• Jul 14th 2009 at 11:29AM
  • 69
When wheels are covered with brake dust, the entire car looks dirty and in many cases, a basic wash will do little to rectify the problem. Most associate brake dust as a mere nuisance, but others actually see the sight of pad particles as a fundamental problem with the functionality of a vehicle's brakes. That may sound a bit strange to some, but J.D. Power seems to agree that brake dust is indeed a quality problem.

The long-running quality survey added brake dust as one of its 228 quality concerns back in 2006 in response to several survey-takers filling in "brake dust" as a write-in complaint. David Sargent, vice president for automotive research at J.D. Power, told The New York Times that brake dust is given the same weight as serious mechanical malfunctions. The reason, says Sargent, is that customers don't feel that brake dust is "trivial," and while malfunctions can be repaired, brake dust lingers for a very long time.

When asked by The Times why brake dust is even on a quality survey, Sargent mentioned that the survey gauges consumer perception, adding "the purpose of the study is to report back problems as defined by consumers."

Conversely, Consumer Reports does not use brake dust as a quality issue. Vehicle testing head Mark Champion admitted to the Times that cleaning brake dust is annoying, "but it is not actually a failure of the brakes." What say you? Hit the jump to take part in our poll.

[Source: NY Times Wheels Blog]

Does brake dust affect a car's quality?
Yes -- J.D. Power is right, brake dust is a quality issue. 432 (19.6%)
No -- Brake dust may be annoying, but it doesn't belong on a quality survey. 1777 (80.4%)

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      This is just further evidence of the dumbing down of the American Consumer. The car culture we had in the 60's and 70's this would have been a non issue.

      Given that fact that most people cannot drive stick, change a tire or even change their own oil -- this does not surprise me. Also, nobody washes their own car because there was a report this morning about the major boom business in the US right now is car washes.

      This is the same stupidity as we have with digital cameras where there is a belief that more megapixels will make better pictures.

      Consumers have access to more information and are less informed than they ever have been because they know more about American Idol than just about anything else.

      Wow! simply wow!
        • 6 Years Ago
        People had to know more about cars in the 60s and 70s because they broke more.

        I've driven over 200,000 miles without having to change a tire on the roadside (I've done it in my garage voluntarily though), for example. When a car now can go 40,000 miles with nothing but gas and oil, you don't need to know as much about them.

        When I got into computers in the 70s, there were "users groups". People had to get together to help each other figure out how to use the damn things and keep them running. Nowadays they're far easier to use, so you don't need to have users groups anymore, the "computer culture" isn't as big as it once was. But that doesn't mean computers aren't as good or that people aren't getting good use from them.

        When something works well you don't have to become obsessive about it to use it and that's a good thing.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Why is everyone talking about cars having brake dust, when this article is to show how retarded JD Power really is. JD Power considers things like 'too many cupholders' a legitimate problem on a car, then tells the public that the car is horrible.
      • 6 Years Ago
      This points to just one of the problems with the JD Power surveys, especially as they are reported in the non-enthusiast media:

      1) A separate NY Time blog pointed out that one of Mini's "problems" was its unusual ergonomics for the IP and peripheral controls. http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/02/mini-conundrum-does-quality-matter/?scp=1&sq=power%20mini&st=cse. A customer can easily see this "problem" before buying and after a week or so of regular use these unusual controls will be second nature. (Of course, we do want the folks at Hertz and Avis viewing this as a "problem.)

      3) Closely related: subjectivity of the reported "problems." If you are going to have, for example, the S Class Benz share a list with the Toyota Yaris, simply having subjective criteria such as "excessive wind noise" doesn't make sense. Expectations are very different for the purchasers of these two cars.

      2) The media reporting on JD Power surveys tend to be of the "Brand X best, Brand B worst" variety. In this year's IQ survey the range between "best" and "worst" was from 84 "problems" to 164 "problems" per 100 cars. For someone buying one car this translates to 8/10 of a "problem." That should matter to the manufacturer paying for warranty repairs on 100s of thousands of cars, but for a consumer?

