What can I use to clean black brake dust off my alloy wheels?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Nov 01, 1999

Dear Tom and Ray:

I purchased a new 1997 Mercury Cougar. After driving for two weeks, the hubcaps
were covered with black brake dust. I went back to the dealer and the service
manager said, "That's normal. All Fords have brake dust. Look in the owner's
manual and it'll show you what to do." I looked in the manual, and there's no
mention of brake dust! So I wrote to the CEO of Ford Motor Co. at the time, Alex
Trotman, and related my story. I told him the removal of brake dust with a
toothbrush every two weeks was not acceptable maintenance to me. He never
replied. I checked with another Ford dealer, who recommended PAM or silicone
spray. The PAM attracted flies, and the silicone left a black smudge. I tried
Castrol Super Clean for brake dust, and it was no better than soap and water. Any
suggestions? -- Dick

TOM: Well, I can't understand why Alex Trotman never got back to you. I know he
was trying to run a multinational corporation and all, but brake dust is

RAY: It's an absolute scourge, isn't it? It's related to the design of the wheels
and how the brakes are ventilated. It's important to keep air moving over the
brakes so they cool off. But if the air is drawn out through the wheels, it also
draws out dust from the brake pads.

TOM: And if you leave that dust on the wheels -- particularly alloy wheels -- it
can eventually react with the metal and cause pitting.

RAY: Some car companies are solving this themselves by redesigning their wheels.
They obviously got tired of having their CEOs spending four days a week
responding to letters about brake dust. So you might check with your Mercury
dealer to see if the wheels have been changed since 1997 to correct this problem.

TOM: Other than that, your only choice is to clean them every week. If you keep
up with it, the spray-on soaps -- like Castrol's or the foam cleaner made by Kiwi
-- work pretty well. But if you let it sit for more than a week, you'll probably
have to get on your hands and knees with the toothbrush.

RAY: That's what my wife does. Hey! I wonder if that's why I've been get that
funny taste when I'm brushing my teeth?

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