Does Brake Fluid Need to Be Changed?

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Changing brake fluid can be a slippery subject. Some manufacturers include it in their maintenance schedules and others don't.

Mercedes-Benz, for example, says brake fluid should be replaced every two years or 20,000 miles, and Volkswagen says that should be done on most of its models every two years regardless of mileage. Subaru recommends fresh brake fluid every 30,000 miles.

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On the other hand, most Chevrolets can go 150,000 miles or 10 years, according to Chevy's maintenance schedule, and many Ford, Chrysler and Toyota vehicles don't list brake fluid as a regular maintenance item.

Check your car's owner's manual to see what the manufacturer recommends. You might also want to discuss the slippery subject of brake fluid with a trusted mechanic if the manufacturer doesn't give any guidance. Don't be surprised if a mechanic suggests replacing the brake fluid periodically, because mechanics probably have seen what can happen if you don't.

What can happen? Even though brake fluid dwells in a sealed system it still can absorb moisture over time, and that can lead to corrosion in the brake system. Moisture also lowers the boiling temperature of brake fluid, and that can reduce braking effectiveness in repeated hard stops.

If the manufacturer lists a 10-year interval or none at all for replacing brake fluid, how often should you have it done?

Every two or three years is probably too often, though if it helps you sleep at night, then go for it. Just be aware that some service shops, especially those that make their living by replacing fluids, might try to scare you with dire warnings that disaster is imminent unless you flush all your vehicle's fluids long before it is necessary.

Unless the manufacturer calls for it sooner, we would wait four or five years and have it done at the same time as other brake work, such as replacing pads or rotors. Replacing brake fluid is cheaper than replacing brake lines or a master cylinder that has corroded, so don't automatically dismiss the recommendation of a mechanic as just salesmanship.

And no matter who suggests fresh brake fluid, make sure they're replacing it with the type that is called for by the vehicle manufacturer. Some vehicles require DOT 3 fluid, others a different variety, such as DOT 5, so consult your owner's manual before you give the go ahead.

By Rick Popely | December 13, 2013 | Comments (6)
Tags: Maintenance

Comments 

Tony

There is absolutely no way moisture or other things get into a fluid which is in the line. There are no air packets in the line. So the fluid, which is actually in the line is always good.

The bad fluid is located in your caliper. This is the fluid that does the work, it gets heated from braking, etc.

Here is what I do. When replacing brake pads, when pushing caliper in, I actually open the valve, so old and dirty fluid leaves the caliper. You need a short! piece of thin hose and small container with some brake fluid in it. You put the hose on the valve and another end you stick into fluid in container. So, if for some reason there is suction back into caliper it will suck the fluid, not the air. In the end, you can ask someone to pump, and push and hold the break pedal and open the valve just one more time. At this point all bad fluid is gone. Make sure to close the valve quick. Now, you can top it off. Next wheel...

Wain

According to the owners manual every 2 years. I do it every four years.

most drivers never change , they just add the new one

Steve

I have a couple of Chevrolets (Silverado and Impala LS) and I replaced both brake fluid in each near 200,000 miles and both were very dirty. No prior leaking issues at all, but I wanted to change it out anyway. Flushed a total of 1 qt. for each vehicle so well worth it. I guess I'm good for another 200,000 miles. Oh yeah!

I would definitely recommend keeping on top of your brake fluids, especially if you have bought a used car. You can never be sure when the fluid was last checked/changed. Read the manual, and get it done is my advice.

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