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Rust On Rotors: How To Remove It + How To Prevent It

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A rusty brake rotor is a common issue that car owners would like to avoid.

But is there a way to prevent the rust on rotors from forming?
And more importantly, how can you remove the rust on your brake rotor?

In this article, we’ll answer those two questions. We’ll also cover what causes rotor rust and tell you if you should be concerned about rusty rotors. Finally, we’ll discover the best way to keep your disc brake rotors in excellent condition.

This Article Contains:

Let’s get started.

How To Remove The Rust On Rotors

No car owner likes to see the orange patches of rust dust on their brake rotor surface. 

But your approach to cleaning a rusty brake rotor largely depends on how much rusting has already happened.

If you notice a rust spot or rust dust on the brake rotor (aka brake disc) after parking your car outside for a few days, the rust spot could be superficial.

In that case, removing the rust from disc brake rotors is easy.
Just take your car for a spin and slam the brake pedal a few times. 

When you depress the brake pedal, your braking system gets engaged. As a result, the friction surfaces of your vehicle’s brake pads squeeze and rub against the brake rotor surface several times. 

You might hear a squealing or grinding noise when this happens, and the superficial surface rust on the rotor surface should go away.

However, if the rust persists even after a few rounds of slamming your brake pedal and stop-and-go driving, the rust may not be superficial — it probably runs deep.

Generally, there are two ways in which you can deal with this kind of rust:

  1. Clean up your rotor disc
  2. Grind your rotor disc

Either way, it’s best to leave this part to a professional mechanic.

That’s because grinding or cleaning up rusted rotors requires specific tools (brake cleaner, lug nut wrench, etc.) and expertise. So, you may not be well-equipped to do the job.

Here’s what a professional mechanic would do:

1. Park your car and place wheel chocks to avoid rolling.

2. Loosen the wheel nuts using a lug nut wrench.

3. Elevate your car using a floor jack and support it with jack stands.

4. Remove the wheel and then locate the brake discs or rusted rotors.

5. Remove the brake calipers and brake pad set.

6. Use a brake cleaner and steel wool (or wire brush) to scrub and remove the rust and brake dust on the friction surface, central hub, and the outer edge of the rotor.

7. Grind the rotor if the rust doesn’t go away even after scrubbing with the steel wool or wire brush and the brake cleaner.

8. Wash, rinse, and wipe the brake rotor, brake caliper, and brake pad set.

9. Check the brake pad set for signs of rust or corrosion.

10. Reassemble the brake rotor, brake calipers, and brake pad.

11. Use the lug nut wrench to fasten the wheel nuts.

12. Take the car for a test drive and confirm if your brake system works as expected.

If the front or rear rotor rust is excessive, it could affect your brake performance. In such cases, your mechanic may suggest getting a new rotor for your vehicle.

But why does rust form on disc brakes or drum brakes?

What Causes Rust On Rotors?

Unless you have a sports car equipped with expensive carbon-ceramic brakes, your vehicle would likely have cast iron, steel, or alloy brake rotors. 

While brake parts and rotor materials are durable and sturdy, they tend to undergo oxidation (rusting or corrosion) when exposed to:

The problem, however, is that exposure to environmental elements and factors like brake dust is commonplace in normal driving conditions. And so, a rusted rotor is somewhat inevitable. 

Moreover, some scenarios can make things worse, resulting in rusty rotors.
For example, the chances for brake rotor rusting can increase if you leave your car:

It’s essential to understand that the degree to which the disc brake rotors in your vehicle rust greatly depends on the material. 

If your brake rotor is made of a metal alloy, you’ll probably encounter only light surface rust (or corrosion). On the other hand, if your vehicle uses steel or cast iron rotor, it’s a lot more susceptible to severe rusting.

This brings us to a question: how worried should you be about a rusted rotor?
Let’s find out.

Should You Be Concerned About Rusty Brake Rotors?

Rotor rust is pretty common.

Usually, the rust is superficial (a thin orange film on the braking surface.) It usually goes away as you drive the vehicle for a bit and engage the braking system. 

If the orange patches persist after several rounds of using the brake system, it indicates that the rust has penetrated deep. Although rusting may not result in a warped rotor, it’s likely that the rust results in uneven wear of the brake disc or rotor and compromises its structural integrity.

And driving around with this compromised brake rotor might be a safety hazard.

In this event, we recommend you take your car to an auto repair shop or request a mobile car technician’s help ASAP. They’ll tell you if your rusted rotor can be fixed or whether you’ll need to get new rotors.

Next, let’s go over how you can combat brake rotor rust to avoid this from happening to you.

3 Tips To Prevent Rotor Rust

Here are three ways in which you can stall rotor rusting:

Tip #1: Avoid Parking Your Car In Humid Climates Or Spaces

As a rule of thumb, avoid parking your car in humid places.

For starters, you can:

Essentially, park your car in moisture-free places to decrease the chance of rust developing on the friction surface and other sections of your front or rear rotor.

Tip #2: Be Wary Of Road Salt Build Up

Over time, as your car clocks miles, road salt builds up near your car’s wheels and other exterior areas. And when moisture and road salt comes in contact with the brake rotor and other bare metal (unpainted) parts, it can accelerate their rusting.

To protect against such salt-induced rusting, keep these two pointers in mind:

Tip #3: Use Coated Rotors

Consider applying a layer of anti-corrosion coating or paint on the braking surface, outer edge, and center hub of your disc brake rotor.

The anti-corrosion paint will help protect against brake rotor rust or corrosion, allowing you to maintain optimum braking performance.

Some cars already come equipped with painted or coated rotors. If you have coated rotors, there’s no need to apply an anti-corrosion coat of paint — you’re already covered.

Now that you know what you can do to prevent rusting, we’ll look at the most accessible way to keep your brake rotor in perfect condition:

The Best Way To Keep Your Brake Rotor In Top Condition

If the rust on your rotor doesn’t go away, it’s best to get in touch with a professional mechanic.

But when hiring mechanics, always ensure that they:

And if you want to hire mechanics who fulfill these criteria at affordable prices, get in touch with RepairSmith — a hassle-free and convenient mobile auto repair solution.

Here’s how you can benefit from RepairSmith handling your repair needs:

Closing Thoughts

Rusty rotors aren’t out of the ordinary. 

Your cast iron, steel, or alloy brake rotor can rust if your car is parked in the garage or outside too long.

But if the rust isn’t superficial and won’t go away after you’ve braked a few times, that could be a cause for concern. If you notice this happening with your car, have a professional mechanic inspect it as soon as possible and check if you need a new rotor.

And for hassle-free and affordable braking system repairs, reach out to RepairSmith. Our experienced auto repair personnel will come to your driveway for all repair needs!