WD40 is a multi-use product, celebrated for its wide range of applications. It excels at displacing moisture, protecting metal surfaces, loosening stuck parts, and lubricating just about anything. But, when it comes to your car’s brakes, the question arises – can you put WD40 on them? Let’s dissect this idea.
Here’s the quick answer: No, you should not put WD40 on brakes. WD40 is a versatile product known for its lubricating and moisture-displacing properties, but it is not designed for use on brake systems. Applying WD40 to brakes can compromise friction, corrode rubber components, and attract dirt, leading to reduced braking performance and safety risks. Instead, use brake cleaner specifically formulated for removing grease, oil, and dust from brake parts without causing damage.
What is WD40?
WD40 is a well-renowned, versatile product primarily known for its lubricating and moisture-displacing properties. Named after the scientific process that led to its development — “Water Displacement, 40th Formula” — it’s an aerosol spray that offers a multitude of uses in various settings.
WD40 is essentially a blend of hydrocarbons. It comprises of a secret concoction of about 50% aliphatic hydrocarbons, 25% petroleum base oil, 15% low vapor pressure aliphatic hydrocarbons, and around 10% is a mix of non-hazardous ingredients. Its unique formulation enables it to create a thin, protective layer over surfaces, displacing moisture, and mitigating corrosion and rust.
WD40’s capabilities extend far beyond just being a lubricant or rust remover. Its numerous uses make it an invaluable tool in various settings:
- Loosening Rusted Parts: WD40 is commonly employed to loosen rusted or frozen screws, bolts, and other metal parts. A quick spray of WD40 eases the process of detaching these problematic parts.
- Silencing Squeaky Hinges: A small spray of WD40 on the hinges of doors, windows, or even furniture can eliminate squeaking noises, ensuring smooth and silent operation.
- Protecting Tools: WD40 can be applied on tools to prevent rust and corrosion. It forms a protective barrier, increasing the lifespan of your equipment.
- Cleaning: Interestingly, WD40 can also serve as a cleaning agent. It can remove oil, grime, and dirt from various surfaces and can also be used to clean sticky residues, such as labels or gum.
- Waterproofing: Thanks to its water-displacing property, WD40 can be used to waterproof different surfaces, keeping them dry and corrosion-free.
Remember, though WD40 is incredibly versatile, it should be used responsibly. Keep it away from open flames or sparks due to its flammable nature, and always use it in well-ventilated areas.
Can You Use WD40 on Brakes?
The general consensus among auto professionals and enthusiasts alike is a resounding “No”. You should not use WD40 on brakes. This recommendation is based on the fundamental characteristics and functions of WD40 and how they interact with the components of a brake system.
WD40, despite its manifold uses, is not designed or recommended for use on brake systems. Its application on brakes could lead to a number of potential problems:
- Compromised Friction: Brake systems rely on friction to function effectively. WD40, being a lubricant, can compromise this friction, reducing the braking performance significantly. This could make the brakes unresponsive and increase the risk of accidents.
- Corrosion of Rubber Components: WD40 can adversely affect the rubber components in the brake system. Many brake systems use rubber seals and components, and exposure to WD40 can cause these to swell or even disintegrate, leading to brake failure.
- Attracting Dirt: WD40’s sticky nature means it can attract and hold onto dust, dirt, and grime. When applied to brakes, this can lead to buildup, hindering the brake’s performance over time.
Instead of using WD40, it’s advisable to use brake cleaner for routine brake maintenance. This product is specifically designed to remove grease, oil, and dust from brake parts without damaging them.
The Impact of WD40 on Brake Components
While WD40 offers a myriad of benefits for various applications, its effect on brake components, specifically brake pads and rotors, can be detrimental.
The Adverse Effect on Brake Pads and Rotors
- Brake Pads: Applying WD40 on brake pads can significantly decrease their frictional properties, which are essential for effective braking. WD40 forms a slick and slippery surface, hindering the pad’s ability to grip the rotor. This can result in a soft or spongy brake pedal feel and compromised braking performance.
- Rotors: The negative impact of WD40 extends to brake rotors as well. A coating of WD40 on the rotor surface can interfere with the brake pad’s ability to achieve sufficient grip, causing diminished brake response. Additionally, WD40 may lead to an uneven wear pattern on the rotors, reducing their lifespan and effectiveness.
The Safety Risks Involved
WD40’s unsuitable application on brakes can lead to significant safety risks:
- Reduced Braking Performance: As mentioned, WD40 compromises the friction necessary for effective braking, leading to reduced stopping power. This can extend the vehicle’s stopping distance, raising the risk of collisions or accidents.
- Potential Brake Failure: Long-term exposure of brake components to WD40 can lead to degradation of parts, notably rubber seals. This can result in brake fluid leaks and potential brake failure, posing a severe safety risk.
- Loss of Vehicle Control: An ineffective brake system can lead to loss of vehicle control, particularly in situations requiring sudden braking. This increased unpredictability can endanger the safety of the vehicle occupants and others on the road.
Proper Brake Maintenance
The right maintenance products play a critical role in preserving the effectiveness and longevity of your brake system. Using products specifically designed for brakes helps:
- Maximize Friction: Unlike multi-purpose lubricants like WD40, brake maintenance products do not interfere with the necessary friction between the brake pad and rotor.
- Prevent Brake Dust Accumulation: Brake cleaners help remove brake dust, a by-product of the friction between brake pads and rotors, preventing buildup and potential damage.
