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How To Apply Brake Lube

Your vehicle’s brakes use friction to slow down and stop. During the braking process, brake pads are hydraulically pressed against the brake rotor. While it may seem counterintuitive to use lube on a system that relies on friction, lubrication is essential to brake function.

Ensuring that your brakes work properly is one of the most important steps you can take as a vehicle owner. Your safety—and the safety of your passengers and others on the road—depends on it.

In this PowerStop guide, we explain how to properly apply brake lubricant and discuss the areas where lube should be applied for both disc and drum brakes.

How Do I Lubricate Brakes?

To properly apply brake lube, you don’t just slather on some grease or oil. Due to the unique conditions under which brakes operate, specific lubricants are required. 

Even with moderate use, brakes reach extremely high temperatures. Ordinary lubricants can melt under these extreme conditions, and could possibly drip or splash onto other components of the braking system, including the brake pads and brake rotors. When brake rotors are slippery, they will not work.

If you are preparing for a brake job, remember to purchase the right lubricants along with your new rotors and pads. Lubricants made from petroleum-based materials can deteriorate plastic and rubber seals. When lubricating areas with plastic or rubber components, use a synthetic non-petroleum or silicone-based lubricant. To lubricate metal-on-metal components, use a dry film lubricant that contains either graphite or molybdenum disulfide. 

While installing your brakes, it’s important to pay attention to where you place lubricant. Generally speaking, lubricate all the moving or sliding components to ensure noise-free braking and proper system operation. You’ll want to put down the minimum amount of lubricant. A thin layer is all that’s needed. Place lubricant on all caliper bushings and slide pins, on the abutment clips after they’re installed on the caliper, and on the edges of the pad mounting tabs. The tabs vary widely for each vehicle model. 

Applying lubricant to the back of the PowerStop pads is not required. Our multi-layered shims are noise tested without lubricant and designed to ensure noise-free braking. If desired, apply a thin layer of lubricant to the backside of the pad, where it comes into contact with the caliper piston. 

Be very careful to not apply lube to the friction side of the pad. That is where the stopping power comes from, and lubricant would cause your brakes to simply stop working.

Tips for Applying Brake Lube

Consider the following tips when lubricating your brakes:

  • Before applying lubricant, use a soft cloth to clean away any loose materials such as dirt or dust off the braking system.
  • Spray the braking system with brake cleaner and wipe the area dry with another soft cloth.
  • Use a file or small grinding tool to remove any rust or other hardened materials from the braking system.
  • Once you have removed all dust, rust, and dirt, clean the braking system again with cleaner and a soft cloth.
  • Finally, place a small dab of lubricant on your finger and carefully coat the specific area of focus. Again, as discussed above, be sure not to apply any lube to friction points.

Where to Apply Brake Lubricant on Disc Brakes

Apply brake lubricant to every point in the braking system where components move or slide. When lubricating disc brakes, apply lube to the:

  • Caliper slides
  • Pins
  • Bushings
  • Self-adjusting mechanisms on rear disc brakes with locking calipers 
  • Contact points where the pads slide within the caliper housing
  • Parking brake cables and linkage

You can also use brake lube to decrease vibrations between the caliper pistons and disc brake pads. However, do not apply lubrication between the pads and noise suppression shims. Use lube sparingly between the caliper and pad shim or on the back of a bare pad.

Never apply any lubrication to the friction surface of a brake lining.

To lubricate hydraulic components, such as the piston seals inside wheel cylinders and calipers, use silicone-based brake lube. These types of lubricants will enable smooth movement of the seals as well as helping to prevent these parts from corroding or sticking.

When selecting a lubricant for disc brakes, consider the following:

  1. Make sure that it is labeled as a brake lubricant on the package. If it is not, do not use it. Some lubricates may claim to be silicone-based, but they may not be specially formulated to work on brakes.
  2. Check the lubricant’s effective temperature range. At a minimum, brake lubricants should be able to withstand temperatures up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  3. Assess the materials within the lubricant. Check to see if the brake lube contains petroleum distillates or any materials that can harm soft brake components.

Where to Apply Brake Lubricant on Drum Brakes

If you have rear drum brakes, lubricate the following: 

  • The backing plate’s raised pads that support the shoes
  • Star adjuster mechanisms
  • Hinge points for self-adjusters or the parking brake linkage
  • The parking brake cables

Never lubricate the inside of the drum where the shoes contact the drum. Lubricating these areas can prevent the brakes from working. Use lube anywhere you find metal-to-metal contact between moving parts, such as where the shoes slide.

The parking brake usually uses your vehicle’s rear drum brakes, so lubricate the parking brake cable and any moving parts or linkages. The adjustable star-wheel that separates the shoes can be prone to freezing, so lubricate this area as well.

Do not use dry film lubricant where the lube might contact rubber or plastic seals.

Do not over-lubricate. It’s important to avoid excess lubricant dripping into places where it shouldn’t go.

Have a Question? PowerStop Can Help

At PowerStop, we work hard to create premium-quality performance brakes for every vehicle on the road. If you have a question about any of our products, contact us now online or toll-free at (888) 863-4415. Our customer service team is available to answer your questions Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (CST). Se habla español.

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