      3) The survey of brands is probably nearly meaningless. Knowing that Chevy has 103 "problems" per 100 cars doesn't tell you whether an Aveo, a Malibu, or a Corvette will have high initial quality. (Power releases some model specific data, but the media coverage tends to focus on brands).
      • 6 Years Ago
      Having customers report problems is fundamentally flawed. Go ask 10 random people questions about their cars. More than just the color. And tell me if YOU feel they adequately could analyze and discuss with you anything scratching the surface of detail about their car.

      Now, tell me you think asking a bunch of owners if aggregating their replies makes the data even the least bit valuable?

        • 6 Years Ago
        There is always some merit to listening to the people who hold the pursestrings. Even if their complaints are stupid, if you can fix them you will increase the chances of repeat business and/or turn them into someone who will recommend others buy from you.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I don't believe that brake dust raises the question of overall car quality, just the quality of the brake pad materials. Unfortunately, most cars bought today have standard metal pads on the brakes, which, when used, shave off and leave deposits of dust on the car. If people don't want to see brake dust on their wheels, then buy better (carbon, ceramic, silicone) brakes when you replace them. I personally have ceramic brakes on my car, and brake dust is rarely an issue, if ever.
      • 6 Years Ago
      So, the JD Power people would rather have one blown transmission, than only one cup holder and some brake dust.
      If brake dust is a quality issue then BMW owners must be the saddest people alive, that or they have two-tone wheels standard.
      • 6 Years Ago
      If customers perceive it as a problem, then it is a problem. Adding it to the survey pushes manufactures to fix the problem. All the morons saying there is no way to avoid brake dust are sorely lacking creativity. Many things in this world that were once thought impossible to fix have since been fixed. It's called innovation.
      • 6 Years Ago
      JD Power (or its credibility) seems to be going further down the tubes by the minute....
      • 6 Years Ago
      The best brake pads I ever owned were some dusty as hell Hawks...

      That said, I think there might be a semantic issue here:
      JD Powers might qualify a customer complaint, no matter how innocuous, as a quality issue because regardless of whether its an actual mechanical/quality issue, its a compliant and that weighs on customer satisfaction. The result would be a negative mark in terms of a customer's overall car ownership experience and to the manufacturer in terms of perception of their brand.

      To the cargnoscenti this is of course absurd because the issue of quality is usually measured by performance, not aesthetics.

      So, while I don't agree with JD Powers weighing brake dust as equivalent to a serious mechanical issue, I do understand the possible rationale: if the numbers reflect the very real possibility of customer complaints then its something manufacturers will likely want to look into as a matter of customer relations, OEM pad sources for a given car segment, possible customer education, and reducing support overhead.

      As someone else posted, its all about perception of quality, not actual quality.
      • 6 Years Ago
      BMW is going to take a hit, they are notorious for horrendous brake dust and all three of mine have had bad brake dust. Having said that the actual brakes are exellent, they just produce a lot of dust.
        • 6 Years Ago
        MINI inherited the same "problem" from "daddy". Terrible brake dust!
      • 6 Years Ago
      I heard a really easy fix for stopping brake dust is to just totally remove your brakes! Plus you save quite a few pounds of rolling weight!
      • 6 Years Ago
      This, and after seeing the scam auction site Swoopo has made me depressed about the stupidity of humanity.

      People who complain about brake dust have a simple solution: wash your freakin car.

      Depending on the brake pad, certain brands give off more brake dust. And it's usually the high-performance brake pads that give off more brake dust. Yes, your crappy low-end brake pad looks spiffy because it doesn't dirty your wheels, but they won't have the efficiency of the higher-cost pads that give off more dust.

      In conclusion, consumers are idiots and their complaints should be taken with a grain of salt.
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