- Preserve Components: Brake-friendly products do not harm the rubber seals and other elements of the brake system, preserving their function and extending their life.
For effective brake maintenance, consider using the following types of products:
- Brake Cleaners: These are specially designed to clean the brake parts effectively, removing oil, grease, brake dust, and other debris. They dry quickly and leave no residue, making them ideal for this purpose. Examples include CRC Brakleen Brake Parts Cleaner and 3M High Power Brake Cleaner.
- Brake Anti-Squeal Compounds: These compounds can be applied to the back of brake pads to reduce brake noise. They work by dampening vibrations that can cause squeaking. CRC Disc Brake Quiet is a popular option.
- Brake Lubricants: Unlike WD40, brake lubricants are designed to withstand high temperatures and are safe for use on brake system components. They are used sparingly on caliper pins, the back of brake pads, and other parts where metal contacts metal, but never on the brake pad friction surface or rotor. Permatex Ceramic Extreme Brake Parts Lubricant is a highly rated choice.
The Role of Brake Cleaners
Brake cleaners are specialized cleaning solutions specifically designed to remove grime, dust, and other contaminants from brake components. Unlike general-purpose cleaners or lubricants, brake cleaners are formulated to rapidly dissolve and flush away residues, leaving no trace behind. They are available in aerosol cans for easy application, ensuring they can reach even the most challenging parts of the brake system.
How Brake Cleaners Work
Brake cleaners function by using a highly evaporative solvent blend that:
- Penetrates Deeply: Brake cleaners can access the tight spaces of your brake system, ensuring a thorough clean. They quickly penetrate and loosen the grime and dirt built up on the brake parts.
- Dissolves Contaminants: They efficiently dissolve grease, oil, brake fluid, and brake dust, which are typical contaminants affecting brake performance.
- Evaporates Completely: After breaking down and suspending these contaminants, the solvent evaporates entirely, leaving no residue behind. This ensures the brake components remain clean and function at their best.
Why Brake Cleaners Are Preferred Over WD40
While both WD40 and brake cleaners serve essential roles in maintenance tasks, they have distinct uses and shouldn’t be interchanged. Here’s why brake cleaners are preferred for brake components over WD40:
- Residue-Free Cleaning: Unlike WD40, brake cleaners evaporate completely without leaving behind any oily or sticky residue. This property prevents the attraction of dust and grime, keeping the brake parts cleaner for longer.
- No Impact on Friction: Brake cleaners do not impact the essential friction between brake pads and rotors, as they do not leave a lubricating layer. WD40, being a lubricant, can reduce this friction, impairing braking performance.
- Compatibility with Brake Components: Brake cleaners are designed with brake system materials in mind. They won’t cause damage or degradation to rubber seals and other components, unlike WD40, which can lead to swelling or weakening of rubber parts.
When it comes to brake maintenance, misconceptions can lead to ill-advised practices, potentially compromising your vehicle’s safety. Two common misconceptions revolve around using WD40 on brakes and misunderstanding the difference between lubricating and cleaning brakes.
WD40 is Good for Brakes
One prevalent misconception is that WD40, given its vast array of uses, is beneficial for brakes. However, this is not the case. WD40 is a lubricant, and its application on brakes can result in reduced friction, leading to compromised braking performance. Moreover, WD40 can damage rubber components in the brake system, such as seals, and its sticky nature can attract dust and grime, leading to premature wear.
Lubricating Brakes is the Same as Cleaning Them
Another common misconception is that lubricating and cleaning brakes are the same thing, leading some to believe that applying a lubricant such as WD40 is an effective way to maintain brakes. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Here’s why:
- Purpose of Cleaning: The primary purpose of cleaning brakes is to remove brake dust, grime, and other contaminants that accumulate on brake components. This process uses brake cleaners that dissolve these contaminants and evaporate completely, leaving no residue behind.
- Purpose of Lubricating: On the other hand, lubricating brakes is done to minimize wear and prevent seizing of moving parts in the brake system, such as caliper slide pins. However, lubrication should never involve the brake pad friction surfaces or rotors. Specific brake lubricants, not general-purpose ones like WD40, are used for this task.
- Outcome of Misuse: Misunderstanding these distinct processes can lead to the misuse of products, such as using WD40 to clean brakes, which could compromise brake performance and safety.
In the world of vehicle maintenance, understanding the right tools and methods for specific tasks is crucial. Among these tasks, brake maintenance stands as a critical area where the use of the correct products is non-negotiable.
Throughout this article, we’ve emphasized that WD40, despite its multitude of uses, is not suitable for brake maintenance. The lubricating nature of WD40 reduces the essential friction between brake pads and rotors, leading to compromised braking performance. Additionally, its potential to damage rubber seals and attract dust and grime further underscores its incompatibility with brake systems.
Correctly maintaining your brakes involves two key processes – cleaning and lubricating. Both tasks require distinct products, specifically designed for these purposes. Brake cleaners dissolve and flush away contaminants, while brake lubricants help prevent seizing of moving components in the brake system. Misunderstanding the distinction between these processes and using a product like WD40 for both can lead to unsafe conditions and premature brake wear.
In conclusion, it’s paramount to prioritize safety over convenience when it comes to brake maintenance. Using products specifically designed for brake cleaning and lubrication ensures not only optimal brake performance but also extends the lifespan of your brake system. Always remember, maintaining your brakes properly is not just about protecting your vehicle – it’s about ensuring the safety of you and your loved ones on the road.