Brake Dust. Click image to enlarge
Article by Simon Hill
Anyone old enough to remember the early ’80s – or young enough to appreciate ’80s music in a retro-classic kind of way – will no doubt remember The Monks’ loud and lewd punk anthem about a blind date gone wrong, with singer Terry Cassidy belting out the song’s signature line, “Nice legs, shame about her face!”
That song has kinda stuck with me over the years. Not because of any disappointing blind dates, mind you, but because I’ve owned a number of German cars since then, and lusted after more than a few that I didn’t own. They’ve all had nice alloy wheels. They’ve all been fun to drive. They’ve all had brakes capable, I’m sure, of taking on the Nürburgring. And with one exception, they’ve all been impossible to keep truly clean, thanks to the clouds of Nürburgring-worthy brake dust they spew all over their front alloys within a day or two of being washed. “Nice wheels,” it leaves me thinking, “shame about the dust.”
The one exception was my old E30 325. It had aftermarket dust shields that looked a bit like rubber frisbees and sat just inside the stock bottle-cap alloys, invisible to the eye. My local tire shop told me I should remove these because they could cause the brakes to overheat if I ever took the car to the track. “Tell you what,” I said, “if I ever take the car to the track I’ll swap out the crappy all-season tires first, and I’ll remove the dust shields at the same time.”
What’s with all this focus on the track, anyway? I’ve heard the same argument from a Porsche engineer when, looking at a test car’s now-blackened $3,120 Carrera Classic alloys, I remarked that Japanese and domestic marques don’t seem to produce nearly so much dust. “If we use different brake pad materials, brake performance would suffer,” he told me. Which I suppose might be true, unless you’re including “days between wheel washings” as one measure of brake performance.
Maybe it should be one of the various options offered up when you’re making your purchase: “Standard track-ready brake pads – $0; Optional street-ready dustless brake pads – $200 (Caution: not for track use, do not exceed six consecutive stops from 160 km/h).”
Hell, you could recoup the extra cost in car wash savings within the first six months of ownership, and your car would finally look good between wash days. And as for why you’d be doing 160 km/h in the suburbs in the first place, well, that’s something you might want to explain to the police….