Can I apply brake cleaner on aluminum – is it ok? Will my brake cleaner eat up aluminum parts of my car? What are the weird white spots that I am seeing when I apply brake cleaner on aluminum parts? Answers to all these questions are below!
Brake cleaners should clean aluminum surfaces without damaging them at all. But few brake cleaners prohibit using them on aluminum on their warning label. It is essential to know the composition of your brake cleaner to understand whether you should use it on all parts of your car or not?
Aluminum is one of the most abundantly used metals in the automobile industry. Thus most brake cleaners should have appropriate reagents that aluminum can tolerate. Let’s see how the composition of brake cleaners affects their reaction to aluminum.
Which Brake Cleaners React With Aluminum?
Usually, non-chlorinated brake cleaners are the ones that react with aluminum, forming white spots or streaks. In most cases, manufacturers take care of this by adding agents, but it has been known to happen (we will talk more about non-chlorinated and chlorinated brake cleaners in the subsequent sections).
While most food brake cleaners use high-end additives to ensure they do not react with any metal present in the car. But few brake cleaners interfere with the structure of aluminum and react with the metal, disrupting the outer layer of aluminum metal and often leading to the formation of aluminum dioxide on the metal surface.
What Is Brake Cleaner Made of?
As the name suggests, brake cleaners are used for cleaning parts of a car, especially engine blocks, including the brake system. It is also used to clean the area under the vehicle.
Brake cleaners are preferred over other cleaning agents for the volatile nature of the cleaner. The cleaning agent evaporates after washing, and therefore, it leaves no marks of its own on the surface.
Brake Cleaners are classified into two groups depending on their composition. They are grouped into Chlorinated one and Non-Chlorinated one.
Chlorinated Brake Cleaners
Organic chlorine compounds like dichloromethane perchloroethylene and tetrachloroethylene were originally used as brake cleaners. These brake cleaners are safe as they are non-flammable. Moreover, chlorinated brake cleaners dry quickly, thus preferred by many car owners and mechanics.
Although they are not flammable, they contain volatile compounds such as perchloroethylene, tetrachloroethylene, etc. The problems with these compounds are two-fold. One of their breakup products, phosgene, is highly poisonous to all living beings.
As they are “volatile,” they are easily degradable. If you accidentally burn the cleaner, it would not give rise to flames but release poisonous gasses.
The second problem with compounds like tetrachloroethylene is that it depletes the ozone layer. Because of this reason, it is no longer used in any brake cleaners.
Non-Chlorinated Brake Cleaners
To find a solution to these problems, non-chlorinated brake cleaners were manufactured. They are made of non-volatile organic compounds such as isopropanol, acetone, higher alkanes, and other hydrocarbons obtained from the fractional distillation of petroleum.
These compounds are less toxic than volatile organic compounds present in chlorinated brake cleaners. But these compounds are highly flammable, making them unsuitable for various purposes.
You can not use Non-chlorinated brake cleaners before welding or for removing grease.
Non-chlorinated brake cleaners take longer to dry and are not soluble in all solvents. For these reasons, it is not preferred by mechanics, and they are preferred over water and detergent but not over chlorinated brake cleaners.
Flammable and Non-Flammable Brake Cleaners
Moreover, non-chlorinated brake cleaners are more pricey than their chlorinated counterparts. Brake cleaners are also grouped into non-flammable and flammable brake cleaners.
In most cases, Chlorinated ones are called non-flammable, and non-chlorinated ones are called flammable brake cleaners.
Various Uses of Brake Cleaner
- Brake cleaner is mainly used to get rid of grease and clean metallic parts of a car, but not those sensitive parts. Perchloroethylene is a chemical used in laundry as well as brake cleaner. You can use brake cleaners to remove food stains and oil stains from oily food.
- You can also clean stained floors of the backyard, concrete, garage, etc., by brake cleaners. You can use Brake Cleaner to remove streaks made by ink and paint and permanent markers.
- You can clean Guns and keep them spotless with the help of brake cleaners which are cheaper than popular gun scrubbers.
What Components of Car Are Made From Aluminum?
Aluminum compounds cover 8.1% of the earth’s crust. Aluminum is abundant in combined form, and the combinations are mined and then extracted to yield a soft, lightweight, and malleable metal through various processes.
Due to its malleability and lightweight, it is used in various industries. Aluminum is mainly used in aircraft and automobiles. Multiple parts of cars are made of aluminum, such as air conditioners, wiring metals, wheel frames, hoses, transmitters, and many parts of the engine block.
Aluminum is the principal metal used in making the framework of the vehicle. As many of the parts of your car are made up of aluminum, you would want a cleaner that does not harm aluminum.
Frequently Asked Questions
#1. Does brake cleaner damage aluminum?
No, most brake cleaners do not damage Aluminum, and manufacturers make brake cleaners considering the wide use of aluminum in the automobile industry. Modern-day cars have various parts in the engine and body made of aluminum due to their lightweight.
But cleaners such as simple green have ill effects on aluminum parts. Many car owners and mechanics reported the simple green Degreaser to be damaging the aluminum parts of their cars.
#2. What should you not use the brake cleaner on?
Most brake cleaners are safe for use on car engine parts and the underfloor of a car. But it would help if you did not use flammable brake cleaners on a hot surface or a surface before welding.
Moreover, few brake cleaners and degreasers are known to eat up metals such as Aluminum and grease. You should never use any brake cleaner on a plastic surface.
It would be best if you read the warning level on the bottle of your brake cleaner.
#3. What Degreaser is safe for aluminum?
Both Chlorinated and non-chlorinated degreasers are safe for aluminum. But few of the non-chlorinated variants might eat up the protective layer of aluminum. You are advised to use carb cleaner rather than brake cleaner on aluminum parts of your car.
#4. Does brake cleaner damage metal?
Brake cleaners are made to clean and degrease parts of your automobile that are made up of various metals. Most good brake cleaners do not damage any metal, but a few of the cheaper variants mix the wrong additives to the cleanser, making it corrode metals like aluminum.
Cheap Brake Cleaners Eat Up Aluminum
Good quality brake cleaners, be they chlorinated or non-chlorinated, do not interfere with the structure of aluminum. But cheap ones may substitute an additive with a more affordable variant of the same chemical.
Sometimes cheap, non-chlorinated brake cleaners may have additives that might react with aluminum parts in your car, and leave white spots or streaks on them
These additives react with the outer protective layer of aluminum, thus damaging it. It will help if you go through the constituent list and warnings on the brake cleaner’s bottle label before buying it.
Alternatively, you could also use other cleaners such as carb cleaner, which is made to clean the carburetor but cleans aluminum effectively without any negative impact. Thank you for reading, we hope you enjoyed the article. If you have further questions, feel free to drop us a comment in the comment box and we will get back to you as soon as we can.