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Tire Talk: ‘Dusting’ for Clues

Understanding the Science Behind Solving Customer Brake Dust Complaints


d, in a very strong German accent, that she owned German motor cars for a great many years and knew that her brakes were working hard because she could see the dust on her wheels right from the start.


To this woman, brake dust was a sign of German engineering and was actually a positive indicator of the ruggedness of her brakes. While her opinion may not be widely held, it clearly shows that people can interpret the same thing in very different ways.

OE vs. Replacement
In the design domain, dust is one of the parameters of friction material selection that must be balanced in consideration with other factors, such as lining output and fade performance.

The general rule is that higher output and improved fade sensitivity will increase the amount of dust. A vehicle manufacturer must make a judgment on the relative balance of these factors.


In the service environment, the shop owner tasked with solving the brake dust issue is kind of stuck in the middle. If you just put a set of factory replacement pads on the vehicle, the dust will surely come back.

For vehicles with a strong history and reputation for dust, it is important to be up front with the owner at the time of the write-up. Are they there because of the dust condition? Do they expect the condition to go away with the repair? Would they accept some small changes in brake performance in exchange for a reduction in the dust performance?


Helping them understand some of the fundamentals of dust may help alleviate some of their concerns. This isn’t to suggest that dust should be ignored. Excessive dust can be a strong indication that the linings and rotors are significantly worn.

Your most effective solution for dust is to offer an alternative friction material. Generally, if a material has performed well for dust on one vehicle, that performance will transfer to another vehicle. That’s not to suggest, though, that all braking performance attributes will transfer. It is still critical to use a material that is recommended for that vehicle or vehicle class.


By explaining the origins of the dust and that dust really has minimal bearing on the performance or safety of the brake system, you will hopefully reduce their concern about safety and nuisance. 

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Tomorrows Technician