How to Remove Rust from Brake Rotors

Brakes might be the most worrisome feature of a car. Yet, it is an essential feature that should never be trivialized. It enables a driver to stop quickly and safely. However, brakes should be clean as dirty brakes are less workable.

If you’ve adjusted your caliper and checked your brake pads but still hear creaky noise, inspect your rotor. Most probably, they likely got rusted, and this can cause performance issues.

Here is a step by step guide on how to remove rust from brake rotors.

Step 1: Getting the Right Cleaning Product


It is always a good habit to select specialized cleaning agents for the different parts of your car. With most brake cleaners, they come free of residue since they aimed at cleaning away any leftover dirt from the key elements of a braking system.

This means it will not leave any lingering dirt on your car rotors for the guarantee of perfect braking.

However, when it comes to rotor cleaning, always confirm that you are not using any product containing PTFE or gloss enhancing abilities. These make the surface of your rotors slippery and affects braking significantly.


Step 2: When to Clean


It depends on the frequency and degree of usage that decides how often you should clean your brake system. Experienced drivers will check their car’s condition before and after each use. This includes a regular cleaning routine to boost its reliability and to keep dirt and dust at bay.

Understandably, you are just back from your ride, all exhausted, and you don’t feel like giving your car the proper treatment of a wash. Bear in mind; this is the best time to clean your car because it prevents dirt, grime, or salt from forming and settling while corroding and damaging away.

Step 3: Say no to Contamination


Nitrile safety gloves are your best friend to avoid contaminating the rotors during the cleaning process. This might sound ridiculous, but any dirt or oil is a contaminant, and it can have a negative impact on the efficiency and smooth running of rotors.

Step 4: Check for Any Damage before Washing


Carefully raise your vehicle with a lift or jack on a leveled ground. Remove the wheels by unscrewing the lug screw to take them off.

To take off the rotor, disengage the brake caliper and its mounting bracket from the rotor by removing their bolts. Depending on the car model, this operation requires a ratchet or hex wrench. Then pull the rotor off the studs; if there is too much rust then this might take some force and effort.

You need to make sure that you can clean them rigorously. Check for any sign of contaminants in each part, like stone chips and grime. Plus, make sure that they are free of any damage, like oil contamination, scratches, or contortion.

If any part seems to be worn down or in poor condition, replacing them is necessary.

Step 5: Cleaning Process


You need a washcloth, brush and a scrubber with abrasive material to remove any dirt and grit. Use a brake cleaner or fluid that has rustproof features; spray it directly on each side of the rotor.

To get rid of rust stains, first, remove the brake components to ensure you can clean them. Then spray a brake cleaner thoroughly on the brake area. Rub the rusted area with steel wool or wire brush.

Scrub and clean them vigorously, making sure there is no trace left, and the area becomes spotless and shiny. In hard to reach areas, you might need small brushes such as a toothbrush.

You might repeat this step for other braking system parts like calipers. Just spray over them generously and scrub them with an abrasive material to remove any contaminants.

On the other hand, you can use white vinegar for cleaning as well. Pour white vinegar in a bucket and dip the rotors in it. Make sure it is completely soaked and keep it away for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, bubbles will start to form. So take it out and wipe it clean with a cloth. If your rotors are excessively rusty, then soak it overnight and finish the process.

Regardless of any car model you own, cleaning is simple and the same for all. Just make sure that you are in a well ventilated room or outside. Also, ensure there isn’t any dirt or grit within the machine so that they can work perfectly.

Step 6: Back to Reassembling


Another way to avoid or remove rust is by driving at a low speed of 5mph or 10mph. Take your car into an area where there is sufficient space and no cars present.
When you hit the brakes while driving, you are typically pressing on the brakes gently. This doesn’t give enough force to make the calipers grip and remove rust. So, consider adding a bit more pressure to the brake pedal for this process to work effectively.
This won’t damage your car nor harm you and your car, unless you crash onto something (You know what I mean)


Cleaning and removing rust go hand in hand. If you can clean properly, there is no reason for you to worry about rust forming on your rotor or any of the parts. Thus, you can effectively clean your braking system now as you know how to remove rust from brake rotors.

John D. Archer

John D. Archer is a mechanical engineer and writer based on the area of automotive accessories at, A resident expert and professional, John is passionate about all things automotive and loves to share his knowledge. He has good experience in all kind of automotive accessories. He has worked as a chief mechanical engineer in some reputed automotive garage firm.

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