How to Clean Contaminated Brake Pads?

Brake pad contamination is something that can happen with any vehicle. The type of contamination the brake pad has determines how hard it would be to clean it. Most vehicles’ brake pad contamination is caused by engine oil, grease or fluid, making it hard to get the contamination off the brake pad because the pad absorbs the oil. Unlike water, the oil does not dry up when subjected to heat from brake use.

You should know how to clean contaminated brake pads if you find yourself with one. It will help your brakes last longer.

how to clean contaminated brake pads

Causes of Car Brake Pad Contamination

Contaminated brake pads are anything that comes from the friction between the brake pad and rotor. When external elements get to the surface of the brake pad or rotor, it could stop the proper friction that is needed to stop the wheels during braking.

Below are the causes of brake pad contamination.

1. Grease, motor or brake oil

One major cause of brake pad contamination is motor fluids like engine oil, brake oil, or any grease / anti seize getting to the brake pad’s surface or rotor. Oil on brake pads is very much possible, especially when poor maintenance is done on the vehicle. Oil can spill and get into the front wheel and contaminate the front brake pad.

Also, when damaged, the brake fluid line could cause the fluid to leak in the wheel and get to the brake pads. When all these fluids get their way to the brake pad, it could lessen the effect of brakes whenever you hit the brake pedal.

2. Dust

Another form of contamination that could occur due to the brake pad dust. Due to the brake pad’s location, it is easy for dust to get to it and accumulate there. A large amount of dust accumulated could slow down the effectiveness of the brake pads.

3. Rust

Rust is a common form of contamination that is mainly caused by water, rain, snow, or dew. When these substances get to the surface of the rotor or brake pad, they will cause the metal parts to rust. As time goes on, if you do not clean brake pads and lubricate them, the rust will continue to increase and cause thedamaged pad. 

How To Clean Contaminated Brake Pads?

It would help if you had an excellent, easy-to-understand guideto clean disc brake pads. When cleaning the contaminated brake pads, you must also clean other brake parts, like the caliper, rotor, and others. If you fail to do so, it could contaminate that brake pad after a while.

Below is an easy-to-understand guide to cleaning your brake correctly.
Cleaning Brake Pads You Tube

1. The first is to remove the wheel. Doing this is relatively easy; you will first have to loosen the lug nuts, lift the vehicle and unmount the tire. Go ahead to remove the brake pads from the calipers. You can take out the brake pads by unscrewing the pin cotter.

2. After getting the wheel out and the brake pads, you can clean the rotors. The rotor does not absorb oil like the brake pads. It is made using semi metallic brake pads or ceramic brake pads,which makes it easy for them to absorb oil and other forms of contaminants.

When cleaning the rotor, use isopropyl alcohol; if you do not have this, you can use ethyl alcohol. Apply the substance to a rag that is slightly hard. You can also use a degreasing detergent which will be used to remove oil from the rotor more efficiently.

3. The next step is to clean the brake caliper; you can also use isopropyl alcohol or ethyl alcohol. Clean both the surface and the inside of the caliper. Also, clean the pistons, as the oil contaminated mixed with dirt could stop the piston from moving.

4. Now that other brake parts have been adequately cleaned, it is time to move on to the brake pad. You have to get an absorbent paper and dab it on the pad, trying to absorb as much oil on the brake pad as possible.

5. Clean the brake pad using degreasing detergent or isopropyl alcohol. You can start with the alcohol and then clean again with the detergent.

6. After using the detergent, you can use a brush and the alcohol substance to wash out any other residue.

7. After this procedure, install all the wheel parts back in place and tighten every bolt and nut properly.

Can Contaminated Brake Pads Be Saved?

Yes, it is possible to save contaminated brake pads from contaminants. You first have to examine the brake pad for the extent of damage the contamination has done to it. If the damage is not that much, you can clean the pad.

clean brake pads

When oil gets to the brake pad, it absorbs the oil, just like it can absorb other liquid substances like water. The difference is that water could quickly get dried up due to the friction and heat generated when the brake is used, and the oil will remain in the brake.

You can check the brake line to check the extent of damage caused by the contamination. If the contamination is too high, replace the brake pad to avoid risk.

Can You Use Wd40 To Clean Brake Pads?

You can use Wd40 on brakes to remove or dissolve tough oil, grease, or brake fluid residue on the brake while leaving the brake shining and clean. You can use the Wd40 on the rotor, brake assemblies, clutch, and other parts of the wheel.


A contaminated brake pad could cause a lot of damage to the surface of the pad. If the contamination is from engine oil, grease, or brake fluid, the effect could be worse and require more cleaning. The residue left by any vehicle’s fluids cannot be removed by ordinary detergent; you need special chemicals to clean the residue from any part of the vehicle.

You can use alcohol or special detergent, like degreasing ones, to clean the brake pad of oil residue. Ensure to check the degreasing detergent, as some come with a lubricating effect and, when used, makes the stains even worst. Thus, it is clear to you, how to clean contaminated brake pads?


Mr. Shafiqule Islam is a graduated Mechanical Engineer and has more than 15 years experience of repairing and maintenance of different brand vehicles like Toyota, Mitsubishi, Ford, Mercedes, BMW etc. He is also giving training to Mechanics. He has started writing to share his practical knowledge to Vehicle Owners, Drivers and Mechanics to keep their cars at best fit.

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