Have you noticed black flecks on your wheels? You might have brake dust. The bad news is brake dust can make your wheels a little unsightly, but the good news is your brakes are probably just fine.
Over the last few years, more and more drivers have been complaining about brake dust. Drivers who aren’t familiar with brake dust worry that their brakes are wearing or, worse, not working. Drivers with shiny new wheels also don’t like how brake dust makes wheels look old and dirty.
Fortunately, brake dust is not a sign your brakes are failing. It’s simply the result of different materials being used on today’s brake pads and rotors.
What causes brake dust?
Over the years, the formulation of brake pads has changed as vehicles get lighter and environmental concerns grow. Getting the right formula to maximize brake pad life and brake performance as well as reduce brake noise is a challenge.
Unfortunately, brake pad wear is unavoidable, and brake dust is a by-product of brake wear. When your brake pads heat up, their metallic particles get a static charge as they wear off the surface of the pad. That’s how the dark, metallic dust sticks to the wheels, both steel and alloy, as well as other parts of your vehicle. Plus, those petroleum adhesives can turn into a film that hangs on to your wheels.
Brake dust is also caused by brake rotors containing cast iron. When your rotors wear down, the iron particles also get a static charge as they wear off the rotors and cling to surfaces like your wheels.
What can brake dust do to your vehicle?
For the most part, brake dust is really just annoying and unattractive. However, there is the possibility that brake dust can become corrosive. It’ll depend on which chemicals went into the make-up of your brake pads, but if the dust has a chance to corrode the aluminium in your wheels, the damage can be permanent.
What can you do about brake dust?
The best thing to do is clean your wheels regularly. Fortunately, brake dust can be wiped away.
Do you want to learn more about your brakes, including the difference between drum brakes and disc brakes? Check out our post All About Your Brakes!