Product Test: Brake cleaner

Product Test: Brake cleaner

NO-ONE likes a mucky braking system but, thanks to how a car’s brakes operate and where you’ll find them, they can get clogged up pretty quickly.

Just by using the brakes, the system gets dirty as dust from the pads is liberated and then spread around the wheel well as the disc spins – to say nothing of grime, dust and dirt from the road itself.

Braking is a filthy business and because brakes get so hot, the filth gets quickly baked on too. Eventually, all of the dirt flying about can interfere with the operation of the calipers.

Brake cleaner is specially formulated to break down this kind of muck and clean off any components exposed to brake dust to get everything moving again.

How we tested them

Brake cleaner is designed to cut through some of the most cloying greases and particulates you’ll find in a car. As the most obvious place to find baked-on brake dust is a mucky alloy wheel – and there’s no shortage of those in the Workshop Magazine car park! – we set to work to see how the products dealt with shifting the worst, to leave a nice, shiny set of boots.

Draper – ‘Hard Graft’ Brake and Clutch Cleaner

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How much: £8.26 inc VAT
Where from: drapertools.com

Unlike the other products here, the Draper cleaner comes in a spraymist bottle instead of a pressurised can. This has an effect on the product’s usefulness, as it makes precision application – of what is a pretty corrosive product that should be kept away from plastic and rubber components – very tricky indeed. However, it is rather good at actually shifting the dirt once in place and neither takes too long to evaporate nor dries too soon.

Four stars

Valvoline – Brake Cleaner

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How much: £7.09 inc VAT
Where from: eurocarparts.com

It’s close between the Draper and Valvoline products for the runner-up spot behind the Wynn’s. There’s not much to choose between them when it comes to getting through dirt and lifting it off – the Valvoline does an excellent job on fresher debris and deals with older stains well too, and it remains damp on the surface long enough to wipe clean without leaving much residue behind. It essentially comes down to the fact that the Valvoline has a precision nozzle, meaning no waste.

Four stars

Triple QX Brake and Clutch Cleaner

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How much: £3.59 inc VAT
Where from: eurocarparts.com

It’s a solid but not stellar performance from the Triple QX product. There’s no argument over how it deals with surface grime, but it struggles a little with the more worn-in stuff, needing a bit of working in with a wire brush to really get at it – and even then, there’s some residue left behind. You’ll also need a couple of extra applications compared to our leading group, and it does dry out just a little sooner than is useful.

Three stars

Solent Maintenance – Brake and Clutch Cleaner

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How much: £2.87 inc VAT
Where from: cromwell.co.uk

The slightly larger can of the Solent brake cleaner is a mild giveaway that you’ll need more of it than the other products here. It’s fine for some superficial cleaning, but we found it to be less effective when it comes to deeper and more ingrained brake dust and dirt. It also dries phenomenally quickly, which means it can leave some of the muck behind and you’ll need another application to get rid. Like the other cans, it has a precision applicator nozzle.

Two stars

Wynn’s – Brake and Clutch Cleaner

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How much: £7.00 inc VAT
Where from: halfords.com

When we tested the Wynn’s last year it won, and it defends its crown well. Alongside a fairly high- pressure application from the precision nozzle, the Wynn’s cuts through any dirt, whether recent or cooked-on for months, and neither dries too quickly nor lingers, so it’s easy to wipe off the surface and will take the muck with it. It’s the product of choice for cleaning up a sticky brake caliper.

Five stars

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