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How to Use Brake Parts Cleaner The Right Way

Close-up of car tire lifted up on a jack

Your vehicle’s braking system plays a critical role in helping you maintain control while driving. When operating as designed, this system brings your vehicle to a full stop. As with any automotive system, regular maintenance is required to ensure it’s working correctly. Using a brake parts cleaner is recommended for regular maintenance, and you can easily handle it yourself.

Brake Dust and Deposits

Your vehicle’s brakes are generally dirty, but that “dirt” is comprised of brake dust and deposits naturally produced by certain parts and deposited on the wheels. This happens when your brake pads heat up, causing metal debris to break off. Although this is normal, if left unchecked, the dust buildup can adversely impact brake function and vibration and shorten the life span of the brake pad. The same wearing process applies to the brake rotors, adding more dust that clings to the wheels.

As a result of these issues, your vehicle won’t brake as safely as before. Without regular cleaning, you’ll have to replace the brake pads and rotors more frequently.

How to Apply Brake Cleaner

Shop for a brake parts cleaner that comes in an aerosol can and includes an extender to reach those hard-to-get areas. Tackle all four wheels at once, not just the ones where dust buildup is apparent. Wear a mask, safety glasses, and gloves to protect yourself, and follow these steps:

  1. Position the jack. Position a jack nearest to the wheel you intend to clean first. Secure the emergency brake and place chocks behind the wheels that are not lifting off the ground. Use a lug wrench to loosen the lug nuts, then continue raising the vehicle until the tire is off the ground.
  2. Remove the wheel. Remove the lug nuts and the wheel, placing the nuts within the wheel for safekeeping.
  3. Apply the product. Read the directions on the cleaner, then remove the cap and insert the plastic extender into the nozzle. Spray liberally on all brake parts, including the discs or drums, pads and calipers. Once the product finishes penetrating the various parts, wipe off the wheel with a lint-free cloth.
  4. Reposition the wheel. When you’re done, replace the wheel, lightly tighten the lug nuts, then lower the wheel and finish tightening. Repeat this process with the remaining wheels.

You could try to clean the brake parts without lifting the vehicle and removing each wheel, but the job wouldn’t be as thorough. Instead, take the more measured approach to leave nothing to chance.

Environmental Cleanliness

Besides cleaning your brake system parts, you will be doing everyone a favor by removing a source of highway air pollution. As reported by Science Daily, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology found that even a cloud of tiny metal particles is harmful to respiratory health. You can make a difference by adding brake parts cleaning to your regular maintenance schedule.

Extend the life of your brakes and benefit the environment by taking brake dust buildup seriously. It’s a job you can accomplish in less than an hour on its own, or add it to your other brake care initiatives.

Check out all the brake system parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on brake parts, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.


Matthew C. Keegan View All

Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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