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Why do cars with alloy wheels gather brake dust on their front wheels?

Cars equipped with alloy wheels appear to suffer heavier accretion of brake dust on their front wheels. Is there a reason?
Brian Herring from Kent (Age 55+)

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One Response

  1. HI Brian

    Several things may be happening here: first, and most important, the front wheels do most of the work in stopping your car. This is because when you put the brakes on and the car starts to slow down there is a transfer of weight from the back wheels to the front wheels. This always happens in any vehicle whose centre of gravity is above the centre of its wheels, so the car’s designers make use of this phenomenon by arranging for the front wheel brakes to be more powerful than the back wheel brakes. More brake power equals more wear on the brake pads, so if your car has disc brakes all round you’d expect to see more brake dust on the front wheels than on the back ones.

    BUT many cars, even if fitted with alloy wheels, have different brakes front and back. The front brakes will almost always be discs, but the back ones may be drums – and in these the brake dust can’t easily escape from the inside of the brake drum.

    Why do they use different brakes? Drums are not usually as powerful as discs, but its easier to make the handbrake work on a drum brake than on a disc. So you put discs on the front where the brake power will do most good, and use drums at the back, where the lower power won’t matter, and where you can easily arrange for the handbrake to work.

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