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  #1  
Old 05-16-2012, 11:04 PM
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Brake dust from hell on aluminum rims - any suggestions?

Hey there,

I've got a 2008 Ranger FX4. A while before the warranty expired I took it in to my local dealer to deal with some nagging little problems. While it was in, he suggested a front brake job. Pads are not under warranty of course, but he suggested that he had a cheaper pad in stock, the only complaints he had about them was that they produced "a bit more brake dust".

So, stupidly I had them installed. I noticed (winter driving so I didn't wash my truck for a long time) that the front wheels were much dirtier than the rear ones. Now that spring is here, I've taken to washing my truck more regularly.

The problem is the brake dust has caked on the nice aluminum rims (stock) an I can't get it off with anything. I've tried different wheel & tire cleaners, specialty aluminum wheel cleaners, special abrasive wheel cleaner tools...NOTHING will take the ugly black blotches off the wheels. I wish I never had those pads installed! With the original brakes, the wheels got dirty, but you could get them gleaming clean agin with a bit of elbow grease and some good cleaner.

Hoping someone out there will have some sort of home-brew remedy that I can try. I usually enjoy washing my truck and keeping it clean, but with the wheels in this condition it takes the enjoyment right out of it. I'll try to post a pic a bit later.

Thanks guys,
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  #2  
Old 05-17-2012, 06:13 AM
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I've found that "White Diamond" works pretty well. Nothing will help if the finish is severely pitted.
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Old 05-17-2012, 06:45 AM
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I've used Armor All recipe wheel cleaner with an old tooth brush with good success on the wifes inherited Neon wheels, that were really grimy.

Sprayed it on with the wheel dry, let it soak in good, then went to work with the brush.

Did the same routine with my 94 Taurus aluminum wheels inside/back side, when I had them off for rotation. Guys at the tire shop thought I had new wheels on it!!!!

I cleaned them inside because the grime would bleed out & mess up the outside when I'd wash them. That crud had been in there 10 years or more at the time, so it took a bit of effort to remove it, but they finally came clean. Spray, let it soak (not in the sun so it won't dry) then agitate with the tooth brush on any stubborn spots that don't want to clean up right away, then rinse before the dirty foamy residue dries.

On metal wheels Only, I've also used Fantastic in years past with some success, just don't spray it on plastic wheel covers or trim, as it's a stress crack promoter, so it can cause them to crack if it gets on them & if they're under some mechanical stress from being mounted, or from molded in stress from not being annealed after the molding process, you'll hear them tic as they crack. DON'T let the wife have Fantastic, 409, or any like recipe product to clean her Formica counter tops, as they'll cause them to stress crack & evnentually fall apart!!!!!

Be careful what wheel cleaner you try that might have acid in its recipe, so as not to damage the aluminum wheels surface finish.

Once we get em clean, Michelin has a wheel spray product thats supposed to put a coating on the wheels that'll repel brake dust to keep them cleaner longer & make them tidy up easier when they do finally get dirty, but I've never used it. Saw some yesterday at Ollies clearance house for about $2.50, think I might try it on my vehicles wheels to see if it performs as advertised.
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Old 05-17-2012, 07:59 AM
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I've used a 50/50 mix of Purple Power and water in a spray bottle for years on my tires and wheels and it works great.
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Old 05-17-2012, 03:28 PM
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Thank you for the suggestion guys, I'll give it a try.
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  #6  
Old 05-17-2012, 06:09 PM
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I have used a wheel acid at work when nothing else worked. If you can't clean them any other way then you have nothing to lose, you might try looking for a detail shop and see if they can clean them. Around here there is a guy who refurbs wheels like new for $50 each.
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Old 05-17-2012, 09:09 PM
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Not looking too good, nothing seems to be working. This is after they've been cleaned:

Click the image to open in full size.

It's almost like tar but its definitely brake dust washing off the discs & components inside. The little spots will come off, but it takes forever and a lot of work to just get one off. Be warned; if the dealer offers you cheaper pads don't use them!
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Old 05-18-2012, 12:23 AM
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The absolute best consumer wheel and tire cleaner is Eagle One All Wheel and Tire Cleaner. Make sure the wheels are out of the sun and you let them soak before you scrub them. There are other products that will work better such as Meg's Super Degreaser, but they aren't readily available. Good luck!
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Old 05-18-2012, 11:51 AM
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Sounds like it's time to get another set of pads, before this mess can accumulate again...
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Old 05-18-2012, 01:59 PM
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Kinda looks like the wifes Neon wheels. Will WD-40 soften the spots???? If so, spray some on, let it sit to soften them up some, then go after them with the tooth brush bristles & the hard back side of the brush if necessary, then finish with the Armor All, or the like wheel cleaner.
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  #11  
Old 05-18-2012, 02:06 PM
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SOS pads and LOTS of water. Be sure to work up a soapy film on the SOS pad before use on the wheel, or the clearcoat can be damaged. Doesn't require hard scrubbing, just a bit of elbow grease.
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Old 05-18-2012, 02:52 PM
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SOS pads and LOTS of water. Be sure to work up a soapy film on the SOS pad before use on the wheel, or the clearcoat can be damaged. Doesn't require hard scrubbing, just a bit of elbow grease.
Before going as far as steel wool maybe try a blue scotchbrite pad. Less chance of scratching.
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Old 05-18-2012, 04:37 PM
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maybe those brake pads should be reserved for steel wheels only. I'm still recommending wheel acid cause if that don't work time to refurb.
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Old 05-18-2012, 06:18 PM
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Better yet, stip the clear, wetsand and polish. You'll be the only one with a set.
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This is my line in the sand, my stand against technology, hopefully the last truck I'll ever own.
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  #15  
Old 05-18-2012, 07:05 PM
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Try this...

Soaking with mineral spirits, that should soften the dust up without damaging the wheel finish in anyway. then wash with soap/water.
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Old 05-18-2012, 07:05 PM
 
 
 
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