Disc brakes are a vital component of modern vehicles such as bicycles, motorcycles, and cars. They function by utilising friction to decelerate and halt the vehicle, causing the brake pads and disc brake rotors to undergo significant wear and tear. Therefore, maintaining the cleanliness of these parts is crucial for maintaining the braking system’s efficiency and durability.

Why do I need to clean my brake discs?

It’s crucial to keep your car’s brakes clean to prevent the accumulation of dirt, dust, and other debris on the disc rotors and pads. These contaminants can have a negative impact on the vehicle’s braking performance, reducing the friction between the pads and disc rotors, which in turn leads to longer stopping distances and decreased braking effectiveness.

Accumulation of dirt, dust, and other contaminants on the brake rotors and pads over time can reduce the effectiveness of the brakes and lead to increased wear and tear. Cleaning these parts regularly can eliminate debris and prevent premature wear, thus enhancing the overall safety of your vehicle. However, it is advisable to have a trained professional clean the brakes to ensure proper and safe execution.

Contamination from road grime, dust, oil, grease, and residue can cause brake pads and rotors to lose friction, resulting in decreased braking effectiveness and longer stopping distances. Additionally, uneven wear of the brake pads can occur, causing further braking problems and potentially damaging the entire braking system.

Although it may appear daunting for someone unfamiliar with the process, following a helpful guide can make brake cleaning manageable. In summary, keeping disk brakes and rotors clean is a simple and effective way to maintain the vehicle’s braking system’s peak performance. Consistent maintenance and cleaning can prevent issues, reduce wear and tear, and guarantee your ability to stop safely and confidently when necessary.

In addition, the buildup of debris can also cause the brake pads to wear unevenly, leading to further issues with braking and the potential for damage to the braking system.

To maintain the braking capabilities of your vehicle, it’s recommended to regularly clean the brakes with solutions specially formulated for your car. This will ensure that your car has safe and efficient stopping power.

Our expert’s brake cleaner recommendations

The ideal solution for cleaning brakes is disc brake cleaner, which is typically composed of a mixture of solvents and other chemicals. The composition of the cleaner may vary depending on the brand and the type of solution used. Some common solvents used in brake cleaning solutions include petroleum distillates like petroleum-based naphtha and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as acetone and toluene.

Additional chemicals like silicone may also be included in some brake cleaners to help dissolve grease and oil. It’s important to use brake cleaners that are specifically designed for your brake system as they are formulated to remove contaminants without damaging the brake components.

It’s also important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and safety precautions when using brake cleaners. Brake fluid is designed to absorb moisture to prevent water molecules from damaging the internal components of the brake system. However, this property comes at a cost. As the brake fluid absorbs moisture, its performance decreases, and the high temperatures associated with braking systems can cause the moisture to vaporize. This can cause the brake fluid to become compressible, resulting in a “spongy” feeling when braking. 

How to clean disc brakes

Disk brake that needs to be cleaned.

The process of cleaning brakes is straightforward, but it’s important to follow the steps carefully to ensure that the brake components are not damaged.

Step 1: Preparation

Start by making sure you have easy access to the brake components. Cover the surrounding areas with newspapers or a drop cloth to catch any overspray or drips.

Step 2: Removing debris

Use a brush or clean rag to remove any loose debris, dirt, or grime from the brake rotors and calipers.

Step 3: Spray brake cleaner

Spray the brake rotors, brake pads, and the calipers with a generous amount of brake cleaner, making sure to saturate all surfaces of the brake system and clean in a circular motion with a clean cloth. Isopropyl alcohol is a cheap and easy to find solution to clean your brakes if you can’t get your hands on some brake cleaner. Just give your brakes a quick spray and allow it to penetrate the rotors, pads and calipers. 

Step 4: Waiting

Allow the brake cleaner to sit on the brake rotors and all components for several minutes, to allow it to penetrate and dissolve any buildup or contaminants.

Step 5: Scrubbing

Use a soft-bristled brush to gently scrub the brake rotors and all components, making sure to reach all areas and removing as much buildup and grime as possible.

Step 6: Rinsing

Rinse the brake rotors and allcomponents thoroughly with water, to remove any residual brake cleaner and contaminants.

Step 7: Drying

Use a clean, dry cloth or air dry the brakes and all braking components completely, to prevent any rust or corrosion from forming. 

It’s important to use caution when cleaning brakes and to avoid using abrasive materials or tools that could damage the brake components. Additionally, always wear gloves and eye protection when working with brake cleaning solutions and make sure to follow the manufacturer’s safety precautions.

How often should I clean my brakes?

The frequency of cleaning your car’s brakes depends on several factors, such as the type of driving you do and the conditions you drive in

The frequency of cleaning your brakes depends on several factors, such as the type of driving you do and the conditions you drive in. In general, it is recommended to clean your brakes at least once a year or when you notice a reduction in your vehicle’s braking abilities. 

If you do a lot of heavy braking or drive in hilly terrain, you may also need to clean your brakes more often. It’s important to pay attention to the warning signs of decreased braking performance, such as longer stopping distances or a spongy feeling in the brake pedal. 

Signs that your brakes may need cleaning

  1. Decreased braking performance: If you notice a decrease in braking effectiveness or longer stopping distances, it could be due to dirty brake rotors, pads or any other component of the brakes.
  2. Brake Squeal or grinding noises: Dirty brake discs, rotors, calipers or brake pads can cause a squealing or grinding noise when you apply the brakes, indicating a need for cleaning.
  3. Uneven wear: If you notice uneven wear on the brake rotors or pads, it could be due to dirty brake components and a need for cleaning.

Don’t forget!

If you drive in conditions that are particularly harsh, such as in heavy rain, snow, or mud, you may need to clean your brakes more frequently.

If you use your car for performance driving or track days, you may need to clean your brakes more often due to the increased demand on the braking system and powerful stopping. It’s always a good idea to consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual or a mechanic for specific recommendations based on your driving habits and vehicle type. 

Still need help?

Smiling woman driving.

If you’re still unsure or feeling a little overwhelmed you can always head into your local Natrad store so one of our qualified experts can take care of them for you.

If your car needs new brake fluid or lubricant, Natrad can help. We have workshops around the country that stock various fluid formulations and other brake parts and products suitable for numerous vehicles. 

To find your nearest Natrad store head on over to our website and pop in your postcode so we can conveniently point you in the right direction.

Natrad have over 50 locations Australia wide and are Australia’s most trusted name in vehicle heating and air conditioning. Natrad service regular passenger cars, high performance vehicles and 4WD and offer a transparent service ensuring you’re updated every step of the way.