As a general rule of thumb, you should typically flush and change your vehicle’s brake fluid once every two years. Because this task doesn’t require you to be a red seal mechanic, you can replace the fluid on your own; However, most mechanic shops do this now with the help of brake flushing machines.
So, you found that you have to bleed your brakes or you have a brake fluid leak. You’re going to have to restore the brake fluid in your master cylinder to the appropriate amount. Before you pop your hood, roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty, here are some things you should be aware of when purchasing and using brake fluid:
ALWAYS USE HIGH QUALITY FLUID FROM A REPUTABLE MANUFACTURER
Majority of vehicles require D.O.T. 3 or D.O.T. 4 brake fluid. There is even a D.O.T. 5 fluid available, as well. Even though the D.O.T. 5 fluid doesn’t eat paint or absorb moisture, any water that may get into your braking system can pool up, in turn corroding your brakes.
AIR KILLS BREAK FLUID
Even though oxygen is what helps humans survive, it’s a killer when it comes to brake fluid. Oxygen actually lowers the boiling point of brake fluid. Coupled with moisture in the air, it can cause the brake fluid to form ice crystals that can make breaking difficult.
Using brake fluid that is contaminated with moisture can oxidize the system and potentially etch your master cylinder and wheel cylinders. It can have an adverse affect on your brakes by not allowing them to function correctly – and in some cases, not at all. Not to mention the issues it can cause for ABS and other expensive braking systems.
KEEP AWAY FROM YOUR VEHICLE’S PAINT
Just like nail polish or turpentine, it can eat away at the paint causing you hundreds, even thousands, of dollars of damage to your vehicle. Plain and simple.
Now, if that hasn’t deterred you, then feel free to follow these steps to change your own brake fluid:
1. Remove the old brake fluid from the master cylinder
Using a cheap turkey baster, siphon the old fluid out and place the spent fluid in a can so you may drop it off at your local ECO station for disposal.
2. Wipe reservoir clean
Using a lint free cloth, be sure to completely wipe the reservoir from any remnants of old brake fluid.
3. Replace with new brake fluid
On the reservoir, you will find a line that reads “FULL”. Add brake fluid until it reaches that line, then put the cap back on the reservoir.
4. Bleed the brakes
While you are bleeding the brakes (which you can learn here), the fresh brake fluid will force the old fluid that remains in the brake lines, out. Continue bleeding them until the new fluid begins to exit the bleeder screw.
Voila! That wasn’t so bad.
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