When winter storms hit, roads are made safer with granular road salt or the now-popular liquid brine solution of calcium chloride or magnesium chloride. While road salt helps your car stop in slippery weather, ironically, it can be an enemy to your vehicle’s brakes, corroding them. That same road salt can also wreak havoc on your car’s body, chassis and suspension through damaging rust and corrosion.
The automotive experts at Goodyear Brakes offer some tips for assessing the health of your vehicle’s braking system
How Corrosion Can Damage Your Braking System
Corrosion on your braking system can impede brakes’ function, seizing emergency (parking) brake cables and preventing normal, free movement of brake parts such as calipers and pads. As rust builds, it can cause a phenomenon known as “rust jacking,” which can actually separate the pad’s friction material from the backing.
What should a vehicle owner to do, especially if you live in areas that use salt and brine on the roads? There are several solutions to address this, such as installing corrosion-resistant brake components (rotors and calipers), which are protected against rust and corrosion with a protective coating.
How to Help Keep Rust at Bay
Wash the vehicle as frequently and as soon as possible after a snow or ice storm. Go to an automatic car wash with an undercarriage wash, use the spray wand at a manual car wash or your own pressure washer to direct water in all underbody nooks and crannies to flush away corrosion-causing salt and brine.
It may seem counter-intuitive but parking your car in a heated garage can actually accelerate brine and salt’s corrosive effects. Their corrosive effects are minimized at freezing temperatures, so parking outside when it’s too cold to wash your car may actually be better for it!
Lubricate all moving brake parts, such as the caliper pins, with a high-temperature ceramic or silicone brake lubricant (grease.) Apply the same lubricant to the back of each pad where the “ears” of the caliper contact it. Do not use wheel bearing grease, which could liquefy as it heats up and run onto braking surfaces.
How to Deal with Rust That’s Already Present
Rust sometimes causes brake pad friction material to separate from the backing, which means you’ll need new brake pads. Inspect the rotors and calipers for corrosion damage, too. Inspect for rust where the rotor mounts to the hub. This can be removed with wire brushes, either by hand or mounted in a power tool, such as a drill.
Source: Goodyear Brakes