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  1. #1
    Bicycle Rider & Mechanic Trekbikedude's Avatar
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    Any Alternatives To clean Rotors?

    Are there any alternatives to cleaning Disc Brakes Besides isoploryl alcohol or denatured alcohol? I need to clean my front rotor because it is squealing. Please list any alternatives to clean tham off. Thanks by the way, how should you clean the rotors, can anybody list the process of it in steps there are probably some ways with different out comes. Thanks for any help.


    John

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    la vache fantôme phantomcow2's Avatar
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    you could boil it.
    But why dont you want to use alcohol of some sort? Its the best stuff for it
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    fanatik Speedub.Nate's Avatar
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    Dish soap (soapy water). Works pretty well.

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    Unemplawyer
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    I'd imagine automotive brake cleaner or parts cleaner would do the job too (watch out for your paint though! and anything it hits that needs lube will need to be re-lubed) but if you don't like alcohol, these are probably worse, they are pretty harsh chemicals. But they clean just about anything, and leave no residue.
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    Flowbie
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    Wow, this again? I'd have thought you'd get used to the squeal by now.

    Nothing beats denat. and as for cleaning, I just soak an old t-shirt and wipe them down. So far no problems.

    Oh, all brakes squeal. Somedays worse than others

  6. #6
    Cycle Year Round CB HI's Avatar
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    Take a look at the owners guide. Some solvents can damage the rotors and brake pad. Soap and water works for cleaning. Alcohol can remove a soap film if you do not rinse well after washing.

    That said, check the brake adjustment. Is the wheel fully set in the dropouts and is the quick release tight? When braking, the forces on the rotor tend to push the wheel out of the dropouts. Are all the bolts on the rotor and brake mechanism tight? If not they vibrate and squeal. Can you adjust the left and right side pads, bad adjustment causes a squeal.

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    Lemon juice. Seriously.
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  8. #8
    My life be like ooh aah anthonaut's Avatar
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    You can use any bike/car disc brake cleaner (comes as a spray can)
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  9. #9
    Light Makes Right GV27's Avatar
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    Brake cleaner is sorta the right stuff for cleaning brakes.

    Garnet sandpaper the reddish-tan stuff can also be used to clean pad deposits off them. You MUST use Garnet though - other sandpapers will ruin them.

    Chris

  10. #10
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by McGRP01
    Lemon juice. Seriously.
    Stop it you're killing me! Where do you people come up with this stuff?

    Chemistry lesson: Lemon juice is an aqueous (that's science talk for water based) solution (more science talk for a mixture) of citric acid (the stuff that makes lemons sour), water, sugars (yes there are sugars in lemons... several in fact) and some plant material left over from the squeezing process. It has a pH of about 3 which increases as the water dries. What's left behind on the metal rotors is everything above just in a higher concentration.

    I'm not exactly sure what alloy is used for disc rotors but it's not aluminum in most cases and that leaves an alloy of iron, possibly a stainless alloy of steel since they don't seem to rust. Iron (and it's alloys) don't generally like acidic environments, or rather, they like them too much. Iron is a hussy that likes going places with that exciting acid. It'll pick up and run off with just about any acid and if there are lots of acid molecules around, iron will party hearty . The only thing that iron likes better than acid is chlorine, as in sodium chloride or common table salt. But if you live where it snows you should know all about that. Your rotors probably won't fall apart but acid ain't good for 'em!

    As for the alcohol thing, alcohol is a polar solvent (even more science talk for liking water). That's why methanol (wood alcohol), ethanol (grain alcohol or denatured alcohol or bourbon) and 2-propanol (rubbing alcohol) can be mixed with lots of water - an infinite amount of water. But the problem with being able to mix with lots of water is that they don't do so well with oils. That's oils from grease and oils from your skin - the most likely oils to be on the disc rotors. To take those oils off the rotors requires something less polar or hydrophobic (doesn't like water). Those solvents are things like acetone (okay but not great), mineral spirits (paint thinner) or the mixtures developed by automotive companies for cleaning brakes on cars. I wouldn't use the brake cleaner like I might on a car's brakes but sprayed on a cloth and used to wipe down the rotor should work to remove any grease from installation or handling.

