A dirty brake rotor can cost you money and time even if the rotor itself is fine. Brakes are an important safety feature and having dirty or corroded rotors can lead to higher repair costs and unnecessary repairs. Rust on rotors is usually more of a cosmetic issue than a safety issue but still worth looking into. This blog post will teach you how to clean rust off brake rotors without removing them from the car.
Use a steel brush to remove surface rust
There are several steps to remove rust from brake rotors without removing wheels.
- First, use a steel brush to remove surface rust. Steel brushes are made of stainless steel bristles and can be used on any metal surface. The brush should be used with a light pressure and be allowed to rest on the disc for a few seconds before moving on to another section.
- Second, apply a penetrating oil into the rust areas and let it sit overnight. Next day, take an old toothbrush and scrub away the accumulated rust particles with the help of penetrating oil. Rinse off the residue using clean water and dry off using a clean cloth or paper towels.
Put on safety glasses and gloves
The brake rotors are the most important part of your car when it comes to braking. They are what allow you to stop your car or truck when you apply the brakes. Brake rotors can become damaged over time due to wear and tear.
When this happens, it is recommended that you replace them instead of trying to repair them. If you need to remove rust from brake rotors without removing the wheel, here are some steps you can take:
Put on safety glasses and gloves. Clean off any dirt or grime from around the rotor using a wire brush attachment on a power drill. Apply WD-40 or another lubricant to help loosen up any rust that might be on the rotor. Use a wire brush attachment on a power drill to scrub off any rust from inside the rotor opening until all traces of rust are gone.
Apply a rust-removing agent
If you have access to a power wire brush, use it to remove any loose rust particles before applying a rust-removing product like CRC Brake Parts Cleaner or Simple Green. This is important because if there’s any loose rust, it can get embedded in the pad and cause further damage when you go to adjust the pads later on.
- Use an angle grinder with a wire wheel to grind off any remaining rust on the rotor. You can also use a dremel tool or drill attachment with a wire brush, but these tools can be somewhat difficult to control when working near sensitive brake parts.
- Use a paint brush or cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to remove any remaining corrosion from inside the caliper pistons, as well as from between each rotor pad’s friction surface and backing plate. The pads should move freely back and forth without hesitation as you press down on them with your hand and then release pressure.
- Wipe off the rust-removing agent with a clean cloth.
- The next step is to scrub away any remaining rust with a wire brush.
- Use a wire brush to scrub away any remaining rust on the brake rotors.
- Lightly scrub in the direction of the rotor’s grooves, then rinse off any debris that was loosened by your wire brush.
- Rinse off the brake rotors thoroughly with water after you’ve finished cleaning them up with your wire brush.
Scrub the rotor with a steel brush until you’ve removed most of the rust
If you have rotors that are rusted beyond repair, you can replace them. To do so, you will need to remove the wheel from the car and then unbolt it from the rotor. If you want to replace just one rotor and leave the other one as is, it is possible to do this without removing the wheels.
All you need is some elbow grease, a little time and patience. Scrub the rotor with a steel brush until you’ve removed most of the rust. Be sure to scrub in both directions (i.e., up and down). This should get rid of any loose rust particles that might still be on your rotor.
Once this step is complete, give your rotor another good scrubbing with brake cleaner spray or rubbing alcohol (your choice) to remove any remaining grease or oil from your hands after working with brake parts.
Clean off any remaining traces of the rust-removing agent
The brake pads are made of metal, and the rotor is a disc made of metal. When the brakes get hot, the pad runs against the rotor and both can get rusty. You can remove rust from brake rotors without removing them from your vehicle by using a rust remover that is specifically designed for use on brake rotors.
Clean off any remaining traces of the rust-removing agent with soap and water to prevent it from causing further damage to your paint job. Apply a coat of rust-proofing spray paint to protect the surface of your rotors from future rusting. Always wear safety goggles when applying any chemical products to your vehicle. Do not allow children access to these products.
The primary approach that most people will take to remove rust from brake rotors is to do nothing. The second, and a much more labor intensive, approach is to remove the wheels and clean them out. Neither of these methods are very effective and both can result in brake rotors that are still unsafe to drive on. The method detailed here is better than either of those two approaches because it is the only method that will remove all the rust while in place.