Most people know that routine car care involves checking the brakes. Squeaky brakes get attention, and so does a car that seems to be taking longer to stop than is normally necessary. But brake fluid? Many car owners forget it even exists. Yet proper maintenance of your vehicle includes caring for this essential fluid.
If you have questions about brake fluid, you’re not alone. Customers often wonder whether it’s necessary to change the fluid and if so, how often it needs to be done. Here are some tips and facts to answer your most frequently asked questions.
What Does Brake Fluid Do for a Car?
Brake fluid helps move the parts in your vehicle’s hydraulic (brake) system, which enables your car to stop when you hit the brake pedals. As simple as it sounds, stopping a vehicle is demanding, and brake fluid is a key part of the equation. If the levels of fluid are low, contaminated by moisture, or not flowing properly, your braking power is impeded.
What Happens to Brake Fluid over Time?
Like oil, brake fluid loses its effectiveness over time. The fluid can absorb moisture, which can lead to corrosion in your hydraulics system and other problems that make your brakes less effective, decreasing your ability to stop in critical driving situations. The industry standard is to replace brake fluid every two years, or when doing brake work.
How Do You Check It?
Brake fluid is typically stored in a translucent plastic reservoir, so you can see the fluid level without removing the cap. You don’t want to open the cap unless you’re replacing the fluid, because exposing the reservoir to air can draw moisture into the hydraulics system. This is one reason it’s helpful to have a professional, trained mechanic take care of this for you.
How Often Do You Need to Change It?
The industry standard is to replace brake fluid every two years, or when doing brake work. The deterioration varies by type of car, the driving conditions you typically encounter, and the manufacturer’s recommendations. But a good rule of thumb is to check it during regular oil changes, and expect to change it every two years. Signs that you should get your brake fluid checked immediately include fluid that has a burnt odor, is not clear or transparent, or is at a lower level than it’s supposed to be.
Can You Change the Fluid Yourself, or Should You Have a Technician Do It?
Unlike many simple maintenance tasks that can be do-it-yourself options, brake fluid should only be changed by someone with professional training. There are several reasons why, but it all boils down to brake fluid being more complicated and dangerous to work with than more DIY items such as oil and windshield wiper fluid. There are many types of brake fluids with different ratings and specifications, and they can’t be mixed. It’s important to make sure the fluid is completely drained and then replaced with the proper type for your vehicle. Another challenge is that brake fluid is toxic and combustible. It must be handled and disposed of properly. A well-trained, professional technician will know all the ins and outs of how to handle your brake fluid properly and safely.
Atlantic Motorcar prides itself on offering you the quality service and trusted advice you want most when caring for your car. Our trained Service Advisors are ready to answer any questions you have about brake fluid or any other car-related issues you are concerned about. We’ll walk you through any work your car needs, and we won’t offer you any services that your vehicle doesn’t need, because we believe in putting you, our customer, first and making sure you are ready to hit the road safely for years to come.
Questions, or if we can be of help in any way with service on your Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Mini Cooper, Volvo, VW, or Japanese import, please contact us.
Our team of Service Specialists are here to help, for even the newest autos! (207) 882-9969.
Knowing, not just “doing”, that’s the Atlantic Motorcar Center way of life.
The Atlantic Motorcar Center Service Team