    And thus ends today's chemistry lesson.

    P.S. DO NOT substitute denatured alcohol for bourbon! You can, if you like, clean brakes with bourbon or you can drink it. You CANNOT drink denatured alcohol. IT HAS BEEN POISONED!
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  11. #11
    I drink your MILKSHAKE Raiyn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trekbikedude
    Are there any alternatives to cleaning Disc Brakes Besides isoploryl alcohol or denatured alcohol? I need to clean my front rotor because it is squealing. Please list any alternatives to clean tham off. Thanks by the way, how should you clean the rotors, can anybody list the process of it in steps there are probably some ways with different out comes. Thanks for any help.


    John
    Why? Won't they sell you denatured alcohol? The ONLY thing I recommend for cleaning rotors is
    DENATURED ALCOHOL.

  12. #12
    universal tool
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    This is a great question with many answers. Disc squeal can be caused by many factors. Cleaning the rotor will not nessesarily help with disc squeal. Anyhow, let me go over some options suggested and my take on them:

    1. Products made specifically to clean disc brakes: I don't recommend them because they tend to leave unknown residue. If you spray this on your pads and rotor, that residue will end up inside the porous brake pads. Whether this is bad or not, I leave up to you, but I want no such residue in my brake pads. Better than nothing, especially for removing oil contamination from rotor.

    2. Isopropyl rubbing alcohol: this also contains trace residue. I give it the same rating as disc brake cleaning sprays.

    3. Pure acetone: use 100% pure actetone with no scent or coloration. Acetone will remove any oils very effectively. Very little trace residue.

    4. Dawn dish detergent. This stuff is food grade, that means there is basically no residue after rinsing. It will remove oils, salts and organic materials. Use a toothbrush to scrub the rotor. This will help eliminate contaminants from the vent holes in the rotor. Rinse with water well.


    Other causes of squeal:

    1. Improperly adjusted brake caliper.

    2. Poor alignment of disc brake tabs. Get a good shop to check the alignment with a disc brake facing tool. If they don't have the tool or don't know how to check the alignment, go someplace else. A reputable shop will own the magura or spot facing tool and know how to use it. Most suspension forks are OK from the factory, but very, very few frames have properly aligned disc brake tabs.

    3. Glazed or contaminated pad/rotor combination. Sand pads and rotor with new, clean sandpaper. Don't take a lot off the surface of the rotor, just scuff so it looks bright and scratched. Pads should have the top layer sanded off so any discoloration is removed. If pads are contaminated with oils or DOT fluid, some success has been had wet-sanding the pads liberally using solvent 1, 2 or 3 above.

    Make sure the rotor bolts are tight, that the caliper and adaptor mounting bolts are tight and that the wheel is set in the dropouts properly.

    Sometimes a simple mud or waterbath will kill a squeal. I spilled gatoraide on my rotor once and it squealed horribly until I rinsed off the sugar.

    Anyhow, good luck and let me know how it goes...

  13. #13
    Light Makes Right GV27's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wonko_the_chain
    3. Glazed or contaminated pad/rotor combination. Sand pads and rotor with new, clean sandpaper. Don't take a lot off the surface of the rotor, just scuff so it looks bright and scratched. Pads should have the top layer sanded off so any discoloration is removed. If pads are contaminated with oils or DOT fluid, some success has been had wet-sanding the pads liberally using solvent 1, 2 or 3 above.
    I'd like to endorse this idea and reiterate what I posted before - use the RIGHT sandpaper when you do this! I know that there is a defintie bias on this board toward using whatever-oddball-thing-is-in-the-house and against using the correct product, but really this will be helpful. Use Garnet sandpaper! It's extremely common and extremely cheap. Available at any hardware store, Wally-Mart, etc. I've even seen it at the grocery store.

