Your vehicle can take in dirt and grime from any road you drive on. Throw in high friction, the brake dust it produces, and brake fluid from a botched brake job or two, and you have plenty of gunk building up in the least desirable places. One of the best ways to clear all this up is by using a spray-on brake cleaner. It not only ensures that nothing prevents proper brake functioning, but also makes braking system parts more visible, which can do a lot of good during repairs.
Unlike most other fixes that cost a pretty penny or require tremendous skill or exertion, this one is both inexpensive and easy. In effect, you do little more than taking the tires off, check the brakes for excess buildup, and if you find any, apply spray-on brake cleaner in that area. All you need is a few minutes, adequate equipment, and a proper method to follow.
Tools and Materials
Not a lot of tools are needed to get complete this task. One thing you will need is an impact wrench or a tire iron with which to take the tire off. This also calls for jack stands to secure the car in the meantime.
- When applying spray-on brake cleaner, you are certain to see a fair amount of debris and contaminates that should wash right off the brakes. These work together with the cleaner and run down as a liquid, which will need to be disposed of. If you live in an area where they have restrictions on waste disposal, or if your state specifically requires it, you will need a special container, which can store all that used brake cleaner until you can get rid of it. Call the disposal office or a local auto shop, and learn the best ways to proceed.
- Spray-on brake cleaners carry harmful chemicals including tetrachloroethylene, acetone, and methylene chloride, none of which is any good for the skin, eyes, or other sensitive places on your body. Irritation should be the least of your worries – the effects of exposure and contact also include dizziness, unconsciousness, and vomiting. It is best to protect yourself with tough, impermeable gloves and eyewear. Read the warning label on the bottle for an idea of what to expect, and follow the recommendations.
- The chemicals present in spray-on brake cleaner makes it imperative to pick a well-ventilated area to apply it. You should also wear the protective gear mentioned above, as well as ensure the car's paint and parts stay protected. The final coat of finish and any plastics should not come into contact with brake cleaner; in fact, it would be sensible to wait for a windless day if you are planning on performing the maintenance outside.
- The next thing to check is whether the brakes and all immediate surrounding parts are fully cooled down. Brake cleaner on hot metal is a recipe for disaster, mainly because some of the cleaner’s ingredients can combust spontaneously. If this were to happen, you would have toxic chemicals in the air, and these would be a lot more poisonous than straight from the can.
These two things just about wrap up the precautions you need to take before applying brake cleaner. This is because brake parts generally do not need to be disassembled. You can put the cleaner on the brake shoes, brake linings, drums, caliper units, pads, rotors, and other parts of the braking mechanism, as long as these are intact.
Using Brake Cleaner
- If you have used spray paint before this, then you know how to apply spray-on brake cleaner. The process may vary slightly for some manufacturers, but none of the basics change; Remove the tire and hold the spray can around 2 feet out from the brakes. Start spraying at the top and move down. This should remove the dirt, dust, and other contaminants from the respective brake part.
- If the cleaner starts entering crevices, leave it. It should loosen up any oil, grease, leaked brake fluid, etc., and wash unwanted materials off. The more stubborn areas may require a second application so that you can be sure the dirt is completely gone. Afterward, you can either wipe it clean with a fresh cloth, or simply let it dry by itself. Any used cleaner would need to be properly disposed of.
Brake cleaners essentially reduce brake noise emanating as a result of contaminates building up on the moving parts. You may feel it unwise to remove the friction material if you think it is instrumental to braking performance. No matter what skeptics say though, brake cleaner can effectively take out grease and dirt, which actually impair good braking if left to accumulate. In spray form, brake cleaner is a lot easier to apply requires little in the way of preparation.