What Are the Causes of Brake Dust and How to Prevent It

brake dust prevention methods

If you see a dark, reddish-brown residue on the car wheels, chances are that it may be brake dust. When you press the brake pedal, the brake pads clamp the rotor, or the shoes push against the drums. In either case, the pushing or clamping generates friction. As a result, it produces dust that sticks to the wheels.

Brake dust isn’t a crucial problem. However, if you want your car and wheels shining, you must learn the brake dust prevention methods.

Here are all the causes of brake dust, prevention tips and how to clean it properly.

Causes of Brake Dust

What causes dust on wheels
If one leaves the brake dust unattended on car wheels, it can convert into rust, making it more difficult to clean

The friction between the brake rotors and pads causes dust particles. Over time, these dust particles accumulate on the wheels. It also creates a dark layer that becomes hard to remove. Moreover, you can follow the steps to replace car brake pads and rotors if they wear out.

These dust particles include metal fillings, carbon fibre, adhesive and abrasive particles. But what causes these particles? Here are the causes that you must know for brake dust prevention.


The primary cause of brake dust is the friction materials used in brake pads. Traditional brake pads consist of a mixture of metal fibres, resin, and fillers. As the brake pads wear down, these materials break apart and create brake dust.

Driving Habits

Aggressive driving habits, such as excessive braking, can accelerate brake pad wear and increase the amount of dust generated. Stop-and-go traffic, frequent braking, and riding the brakes downhill can contribute to higher levels of brake dust.

Different types of Brake Pad Materials

Since various brake pad materials are available, they wear out differently. These materials have different friction coefficients. Moreover, semi-metallic and metallic brake pads produce more dust than ceramic or organic material pads.

How to Clean Brake Dust

Cleaning brake dust off your wheels is challenging because it tends to stick to the surface and can be corrosive if left too long. However, with the right approach and some basic cleaning supplies, you can effectively remove or prevent brake dust from your wheels. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to clean brake dust and maintain the car brakes:

Gather the Necessary Supplies

You will need the following equipment alongside the must-have car cleaning items:

  • Look for a wheel cleaner specifically designed to remove brake dust
  • Get a soft-bristle wheel cleaning brush
  • Fill a bucket with water for rinsing.
  • Use a clean microfiber cloth or sponge for wiping and drying
  • Wear gloves to protect your hands from chemicals
  • Make sure your wheels are cool before you start cleaning. If they’re hot, allow them to cool down to avoid potential damage.
How to clean the brake dust and make the wheels shiny
Cleaning the brake dust can help avoid rust and keep the wheels in optimal conditions

Spray the Wheel Cleaner

Apply the wheel cleaner onto the wheel surface, focusing on areas with heavy brake dust buildup. Follow the instructions on the cleaner’s label for the best results.

  • Allow the car brake dust cleaner to dwell on the wheels for a few minutes to break down the brake dust and remove it.
  • Use the wheel brush to agitate the cleaner.
  • Scrub the entire wheel surface, paying extra attention to the spokes, crevices, and the area around the lug nuts.
  • Apply moderate pressure but avoid excessive force that could damage the wheel’s finish.
  • After scrubbing the wheels, rinse them off with water from a hose or a pressure washer. Make sure to remove all the cleaner and brake dust residue.
  • Use a clean microfiber cloth or sponge to dry the wheels. It will help prevent water spots and ensure a clean finish.

After completing the cleaning process, if you notice any remaining brake dust or stubborn spots, repeat the cleaning process. 

Apply Wheel Protectant

To provide an extra layer of brake dust prevention, you can apply a wheel sealant or wax after the wheels are thoroughly cleaned and dry.

Tips to Prevent Brake Dust

tips for dust-free wheels
Using brake dust repellent or a shield can help in getting dust-free wheels

The following brake dust prevention tips will help keep your car wheels clean and in optimal condition:

Brake Dust Repellent

Aerosol spray, one of the best brake dust repellents, helps prevent dirt or grime from sticking to the wheel. It is one of the essential tips for dust-free brakes that one should apply these repellents. 

While this is not a long-term solution for brake dust prevention, it can help repel the dust for one or two weeks. Therefore, you must apply it weekly to avoid dust on wheels. However, it depends upon whether you have alloy or metal wheels because the repellent doesn’t work on alloy wheels.

Brake Dust Shield

The metal plates between brake rotors and wheel rims collect the brake dust and prevent it from sticking to the wheels. However, using a brake dust shield will generate high heat in the front brakes and may affect the efficiency.

High-end Protective Layer and Finishing

Consider applying a wheel sealant or ceramic coating to your wheels. These protective coatings create a barrier that makes it easier to remove brake dust and prevents it from sticking to the wheels. They also provide additional protection against corrosion.

Ceramic Brake Pads

ceramic brake pads don't produce brake dust
Carbon ceramic brakes can help eliminate brake dust alongside an improved braking performance

Consider upgrading to ceramic brake pads. For instance, BMW Carbon Ceramic brakes produce significantly less dust compared to their metallic counterparts. Ceramic brake pads are expensive but offer improved performance, longevity, and reduced brake dust.

Regular Wheel Cleaning

Establish a routine for cleaning your wheels for brake dust prevention. Use a dedicated wheel cleaner and a soft brush or microfiber cloth to clean both the front and back of the wheels. Regular cleaning not only improves the appearance of your vehicle but also helps prevent brake dust from adhering to the wheels.

That concludes the complete details on brake dust prevention and its causes. If you buy a new or used car for sale in the UAE, ensure to follow the cleaning and preventive maintenance to avoid rust and malfunctioning of car parts.

Keep reading the dubizzle cars blog and find more tips and tricks to prolong the car parts’ life and enhance their efficiency.


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