Your car is something you probably use every day. You use it to drive you to work and back. You use it to run all the little errands that come up during the day.
You know it’s important to keep gas in your car. As the needle moves towards empty, you make the time to drive through the nearest gas station and fill up the tank.
You also watch your mileage and keep an eye on when the last time you replaced the oil in your car. It’s important to keep your vehicle running well, and without the proper amount of oil, you’ll notice problems almost immediately.
But there’s another fluid that people rarely think much about. Brake fluid is one that exists in your car and is an important part of your braking system, yet we rarely think much about it.
Until problems begin.
Are brake flushes necessary? Will they help your car stay in good working condition? Let’s start with the basics.
Brake fluid and its purpose
Any time you see the word “fluid” you should now that it’s vitally important to well-being. Just like you can’t live your best life without a daily intake of water, your vehicle can’t run without proper fluid levels, including brake fluid.
Brake fluid is what allows your braking system to exist. Brake fluid allows pressure from your foot to transfer into the braking system and easily bring your 3000+ car to a stop in all conditions. Whether you’re creeping through a neighborhood, or flying down the highway, it’s brake fluid that gives you the power of stopping quickly whenever you desire.
Pretty cool when you think about how brake fluid works.
Overall, brake fluid has two purposes:
- It transfers and multiplies energy
- It lubricates moving parts and keeps them running the way they should
Energy doesn’t have the ability to dissipate on its own. It can only be converted into another form. The physics of a vehicle’s braking system makes it possible to transfer kinetic energy – the power of moving forward – into heat, and dissipating that heat on demand. This process is done through the brake system, using rotors and brake pads for slowing and stopping.
Brake fluid is what makes this process possible. It’s a special fluid with a high boiling point of over 400 degrees Fahrenheit. When installed correctly, brake fluid is dry, without moisture. However, brake fluid is also hygroscopic, which means it attracts moisture.
That might seem like it wouldn’t be a problem here in dry Colorado, but you’d be surprised at how easily water can infiltrate the system. And with even just a couple percentage points of moisture mixed in with brake fluid can cause the boiling point to drop severely.
Why is that important?
When parts get exceedingly hot, they rust, deteriorate, and corrode, which leads to premature failure.
As parts start to fail, they crack, leak, and break apart. Rubber, flakes of metal, dirt, small bits of plastic – it all can move into your brake fluid as the brake system deteriorates over time.
And as that happens, the brake fluid can no longer do its job.
Is it necessary to take care of this once in a while? Does your vehicle need a brake flush from time to time? The answer is: yes.
How often are brake flushes needed in today’s cars?
Now that you know flushing out the system and adding new brake fluid is important, the next question is, “how often?”
The answer, as you would expect, is: it depends.
As a general rule of thumb, most auto manufacturers recommend flushing the brake fluid every two to three years, or every 24,000 to 36,000 miles. Of course, not every car manufacturer recommends brake flushes on the same schedule, so it’s important to check with your owner’s manual before starting the process. You can also give us a call for advice; we’re happy to take a look at your current brake system and give you a good idea of how well it operates and what to do to keep your car working well.
Is flushing brakes a do it yourself job?
Cars are more sophisticated than ever before. So do-it-yourselfers are comfortable changing the oil or installing a new battery. But brake flushes are more complicated than opening up a plug and letting the fluid drain, followed by adding a can or two of oil back into the system. Do it the wrong way, and your car won’t operate the way it should. And that’s not a situation you want for your family or other occupants.
Brake flushing involves removing all brake fluid from the brake system and inputting new brake fluid back inside. If you’ve heard the term “bleed the brakes,” it comes from removing enough brake fluid to remove air bubbles from the brake line and create a safe system for your car.
How do you know what brake fluid your vehicle uses? You can check the cap on your brake master cylinder, which should indicate on the outside what type of brake fluid your car uses. Your owner’s manual might also list the type of brake fluid your vehicle uses. But keep in mind, brake fluid isn’t something you’ll locate in your local big box store; it isn’t as readily available as motor oil.
There are two basic types of brake fluid on the market, a glycol-based and a silicon-based. Glycol-based absorbs water, while silicon-based does not.
The two are not interchangeable. You can’t substitute one for the other and have your brake system work. They react against one another and will corrode your brake system. You should also be careful not to spill brake fluid on your car as it will eat paint.
For all these reasons and more, it’s wise to leave brake flushes to professional mechanics.
Do you have other brake flush related questions?
It takes a lot of work to ensure your car stays working the way it should. You want your car to run when you need it, be reliable every time you pull away from home. To do that, have a trustworthy mechanic ready to help you keep your vehicle in its best condition, ready to keep your family safe every month of the year.
If you have any questions about your vehicle’s performance or reliability, we’re here to help. Contact us throughout our automated form, or give us a call today.