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How to keep brakes looking great!

How to keep brakes looking great

Dan is an experienced motoring journalist who has more than 20 years of experience. He has been the editor of titles such as Fast Ford and Redline, and his latest project was converting an old Renault Trafic into a family campervan.

Many modern cars come with really smart looking alloy wheels. The downside of this is that their open-spoked design often shows off a set of rusty looking brakes behind. But help is at hand as we show you what you can do about it!

How to stop brake discs rusting

Unless you've got an incredibly fancy and expensive car your brake discs will be made of cast iron. Cast iron is strong and durable and is ideal for the purpose it serves, but it loves to rust! So what can you do about it?

The reality is that there isn't a lot you can do about the actual rusting process, once it starts, it just won't stop, but you can keep your brakes looking in good condition with some high temperature paint.

The actual face of the disc where the pad meets the disc needs to be left alone, and must never be painted or sprayed with anything other than brake cleaner!

There's nothing you can add to it which will prevent surface rust from forming. The only way to remove it is to actually drive the car and use the brakes. The centre section of the disc however is safe to paint, as is the outer rim.

As with any painting process preparation is the key – so, clean off any loose fragments using a wire brush. Then, with some brake cleaner, give the brakes a liberal dose to remove any grease, or other contaminants.

Next, mask off the disc face and (following the manufacturers instructions) apply some high temperature paint. Regular paint will simply burn the first time you use the car, and end up looking a total mess.

We'd advise painting a discrete colour, such as black or silver, as it will chip and wear over time, and if it's a bright colour this will be particularly noticeable.

How to stop brake discs rusting

How to stop calipers rusting

As with the discs, once the rust starts there's no stopping it. This is particularly frustrating in the case of brake calipers, as new calipers generally come either in shiny silver or (cadmium plated) gold which looks great... for about a week... So the best solution is to apply some caliper paint!

While you're free to paint them whatever colour you like, some would argue that painting a small standard caliper a bright red, or yellow is a little unnecessary, and that a more subtle black, or silver would be more appropriate – but it's your car, your rules!

We'd advise either removing the caliper from the car, or at least removing one of the slide pins and swivelling the caliper away from the disc – this will allow you to get a better paint finish and reduce the chance of accidentally painting other parts of the braking system.

Get your wire brush out and give them a really good scrub (taking care not to damage any seals). Remove the pads and any clips, spray with brake cleaner, and mask off any rubber seals.

Now it's time to get your high temp caliper paint out! Never paint any moving parts, and take your time. Wait for them to dry properly before resembling the calipers and you're good to go.

How to clean brake discs

If your brake discs need a clean then your best option is to use brake cleaner. This is a strong solvent that conveniently comes in an aerosol can.

Spray over the brakes and the solvent lifts and flushes away brake dust and grease, then quickly evaporates to leave a clean surface beneath. It's worth mentioning that it won't do anything about rust, so don't expect it to clean any corrosion.

How to clean spilled brake fluid from paintwork

Brake fluid is no where near as corrosive as it used to be, but if you spill it on your paintwork it's still best to clean it up promptly. The best solution is water, and lots of it.

Standard brake fluid is largely made up of polyethylene glycol which, conveniently, is water soluble. Pouring water on it and giving it a wipe with a clean cloth will solve it. If you get any on your clothes, regular detergent and water should suffice.

How to clean spilled brake fluid from tarmac/paved driveways

So you've bled your brakes and have discovered that you've made a bit of mess on your (or even worse your mate's) driveway by getting brake fluid everywhere. Don't panic! Grab a hose and flush it with copious amounts of clean water. If you've got access to one, a jet wash is preferable.

If it's not all coming off, use some regular car shampoo, and give it a good scrub with a brush, then hose off with lots of water.