    The thing about Garnet paper is that it is made out of tiny chips of gemstones (garnet duh) and one of the properties of a gemstone is that they're pretty well inert. There are not many things that they will react to. So when you sand your rotors the garnets will not react with the rotors and stick to them.

    Aluminum Oxide is probably the most common type of sandpaper - though garnet is right up there with it. The problem w/ aluminum oxide is that it is a metal and will react somewhat with your rotor matererial. A small amount will end up stuck to the rotor and could cause problems. You end up contaminating the rotor worse.

    I know it's a haribble PITA - but just go to the hardware store and spend a lousy buck on a sheet of the right sandpaper.

    C

  14. #14
    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wonko_the_chain
    1. Products made specifically to clean disc brakes: I don't recommend them because they tend to leave unknown residue. If you spray this on your pads and rotor, that residue will end up inside the porous brake pads. Whether this is bad or not, I leave up to you, but I want no such residue in my brake pads. Better than nothing, especially for removing oil contamination from rotor.
    Automotive brake cleaner uses a highly volatile solvent and leaves no residue. It's probably the most effective thing you can use, especially for oil or grease contamination on the rotors and pads. You should remove the pads from the calipers before using to prevent the stuff from damaging the paint on the caliper or frame. Just spray it on and let dry.

  15. #15
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GV27
    The thing about Garnet paper is that it is made out of tiny chips of gemstones (garnet duh) and one of the properties of a gemstone is that they're pretty well inert. There are not many things that they will react to. So when you sand your rotors the garnets will not react with the rotors and stick to them.

    Aluminum Oxide is probably the most common type of sandpaper - though garnet is right up there with it. The problem w/ aluminum oxide is that it is a metal and will react somewhat with your rotor matererial. A small amount will end up stuck to the rotor and could cause problems. You end up contaminating the rotor worse.
    Please. Please, stop it you're killing me!

    Chemistry lesson 2: What is, and isn't, a metal or why you don't use aluminum oxide on disc rotors.

    Garnet is a calcium aluminum silicate. It's a rock but kind of a hard rock. Ranks right up there with quartz on the old Mohs hardness scale of 6.5 to 7.5. It will scratch a metal pocket knife (Mohs scale of 7) but the knife will not scratch it. But it won't take off big honkin' bits of the knife since it's not that hard. Since garnet is in the middle of the Mohs scale which goes from 1 to 10, it's a nice "soft" hard rock.

    Aluminum oxide is an oxidized form of the metal aluminum - hence its name. It is also a ceramic. Aluminum metal is pretty soft as we all know. But, and this happens a lot, when you combine the aluminum with something else, the properties change. Oxidize the aluminum properly and you can make a very tough material. So tough, in fact, that only diamonds are harder!

    Now, if you take a chunk of aluminum oxide and scratch your knife with it, you don't just scratch it, you can take a big hunk out of it. If you take a piece of paper to which has been glued garnet particles and use it to sand your disc rotors, you just barely scratch the surface. But if you take a piece of paper to which aluminum oxide has be glued and use it to sand your rotors, you start taking off lots of the rotor surface! Way lots! More than you want, even with light sanding. And, if some of it comes off during the sanding, it will imbed in the rotor and do a great job of being an abrasive there too.

    And, boys and girls, that is why you use garnets to sand your rotors rather than aluminum oxide.

    Oh, and by the way, aluminum oxide is not "metal". It is an inorganic compound. It is not ductile nor maleable nor will it conduct electricity. In fact it is a great insulator! And you have to use massive amounts of electricity to separate the aluminum from the oxide which is why we recycle aluminum around the world.

