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Does brake fluid ruin brake pads?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Heckler, Dec 22, 2009.

  1. Heckler
    Joined: Mar 20, 2005
    Posts: 200

    from Austin, TX

    Got a little sloppy when I was bleeding the brakes tonight. 53 buick, front drums......put on new wheel cylinders tonight. I have a hard pedal, but the car doesn't want to stop!

    Also, when it is finally coming to a stop, it's kinda "jumpy". Like it goes 'er, er, er, errrr' (like if you were slowly pushing your finger across a wet piece of glass). Ya'll know what I'm saying, right!?

    I pulled everything apart and I think I must have gotten some brake fluid onto the drum/pads - the pads have a shiny/greasy look to them.

    Anyway, these damn brake shoes are expensive and will take me at least a week to get new ones.

    Is there something I can use to clean up the pads? Can I sand them down a little? What do you think?

    Thanks! Heckler.....
  2. Hyway Hauler
    Joined: Aug 31, 2009
    Posts: 670

    Hyway Hauler

    Remove your drum and spray with brake cleaner. (inside of drum, and all brake parts) Your shoes are not ruined, they are just greasy.

    P.S. you can buy brake cleaner at most parts store. spray parts, blow off with compressed air and repeat.
  3. plym_46
    Joined: Sep 8, 2005
    Posts: 3,442

    from central NY

    After the shoes have been sprayed and cleaned, do some surfacing with some emery cloth to abrade the friction material where the brake fluid got on them. If it soaks in like from a leaking wheel cylinder it will usually cause them to chatter and grab.

    Clean the drums also.
  4. spununit
    Joined: Aug 9, 2008
    Posts: 119


    Brake fluid will not ruin the brakes, I have always used thinners to clean them, let them dry out a bit then hit them with some rough paper. You might have do it a few times if the fluid has really soaked in.
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  5. daliant
    Joined: Nov 25, 2009
    Posts: 608


    It sounds like you need new shoes. You can try to clean them with brake cleaner and sand them but they wont be 100%. Check the grease seal too while you have it apart.
  6. If they're just spattered, I've cleaned them with carb cleaner, lacquer thinner or brake clean. In the case of a blown wheel cylinder, I've usually replaced them.

    In the interest of saving you a few bucks, I'll go with the others, clean, sand, reinstall and give 'em a try. If they still grab or stop poorly, replace the shoes.

  7. R Pope
    Joined: Jan 23, 2006
    Posts: 3,218

    R Pope

    After you clean them, if they still chatter, ride the brakes for a mile or so and burn the crud off. Note:clouds of smoke means too much pedal pressure!
  8. plym_46
    Joined: Sep 8, 2005
    Posts: 3,442

    from central NY

    If you need new friction material, take a look around your area (do people remember the Yellow Pages) and look for a commercial vehicle brake shop. The will be able to remove the contamiated shoe/s and bond or rivet new material on, usually for not a lot of money. this was standard practice in the day, before people decided that they needed to discard old parts and buy new ones. The metal shoes would be cleaned and relined and the reinstalled, or swapped for ones that the shop had rebuilt and had on hand using your shoes as cores to be relined and shelved for the next guy.
  9. Road Runner
    Joined: Feb 7, 2007
    Posts: 1,220

    Road Runner

    I once had a leaking wheel cylinder with new brake shoes, I just installed.
    Took them off and boiled them in water with dish washer detergent for 1/2 hour and it worked. They were like new again and didn't grab.
  10. Dave B.
    Joined: Oct 1, 2009
    Posts: 210

    Dave B.

    From what I've read, products like Brakleen and contact cleaners for electrical devices are chemically similar to dry cleaning fluid. [Note: this refers to the 'non-environmentally-friendly products - not the ones in the green cans!] I've used these solvents many times to clean brake pads and shoes that have been contaminated with brake fluid. I [obviously] don't have a problem with using this method, as long as the contamination was [1] recent and [2] hasn't penetrated deep into the pad/shoe.

    My method is to thoroughly spray the surface of the brake material and then sponge off with a clean paper towel. Repeat until there is no visible sign of the contaminant. I've never noticed any adverse performance or pad wear using this method.

