Cleaning Wheels With Carbon Ceramic Brakes

Updated: Dec 31, 2019

For most people reading this, washing our cars is a pretty routine and fun process. Proper wash process and two bucket methods are talked about often. A third bucket for wheels is talked about less often and cleaning wheels with carbon ceramic rotors is basically never talked about anywhere ever.  Let’s get into it! The do's and don’ts of cleaning wheels with carbon ceramic brakes.

The first set of Brembo carbon ceramic brakes was manufactured for the Ferrari Enzo in 2002. Brembo, along with others, had applications for carbon ceramics long before 2002 mainly for aerospace.  This kind of performance part is still fairly new to the auto world and rarely seen on a car under six figures. This has resulted in the topic of how to care for them; a bit of a mystery due simply to lack of information.

Carbon ceramic rotors are pretty sensitive to cleaning products. They are porous as well, meaning cleaning products will soak deep into the rotor. Using the wrong products on carbon ceramic rotors will lead to discoloring, impact brake performance and potentially severely damage the material itself. This is not good when the average cost of a carbon ceramic Rotor is $8000! Cleaning wheels with carbon ceramic brakes incorrectly can be rather costly as you can see.

We know what you are thinking… carbon brakes are terrifying and I’m going to run away from them as fast as I can.  The reality is that wheels sporting carbon ceramic brakes are the easiest wheels to clean!  Carbon ceramic brakes produce virtually zero brake dust.  I mean like they literally do not dust at all.  What’s on the wheels will be what’s on your paint: Normal road dirt from driving around.  The kinds of cars that have this kind of brake setup are typically not being driven very much either, meaning there should not be huge buildup of dirt anyway.  Like most detailing related things it’s a good idea to start with least aggressive methods first. A lot of people jump to “what wheel cleaner do I need to use?”. I would ask that person “Why do you think you need a wheel cleaner? Is it just because it’s a wheel and manufacturers make products called wheel cleaner?” The fact is this. 95% of the cars with these kinds of brakes need to be pressure washed and dried and that is it. If you can afford a car that is this expensive, I recommend you find a detailer that is reputable and have them remove the wheels and fully wash and decontaminate them. Then ceramic coat them to make them even easier to clean and less susceptible to getting dirty.

When the wheels don’t seem to respond well to our least aggressive methods, I recommend neutral car shampoo with no additives. If you like to clean wheel barrels be careful around the rotors as it is possible to chip a carbon ceramic rotor. We don’t recommend you use any fallout removers (the ones that turn purple) on your wheels unless you fully remove them from the car. If removed, you can use any product you like with no worry of hurting the rotors.

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