Home car painting Brake Cleaner on Car Paint: Damage and Dangers

Brake Cleaner on Car Paint: Damage and Dangers

by Peter Morris
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Every mechanic or auto enthusiast has a brake cleaner in their toolbox. It is a potent solvent with the ability to easily remove oil, grime and brake fluid from brake systems. But when it comes into contact with car paint, its potency can also have unforeseen effects.

This article investigates the harm that this cleaner could do to cars’ paint such as solid paints, metallic finish paints, pearlescent paints and matte paints as well as the risks you should be aware of.

What is Brake Cleaner?

A solvent made especially for cleaning brake systems is called brake cleaner. It is a strong material that can remove tough grime, grease and brake fluid, leaving your brake system clean and operating at peak efficiency.

Acetone, methanol, isopropanol and ethanol are often the key ingredients in brake cleaning. Although these substances are quite good at removing dirt, they may also harm other things, including car paint.

Brake Cleaner

Brake Cleaner

Brake cleaner spray, often known as brake cleaner, is a common kind of brake cleaning. This makes the application simple, especially in difficult-to-reach places on your brake system. The spray, however, can also result in unintentional contact with other automobile components, including the car bumper, car door, car roof and car surface.

Where Should You Not Use Brake Cleaner?

Avoid using brake cleaners to clean the following things:


  • Car Interior
  • Powdered paints
  • Plastic components
  • Close to open flames

Never use it in close proximity to a flame or another hot location. When used in this way, the cleaner may become harmful to the person. Furthermore, stay away from applying brake cleaners on plastic materials, powdered paints, and inside your car.

Because of the aforementioned compounds, it is harmful for the driver and passengers to let vapors inside the automobile. The cleaner will cause powdered paints to crumble if it comes into contact with them. In the video below, a brake cleaner is placed near a fire:

The cleaner is especially deceptive on plastic materials since they will get cleaner before breaking. Although the end product may be attractive, the plastic components in your car won’t be worth the damage. Remind yourself to cleanse your skin right away if you spill the cleaner on it. Take prompt medical action if ingested.

Will Brake Cleaner Remove Paint?

Yes, brake cleaners’ harsh chemicals can damage car paint since it is not made to handle the powerful solvents they contain. Solvents like acetone and methanol can peel away the clear coat layer. This damage compromises the external integrity of the automobile, making it vulnerable to corrosion, scratches and UV.

The effect of brake cleaner on car paint

The effect of brake cleaner on car paint

How to Handle Brake Cleaner Spills on Car Paint

Accidents happen, and brake cleaners may unintentionally contact the car paint. If this occurs, it’s essential to take early action to reduce the harm. Here’s a how-to for dealing with brake cleaner spills on car paint in a step-by-step fashion:

Blot off the cleaner

Blotting off the cleaner comes first. Gently dab the spill to absorb as much brake cleaners as you can using a soft cloth. To prevent the cleaner from spreading and perhaps causing further harm, avoid rubbing or scraping.

Wash off the cleaner

The next step is to wash any leftover cleanser off after blotting up as much as you can. Gently wash the afflicted area with water after applying a light detergent. To carefully cleanse the area and remove all of the brake cleaner, use a clean towel or sponge.

Wash the affected surface

After removing the cleanser, thoroughly rinse the afflicted area with water. This will aid in ensuring that the paintwork is completely free of the cleaner’s remnants. Dry the area completely after rinsing it off to avoid water stains and further harm.

Washing the car after being contaminated with brake cleaner

Washing the car after being contaminated with brake cleaner

After removing the brake cleaner, it is preferable to use the following techniques to bring back the shine to your car’s paint:

What Is Re-Spray and How Much Is It?

Re-spraying is the process of removing the damaged paint from your automobile and applying a fresh coat. You may either do this for the entire automobile or just the troublesome location. The size of the area that has to be re-sprayed, the amount of damage and the type of paint used all factor into the cost of repainting. The sum might be in the hundreds to over a thousand dollars range. To receive a quotation from a reputable auto body shop and receive an accurate estimate, it is best to do so.

Professional Services for Paint Repair and Restoration

You might want to consider hiring a professional to repair, restore and wax your car’s paint if the car exterior has suffered considerable damage. Professional auto body shops can guarantee that the new paint precisely matches the rest of your automobile and that paintwork damage may be repaired efficiently with a fine car polish.

Despite being more expensive than do-it-yourself fixes, this can deliver the greatest outcomes and assist in keeping the value of your automobile.

Preventive Measures and Best Practices

There are various precautions and recommended practices you can take to prevent brake cleaners from damaging your car. Always use this cleaner in a well-ventilated place and put on safety gear, including gloves and goggles, to protect yourself from the strong chemicals.

When applying the cleaner, direct the spray on the brake system rather than the car paint or other delicate car mechanical parts. To prevent unintentional contact with the car paint, remove any other metal components from your car before using brake cleaners on them.

brake cleaners

brake cleaners

If the brake cleaner does come in contact with the paint of your automobile, take immediate action to blot, wipe, and rinse the impacted area as explained in the preceding section. The cleaner might cause less harm if you respond quickly.

Alternative Uses for Brake Cleaner

Although the primary purpose of brake cleaner is to clean brakes and help the brake system, it may also have additional advantages. Other applications of these cleaners include:

Cleaning Other Metal Parts in Your Car

Another application for brake cleaner is cleaning metal components in your car, such as nuts and bolts. Even though the cleaner’s main use is for your brakes, it may instantly help with metal cleaning. Be careful not to use plastic or paint, though, since the cleanser will damage these materials.

brake cleaners

brake cleaners

Floor cleaner

Floors are susceptible to smudges, much like clothing, especially if they are near where people conduct business. For instance, using floor dry to facilitate the task might be followed with brake cleaner to clear the remaining oil. Car stains on concrete driveways and patios may also be removed using the same procedures.

