickup in store or opt for curbside pickup. Don’t feel like leaving the house or don’t have the time? You can order on NAPAonline and get One-Day Shipping on 160,000+ products. However you choose to shop, make sure to take advantage of NAPA Rewards to receive 1 Point for every dollar you spend. When you earn 100 Points, you automatically get $5 off your next purchase!
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
With an automotive writing career spanning over two decades, Brian has a passion for sharing the automotive lifestyle. An avid DIYer he can usually be found working on one of his many project cars. His current collection includes a 1969 Olds Delta 88 convertible, BMW E46 sedan, and a slant-6 powered 1975 Plymouth Duster.