At some point in life, driving in the rain becomes inevitable. You might have heard that it’s necessary to dry your brakes after driving through a rainstorm or splashing through a puddle. However, it’s usually not a cause for concern unless you’re driving an older vehicle.
Dry your brakes while driving by lightly tapping the brake pedal to release any water caught between the brake pads. This is only necessary for vehicles with drum brakes on the front and rear. Most modern cars utilize disc brakes that do not hold water and, therefore, do not require drying.
In this article, I’ll explain what happens when brakes get wet and how to dry them. I’ll also discuss potential issues caused by moisture on rotors or brake pads. Read on to learn more.
As you drive through puddles or on wet roads, the vehicle’s tires spin water from the ground up into the wheel well. This water may splash onto the brake pads or rotors. Considering that most modern brake components are made of cast iron, it’s natural to wonder if it’s safe to expose them to moisture.
For the most part, it’s no big deal, especially if your car has disc brakes. However, if you have front and rear drum brakes, you may want to take some extra precautions.
Let’s take a look at how these two brakes differ and what happens if they get wet:
- Disc Brakes – Most modern vehicles have disc brakes. These brakes consist of a large metal disc (rotor) that rotates as the tires spin. On each side of the rotor, there are two brake pads. These brake pads clamp down onto the rotor creating friction to slow down the vehicle.
- Drum Brakes – Drum brakes are found on older vehicles or the rear of newer economical cars. Instead of a disc, drum brakes utilize a large cylinder (drum) that rotates with the tire. The brake pads push onto this cylinder to slow down and stop the vehicle. Since drum brakes are an enclosed system, water can become stuck inside and get between the brake pads causing a few seconds of slippage.
If disc brakes get wet, the open design allows water to drip off the brake pads with ease and causes no issues. If drum brakes get wet, they may hold water in the cylinder allowing it to get between the pads. Water in between brake pads can cause slippage. Release the water by braking lightly.
Though wet brakes may sound frightening, they rarely cause significant issues, especially with today’s vehicles.
If your vehicle utilizes drum brakes, here’s how to dry them:
- Lightly tap your brake pedal after driving through a puddle. Do not slam on the brakes, as this can cause sliding, especially in wet weather conditions.
- Release the brakes. Allow the vehicle to coast for a moment if possible.
- Tap the brakes again. By now, you should have released the water from the brake pads.
- Repeat after driving through water. Whenever you drive through a significant wet patch, you’ll want to lightly tap the brakes again to release any water.
After light braking, any slippage associated with wet drum brakes should cease — at least until you drive through another puddle.
Though wet brakes rarely cause issues, moisture can lead to rust over time. This is a relatively normal occurrence and eventually happens to all brakes exposed to oxygen and moisture.
Fortunately, surface rust is nothing to worry about. In fact, as you drive the vehicle and brake regularly, the brake pads scrape against the thin layer of rust on the rotors, leaving a smooth, clean surface.
Excessive rust, on the other hand, is a serious problem. If your vehicle has been idle for weeks or months, check the rotors and brake pads before driving. Extreme corrosion warrants brake replacement; this uneven, rusted surface can lead to uncomfortable and potentially dangerous vibrations while braking. These vibrations can eventually cause issues with the suspension or the loosening of important bolts.
Additionally, if you have drum brakes and notice them slipping even in dry conditions, have them checked immediately. It could be a brake fluid leak, or the brake pads are too worn to make adequate contact with the cylinder. These are both serious issues that must be addressed sooner rather than later.
See also: Does Brake Cleaner Remove Rust?
Wet brakes can make a grinding or squealing sound. Grinding sounds may occur as rust is shaved off the rotors. It typically happens after braking the first few times during a drive. Surface rust friction may cause squealing sounds. If the sound persists, have the brakes checked by a mechanic.
Any other sounds, such as clunking, clicking, popping, or otherwise, should also be evaluated. These sounds could indicate other issues with the vehicle.
The Bottom Line
Unless you’ve driven through extreme flood conditions (which you should never do) or let your vehicle sit idle in the elements for weeks or months, wet brakes are unlikely to cause any serious problems.
However, if you’re having brake trouble and are unfamiliar with vehicle maintenance and repairs, it’s best to get the opinion of a trusted automotive technician. Brake issues aren’t something to take lightly. Serious problems can compromise your safety.