What’s Wrong With Brake Dust?

Wheel Sealant, Brake Dust, Cleaning

Brake dust is one of the most aggressive corrosives in the automotive appearance industry. Even if the rest of the car is clean, dirty wheels equal a dirty car. So what is it about brake dust that is so harmful to your wheels and what’s the best way to clean and keep your wheels safe?

What Do You Need to Look Out For?

Brake dust is one…
Ninety-two percent of brake dust is iron, caused by the friction created between the cast iron brake rotor and the fibers from the semi-metallic elements of the brake pad. The remainder is carbon residue within the brake pad. When a car brakes, the surface of the pads wears away, producing an accumulation of brake dust on the wheel.

Making things even worse, the metal filings in brake dust tend to oxidize. That is, the anodic metal in the metal filings reacts to the cathodic metal of your rims, to exploit both and cause corrosion. The chemical process progressively erodes wheel finishes and aggressively corrodes the metal until it weakens. There is no pragmatic fix. You will have to completely strip the wheel and recoat, or replace them.

All year round, the areas of your vehicle closest to the road experiences very high temperatures ― a proverbial hotspot where the rubber meets the road. Heat and velocity causes brake dust, dirt, oil, tar, and other road debris to fly up from the road, immediately etching the finish on your wheels. If left unattended for long, it can eventually gnaw through the metallic clear coat on its way to eating into the aluminum alloy wheel surface.

Protecting and then Cleaning

Getting down on your knees and cleaning your wheels once a month gets a bit old. I agree. A wheel sealant designed to protect, not shine, helps a great deal with future cleaning.

The trick is to find a heat resistant sealant, not a wax, that can withstand the heat of driving. Once applied, the idea is that one could simply spray down the wheels with a hose and all the cleaning is done. The sealant effectively forms a barrier between contaminants and the wheels to make cleaning as easy as possible.

From there on out you will no longer need to spend money on wheel brushes and chemicals to deep clean your wheels.


As always, our methodology is to protect to save yourself from cleaning and correcting issues.  If you have any thoughts on the information above, please feel free to reach out to us by commenting below.