You must use brake cleaner carefully and watchfully to prevent it from seeping into the carpet. Avoid using them on carpeted areas if better solutions are available. They could scuff up cleaning equipment, surfaces they clean, rubber or plastic materials.

Apply the cleaner solely to the soiled area if you have no other option and immediately wipe off the remainder. Slow responders risk causing harm to their carpets. To receive the proper amount of air, keep the windows always open. Smells should not be breathed in at all. Before applying the solution to the carpet stain you wish to remove, check the surface in an area that won’t be seen.

brake cleaners

brake cleaners

Ink and Paint Remover

Acetone and other substances included in contemporary brake cleaners make it simple to remove paint and ink. Before using them on your brakes, you should always try it out and apply it in a well-ventilated environment. Brake cleaning has an unpleasant scent that should not be used inside.

Removing Oil Stains

Once more, maintaining our automobiles may be a dirty process. When we have oil stains or brake fluid on our clothes or shop towels, a brake cleaner is a lifesaver. To remove the stain, apply gently just to the afflicted area. This stain remover is more effective than others and offers a different way to get rid of your most difficult oil or paint stains. You will have cleaned the metal in your automobile, your workspace and your clothes with the help of these techniques.

Also Read: Will Coconut Oil Damage Car Paint?

Cleaning Cement

When working on their cars, technicians and auto enthusiasts sometimes spill paint, oil, brake fluid or other staining chemicals on cement. Brake cleaner also removes paint off cement in a manner similar to how it does from vehicles, except in this instance, you want the paint removed. Make sure you just clean the spill area by using it properly. Thoroughly clean the area once the paint, oil, or stain has been removed.


Although brake cleaner is a useful tool for keeping your car’s brake system in good shape, it can harm the car paint. You may use the cleaner safely and successfully by being aware of the possible hazards and being aware of how to clean up spills. Always use brake cleaner sensibly and take precautions to save the paint and other delicate parts of your automobile.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is aluminum okay to use brake cleaner on?

Brake cleaner works well to remove oil, excess brake fluid and debris, but it can react with aluminum and lead to corrosion. Avoid using this cleaner to clean aluminum parts.

Can brake cleaner be used to wash your hands?

The strong chemicals in brake cleaning can be damaging to your skin. It is not advised to wipe your hands with brake cleaner.

How fast will brake cleaner remove paint?

On contact, brake cleaners can almost instantly begin to erode car paint. The powerful chemicals of it have the potential to completely remove the clear coat layer of paint, which is exceptionally brittle.

Is brake cleaner a good paint remover?

Brake cleaner is not an excellent paint remover even though it can harm and remove car paint. Other materials may also be harmed, and the paint surface may become uneven. Utilizing a solution created especially for paint removal is recommended.

What destroys car paint instantly?

Nail polish, lacquer thinner, shoe polish and brake fluid are a few things that may rapidly lead to paintwork damage. If not properly removed, acid rain, brake fluid, tree sap and bird droppings can potentially harm car paint.

Also read:Does Rain Damage Car Paint?

What paint is resistant to brake cleaner?

Some paint varieties, like caliper paint, are made to survive the corrosive elements in brake cleaning. Brake cleaner, however, does not adhere to the majority of car paint types.

Is brake cleaner stronger than acetone?

Generally speaking, brake cleaner is more potent than acetone. It has a combination of brake-cleaning solvents, including acetone, that are made to remove tough grease, residue and filth. So, it’s a great car grease removal, car oil removal and car dirt removal product.

Can a brake cleaner be used on my vehicle?

You may use brake cleaner on your automobile to clean the brake system from grime and excess brake fluid, but you should apply it cautiously to protect the paint and other delicate components. It works well for cleaning metal components like the brake system.

Is brake cleaner bad for clear coat?

Yes, brake cleaner may remove the clear coat layer from car paint, exposing the underlying color layer and making it vulnerable to additional harm.

Can I use brake cleaner to strip paint?

Although a brake cleaner can take paint off of surfaces, doing so is not advised. Other materials may also be harmed, and the paint surface may become uneven.

Where should you not use brake cleaner?

Brake cleaning supports the brake system and should not be used on painted surfaces, aluminum components or rubber plastic. The abrasive solvents in brake cleaning can harm these materials.

What will brake cleaner damage?

Plastic, aluminum, rubber and brake cleaner can all be harmed by them. Use it with caution because it might injure your eyes and skin as well.

Is brake cleaner corrosive?

Aluminum, among other materials, may be corroded by brake cleaner. The use of brake cleaning on certain materials is generally not recommended.

Is brake cleaner good for cleaning oil?

Oil and brake fluid stains on metal components and concrete surfaces may be removed with brake cleaners, which are quite effective at removing oil.

Why do technicians clean everything with brake cleaner?

Brake cleaner is a strong and adaptable cleaning product for the brake system that mechanics frequently use. It can successfully remove dirt, oil, and grease from a range of surfaces. To prevent harming delicate textiles, it should only be handled carefully.

Can painted calipers be cleaned using brake cleaner?

It’s preferable to avoid applying brake cleaner on painted surfaces to minimize potential damage, even though some forms of paint, like caliper paint, may tolerate the strong chemicals in it.

Does brake cleaner contain trichloroethylene?

Methylene Chloride (MeCl), Perchloroethylene (Perc) and Trichloroethylene (TCE), which are categorized as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), are the main components of chlorinated brake cleaners.

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