Have you noticed a layer of black powder-like residue coating your vehicle's wheels? Assuming it's not dirt, it's probably brake dust. As it sticks to your vehicle's wheels, it will leave them looking dingy. Brake dust, however, won't just affect the aesthetics of your vehicle's wheels; it can cause other problems.
What Is Brake Dust?
Brake dust consists of small particulate matter from your vehicle's brake pads. Automotive braking systems leverage several parts, including brake pads, calipers and rotors. When you press down on the brake pedal, calipers will squeeze the brake pads, and the brake pads will squeeze the rotors to slow down your vehicle.
Each time you press the brake pedal, the brake pads will be squeezed. This constant squeezing action will cause them to degrade. Small pieces of material will break off the brake pads. And small pieces of the rotors may break off as well. This particulate matter is known as brake dust.
How Brake Dust Affects Your Wheels
If you don't clean it, brake dust may scratch your vehicle's wheels. Brake dust consists of the material from which brake pads -- as well as rotors -- are made. Therefore, it contains metal shavings. Most brake dust consists of carbon and iron. As the iron shavings accumulate on your vehicle's wheels, they can leave behind scratches.
Brake dust can also clog valve stems. Valve stems are the small tubes with which you can refill the air in tires. They typically feature a cap to prevent debris from entering them. If a valve stem doesn't have a cap, or if it has a damaged cap, brake dust may be able to enter it. Brake dust may enter the valve stem where it forms a physical blockage. As a result, you won't be able to refill air with the clogged valve stem.
Tips on Cleaning Brake Dust
You can clean brake dust off your vehicle's wheels by using a proper wheel cleaning product. There are different types of wheel cleaning products. Most of them come in the form of foam- or liquid-based sprays. While they are too aggressive for the body of a vehicle, they are safe to use on the wheels. Wheel cleaning products are highly effective at dissolving and removing stubborn brake dust.
In addition to a proper wheel cleaning product, you may want to use a soft-bristle brush to clean brake dust. Brake dust is oftentimes stubborn. You can't always remove it by spraying it with water. A soft-bristle brush will allow you to loosen the brake dust. Just scrub your vehicle's wheels with the brush, after which you can rinse them. The brake dust should easily come off with a little scrubbing.