    Finally, as a precaution, I always wear nitrile gloves when working with this stuff... it can't possibly be good for your hands!!
  11. Shaggy
    Joined: Mar 6, 2003
    Posts: 5,208

    from Sultan, WA

    myself i'd run 'em they'll probably wear in after a bunch of miles otherwise it shouldnt cost too much to reline them

    Everyone will probably hate my post, but that is my take on it
  12. nutajunka
    Joined: Jan 24, 2007
    Posts: 1,466

    from North Indy

    Remember safety first, get yourself a pair of safety glasses or goggles, because that brake cleaner will set your eyes on fire or worse.........:rolleyes:
  13. Shaggy
    Joined: Mar 6, 2003
    Posts: 5,208

    from Sultan, WA

    I'll tell ya from siphoning experience it dont taste worth a crap either
  14. Clean as outlined here. But, don't forget to re-grease where the shoe drags on the backing plate (usually 3 pads per shoe). Then, any remaining contaminents should cook out from heat while driving
  15. Iceberg460
    Joined: Jun 6, 2007
    Posts: 880


    Should be able to clean them with lots of brake clean and air, I like to scuff them up with a red zip wheel (scotch-bright pad on a rotary tool of some kind).
  16. I've seen Speedi-Dri work in a pinch on shoes that were contaminated from a blown axle seal. Bury the shoes for a while and let the stuff leach the oil out. Cat litter might work too. However, I'd replace the shoes if they were mine.
  17. redoilman
    Joined: Dec 20, 2009
    Posts: 24

    from iowa

    I've would just use hot water and maybe a scothbrite pad and give them a quick scuff, rinse out the drums also.. One thing brake fluid hates and thats water! Always worked for me in the past.
  18. john walker
    Joined: Sep 11, 2008
    Posts: 998

    john walker

    if it's just a bit on the surface from 10 minutes ago, brakekleen usually works, then sand them. otherwise, you will never get them bone dry again, so toss them. safety first, yours and everyone in your path.
  19. Road Runner
    Joined: Feb 7, 2007
    Posts: 1,220

    Road Runner

    Actually quiet the opposite - Brake fluid is hygroscopic, meaning it attracts and retains moisture.
    Making it necessary to bleed the brakes on a regular basis and to not store brake fluid for a length of time, once the original seal is broken.

    Water alone doesn't dissolve brake fluid.
    That's why you need a detergent when washing it off your hands.

    Boiling in water with detergent gets even very badly soaked linings as dry as they can be.
    The detergent lifts the brake fluid and the boiling water flushes it out.
    It's a very safe method, doesn't cost anything and works.

    Solvents like brake cleaners, with a low flash point, don't penetrate much past the surface.
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2009
  20. plym49
    Joined: Aug 9, 2008
    Posts: 2,808

    from Earth

    First you clean your brake pads as already described.

    Then you see if the pads have glazed . If so, use a rasp (there is actually a special file that is used for this, it looks like a flat rasp with teeth that look like the arced scales of a fish) to roughen them up.
  21. MrCreosote
    Joined: Jul 23, 2009
    Posts: 157

    from USA

    Old post but still relevant and I have a contribution:

    I like the idea of the boiling w/dishwater detergent (Dawn?) but didn't think of it.

    Friend said he bakes pads at 500*F in an oven to burn off all oils, however that temp may cause adhesives to fail.

    I opted to ultrasonic clean with a solution of Super Clean degreaser. When I started, water would bead on the soaked brakes - now it wets them (did this overnight mostly soaking since cleaner shuts off after about 30 minutes.)
  22. pdq67
    Joined: Feb 12, 2007
    Posts: 787


    If you can even get it, use Methylene Chloride, or next PERC, the dry cleaning stuff.

  23. Rocky
    Joined: Mar 3, 2001
    Posts: 13,660

    Classified Editor

    It's been over 13 months since "Heckler" posted on the HAMB....I assume he wasn't killed due to brake failure in his Buick. I wonder if he got his linings clean or replaced them. Too bad he didn't update this thread.
  24. sharky65
    Joined: Nov 17, 2016
    Posts: 1


    Was trying to find out if I could clean the brake fluid off the new shoes I installed when I came across this discussion. I had similar problem like Heckler and ended up with a good bit of brake fluid on the rear right shoes I just installed. I'm going to try boiling them with detergent and then cleaning with brake cleaner.

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