    Class dismissed. Test on Thursday.
    Stuart Black
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    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by supcom
    Automotive brake cleaner uses a highly volatile solvent and leaves no residue. It's probably the most effective thing you can use, especially for oil or grease contamination on the rotors and pads. You should remove the pads from the calipers before using to prevent the stuff from damaging the paint on the caliper or frame. Just spray it on and let dry.
    Do keep it way from the bearings as it will do a great job of removing grease.
    Stuart Black
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute
    Stop it you're killing me! Where do you people come up with this stuff?
    He asked what would clean rotors. Lemon juice does CLEAN rotors just fine.
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  18. #18
    I drink your MILKSHAKE Raiyn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by supcom
    Automotive brake cleaner uses a highly volatile solvent and leaves no residue. It's probably the most effective thing you can use, especially for oil or grease contamination on the rotors and pads. You should remove the pads from the calipers before using to prevent the stuff from damaging the paint on the caliper or frame. Just spray it on and let dry.
    I just love using aerosol products I love having to take apart my bike just to clean the rotors.

    Denatured alcohol plain, simple and cheap and recommended by the major brake companies

  19. #19
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by McGRP01
    He asked what would clean rotors. Lemon juice does CLEAN rotors just fine.
    My, we are testy, aren't we? If the goal is to get CLEAN rotors, lemon juice won't work "just fine". It will leave a lot of gunk you don't want on the rotors which, by definition, isn't clean, now is it?

    I haven't tried a lot of things that I know don't work so I don't need to try this one either.
    Stuart Black
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  20. #20
    Senior Member G4teamG's Avatar
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    Man, wait till someone asks a question about V-brakes. Guys, we're all here to learn and exchange some ideas. I think some of the advice is sound, it's just the delivery that might rub some people the wrong way. By the way, where can I buy some denatured alcohol? I've got the same promblem on my new discs too.

  21. #21
    I drink your MILKSHAKE Raiyn's Avatar
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    Denatured alcohol can be found at your local hardware store. It's also commonly sold in camping equipment stores

  22. #22
    Senior Member G4teamG's Avatar
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    Thanks Raiyn, gonna pick some up tomorrow. By the way, as far as sanding discs, is it a good idea? What grit? Circular motion or clockwise/counter clockwise? Thanks!

  23. #23
    I drink your MILKSHAKE Raiyn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by G4teamG
    Thanks Raiyn, gonna pick some up tomorrow. By the way, as far as sanding discs, is it a good idea? What grit? Circular motion or clockwise/counter clockwise? Thanks!
    Why would you want to? All you'll be doing is decreasing the service life my removing material. So long as it's clean the pads will do a fine job of scuffing the rotor
    Quote Originally Posted by knight rider
    wow alot of choices here, but still who is right?
    I'm the wrench, and I follow the instructions given by the manufacturers. Take that however you want.

    Side note: Dawn dish soap works so long as you rinse COMPLETELY.
    The alcohol on the other hand evaporates on its own.

  24. #24
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by knight rider
    wow alot of choices here, but still who is right?
    All together now... ME!

    Honestly, alcohol, acetone, paint thinner, or just plain soap and water will work. Some are better than others. If I were wanting to remove grease contamination, I'd use paint thinner since it would dissolve grease the best. If I only had alcohol - rubbing or ethanol - I'd use those. I wouldn't use a flood of any of them. Just a little on a clean rag will do the job. If you are using more than a gallon at a time you are using way too much. This also holds true for cleaning rims for those of us who have bikes with rim brakes.
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute
    My, we are testy, aren't we? If the goal is to get CLEAN rotors, lemon juice won't work "just fine". It will leave a lot of gunk you don't want on the rotors which, by definition, isn't clean, now is it?

    I haven't tried a lot of things that I know don't work so I don't need to try this one either.
    I do apologize for my prior language.

    It's a matter of Semantics I guess... Lemon juice is used in a lot of cleaning products and is known to cut grease, oil and other residue. So, along those lines, it can be used to remove brake fluid, chain lube, etc. from a rotor just fine. I have no doubt that you know a thing or two about bikes, and you're obviously an intelligent person, but... just because someone has an idea or opinion other than your own does not make it inherently wrong. I guess it's a "don't knock it until you've tried it" thing. Have a great day.
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