Honestly speaking, most drivers don’t think about their brakes until they stop working, and hopefully you aren’t going downhill when that happens, approaching a crowded intersection with no exit strategy. For the more car savvy, checking brake rotors, discs, and pads are a routine thing as part of general vehicle maintenance. But how about brake fluid?
Brake fluid plays a very essential role in your vehicle’s hydraulic braking system and is responsible for moving the various components. This fluid works under high temperatures and high pressure, allowing the vehicle to slow down or stop when the brake pedal is pressed. Brake fluid stays within the brake lines, delivering the force created by your push on the brake pedal to each of the brake rotors on the four corners of your vehicle. If the levels of fluid are low, contaminated by moisture, or not flowing properly, your braking power is impeded.
Brake systems degrade over time
As with all mechanical and vehicle parts and systems, these aren’t indestructible. Components such as rubber lines, valves, calipers, and brake pads deteriorate. Small bits that flake off can end up in the brake fluid, and the fluid itself can also get old and worn out. Moisture can also leak into the system and introduce rust and air bubbles, and all of that adds up to a braking system that’s compromised. This leads to brake pedals feeling spongy, the brakes taking much longer to actually slow down the car, or even the pedal dropping completely to the floor. Absolutely not road-worthy at all.
So how often should we be changing our brake fluid?
The answer is pretty simple. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to do a regular visual check of your brake fluid reservoir at the top of the brake master cylinder under the hood of your car. Everytime you get a chance is a good idea, but a regular practice is to check on it when you bring in your vehicle for an oil change or regular inspection. If it’s not clear or transparent, and has a murky or muddy color, it’s time for a brake fluid flush. Every 40,000 kilometers or once (or even twice) every six months is also a good rule of thumb, but always refer to your vehicle’s manual and service intervals.
If you’re at a mechanic or vehicle service center for a routine service maintenance job, and the service advisor recommends a brake flush after a visual or mileage check, it’s better to be safe than sorry and go for the extra step to maintain your braking system. It’ll be easier to pay for the fluid and labor cost than replacing braking components that can get damaged from bad maintenance habits, or, worse, an accident.
Take note that brake fluid flushing and brake fluid bleeding are completely different things, Brake flushing involves removing all the brake fluid from the system and getting new fluid inside. Brake bleeding just means removing amounts of brake fluid to get air bubbles out of the brake lines. Brake fluid flushing is also something that a certified mechanic or service center should do as the braking system is a critical vehicle component, and leaves no room for error.
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