It can be hard to get a straight answer to the question, “How often should brake fluid be changed?” A quick search of the Internet will reveal that recommendations often differ widely; car manufacturers will recommend that you change your brake fluid every 24,000 miles, every 2 years, every 5 years, and even… never.
At Colony One Auto Center, we recommend that you get your brake fluid exchanged every 30,000 miles or every 2 years. However, it’s no surprise that automobile owners are often both confused and skeptical when it comes to asking about brake fluid replacement.
To explain these discrepancies, let’s explore the role brake fluid plays in your car’s health, the properties of brake fluid, and the reasons why you might want to have your brake fluid changed.
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Important elements of working brake fluid
When you press the brake pedal in your car, hydraulic pressure builds up in the brake system. The compression of this pedal increases the pressure on the brake fluid inside your brake lines. In turn, the brake fluid increases pressure in the brake caliper and then applies pressure against the brake pads which then squeeze against your brake rotors, causing friction, slowing the rotation of the wheels, and bringing your vehicle to a stop.
Because of its function in these processes, brake fluid (also called hydraulic fluid) must be able to operate under high pressure and in high temperatures.
In fact, the role of brake fluid is so important and the environment in which it operates so demanding, that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) set specific standards for brake fluid in The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 116. These standards set acceptable boiling points, resistance to oxidation, freezing rates, and more.
In order to maintain the safety and longevity of your car’s brake fluid, it is contained in a system that is tightly sealed. Unfortunately, just like oil, even brake fluid can become less effective over time.
How brake fluid changes over time
If the brake fluid is placed in a sealed system, then is a brake fluid flush really necessary? Unfortunately, moisture and dirt have a way of making it into even the best-protected spaces, including into your brake system. Moisture in brake fluid changes the fluid’s boiling point, both moisture and contaminants can cause corrosion of the brake system. As these issues build up, your brakes become less and less dependable.
If you avoid changing your brake fluid—a relatively inexpensive service— then eventually you will likely need to replace parts of your brake system.
How do I tell if I need to change my brake fluid?
Brake fluid starts out either a clear or light brown/amber color and grows darker as it ages. (Brake fluid is viewable in the brake fluid reservoir, found atop the master cylinder.) However, it can be quite difficult to tell if your brake fluid has taken on excess moisture. In these cases, you’ll likely want a qualified technician to run a test on a sample of the brake fluid.
Note that people living in especially humid areas—like Houston—will want to check their brake fluid for excess moisture more than those living in arid climates. Additionally, individuals living in areas with harsh winters will want to check for salt contamination.
Can I change brake fluid myself?
While we are typically supportive of car owners who want to handle some maintenance issues, we do not recommend changing your brake fluid on your own. Besides being a messy job, it is imperative that you get all the air bled from the system by a professional. A professional shop will use proper bleeding equipment to ensure adequate air removal.
Visit Colony One Auto Center for brake fluid testing and replacement
Now that you know the answer to the question How often should brake fluid be changed? it’s time to ask yourself How long has it been since I’ve gotten my brake fluid checked?
Despite its important role, brake fluid is by far the most neglected and forgotten fluid. Stop into Colony One Auto Center, we’ll be happy to check the health of your vehicle’s brake fluid as one of the many ways we can keep your vehicle’s operation up to par.
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