Having your car sit idle all winter can lead to some frustrating problems come springtime, especially rusted brake rotors. The brakes are one of the most important safety features on your vehicle. You want to ensure they operate properly when it’s time to drive again. Rust buildup prevents your brake pads from smoothly gripping the rotors to slow your vehicle. So stopping distances grow longer. That poses safety concerns for you, your passengers, and others on the road.
Fortunately, there are several effective methods for keeping brake rotors rust-free during winter storage or long periods of vehicle inactivity. With some basic preparation and maintenance, you can save yourself the expense of premature brake rotor replacement and enjoy reliable, safe braking performance. This article reveals insider techniques to fend off rust and corrosion.
Here’s a quick answer:
The best way to prevent rust on brake rotors during winter storage is to thoroughly clean them, apply a protective coating like a rust prevention spray, and enclose the rotors in plastic bags. Adding absorbent dehumidifiers inside the bags and changing the brake fluid also helps stop corrosion. This shields rotors from moisture and road grime that causes rust and corrosion over long idle periods.
Why Brake Rotors Rust
Before jumping into winterization methods, let’s briefly discuss why brake rotors develop rust in the first place:
- Brake rotors are made of iron – This ferrous metal is prone to oxidation (rusting) when exposed to moisture.
- Rotors readily attract moisture – Brakes heat up substantially during use. This draws moisture to the rotor surface when parking the car after a drive.
- Long idle periods let moisture linger – Without driving the vehicle, rust begins forming on the rotor and spreading.
Given these conditions, rust formation accelerates on brake rotors during winter storage. That’s why special prevention practices are needed.
Clean the Brake Rotors
The first preparation step helps reduce rust-accelerating residue:
|Jack up the vehicle or raise it on a lift so wheels spin freely
|Remove wheels if needed for better access
|Spray brake cleaner on the rotors to dissolve oil, grease and road grime
|Wipe down rotors thoroughly using rags
|Rotate wheels by hand to expose all areas for cleaning
Make sure to wear waterproof gloves and eye protection when spraying cleaners.
With contaminants removed, you’ve eliminated substances that could hold moisture against the metal over time. Now the rotors have a “clean slate” for applying rust prevention products.
Apply a Protective Coating
Now let’s focus on creating a defensive barrier against moisture and oxygen. Specialized rust prevention spray products work well for brake rotors:
Here are tips for getting the most protection from these aerosol treatments:
- Work outdoors or in a well-ventilated area – Rust inhibitor sprays contain harsh solvents that are unhealthy to inhale.
- Shake the can vigorously – This ensures the active ingredients mix properly for application.
- Lightly coat rotors – Too much liquid prevents adequate drying and curing. Target just a thin protective film.
- Get full rotor coverage – Rotate wheels manually so you hit the entire rotor surface area.
- Let dry thoroughly per product instructions – Proper dry time allows the protective barrier to fully set before exposure to moisture.
Now brake rotors have an anti-corrosion shield that prevents rusting during winter downtime.
Popular rotor rust inhibitors include:
|CRC Disc Brake Quiet
|Silicone compounds dampen brake squeal
|3M Rust Fighter
|Heavy-duty protection for extreme conditions
|Advanced corrosion blocker
WD-40 also makes a long-term rust preventative spray specifically designed for winter storage. It actively targets iron and steel components.
Enclose Rotors in Plastic Bags
For even greater freezing weather protection, perform this optional extra step:
Here is the process for covering brake rotors with plastic:
- Allow freshly applied rust inhibitor to dry first
- Remove wheels if still not yet removed from Steps 1-2 of the cleaning process
- Grab some large plastic trash bags that fit over the brake rotors
- You can place absorbent dehumidifiers inside bags to actively prevent moisture
- Twist tie bags around calipers/shock towers to prevent interior humidity
- Reinstall wheels over bags for a fully sealed enclosure
This plastic wrap technique prevents icy air and snow from direct contact with coated rotors all winter. It creates an extra corrosion barrier beyond just a spray-on product.
Change Brake Fluid (Optional)
Here is one last optional preventative measure if you want to go the extra mile:
Replace the brake fluid before winter storage.
Over time, brake fluid absorbs moisture which accelerates corrosion inside the brake hydraulic system. Putting in fresh fluid reduces this risk over your storage period.
Just be sure to follow proper bleeding procedures so no air enters the brake lines when filling the reservoir. Degraded braking performance could occur otherwise.
This is more for hardcore DIYers concerned about moisture inside brake cylinders and steel lines. The previous rust prevention steps still work great alone.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to some common questions about preventing winter brake rotor rust:
What about surface rust forming on rotors?
Avoid grinding or sanding it off. That removes critical mass making rotors wear out faster. Apply rust remover gel instead. Convertors make surface rust inert.
Can I just park the car on blocks?
Yes, raising drive wheels on wood blocks reduces exposure to icy/wet ground. But also use rust inhibiters since moisture still reaches enclosed brakes.
Do covers work well?
Custom rotor covers block sunlight keeping rotors dry. But without rotor cleaning/treatment, moisture develops inside covers contacting metal. Best to combine approaches.
What if I don’t have garage access?
Use a high quality outdoor car cover. Provide airflow underneath and “breathable” fabric keeps necessary ventilation while shedding precipitation.
Keeping brake rotors free of rust ensures safe, smooth braking next time you drive. With proactive winter preparation using these evidence-backed techniques, corrosion stays away from this critical vehicle safety component. Maintain your brakes properly and they’ll stop reliably for many more miles down the road!