As a driver, you rely on your brakes to keep you safe while driving your vehicle. But did you know that the fluid flowing through your braking system plays a vital role in this process? That's right - it is the brake fluid that makes it possible to quickly and effectively slow or stop your car.
However, like any other component of your vehicle, brake fluid doesn't last forever. Over time, it can become contaminated or lose effectiveness, risking your safety. So, how do you know the time to change your brake fluid?
In this informative blog post, we talk about the importance of staying on top of your brake fluid maintenance schedule. We'll also highlight the specific warning signs that indicate it's time to change your brake fluid. With this information at your fingertips, you can take proactive steps to keep yourself and your passengers safe on the road.
Why is Brake Fluid Important?
Brake fluid is the critical hydraulic agent that makes it all happen. It starts with the master cylinder, which sends pressurized fluid through the brake lines and straight to the brake calipers. The calipers clamp onto the brake pads, generating enough friction to slow you down. It's magic, but with more science.
To keep this alchemy working effectively, the chemical properties of the brake fluid play an essential role. It must maintain viscosity and boiling point, for example. However, moisture seeping into the brake fluid from outside can affect its components, eventually causing corrosion and damage. So, brake fluid isn't just important: it's critical to your car's performance and safety.
How Often Should Brake Fluid be Changed?
The recommended interval for changing brake fluid varies by manufacturer and model, but it is a general rule to change brake fluid every two years or 24,000 miles, whichever comes first. However, several factors can affect the lifespan of brake fluid. For instance, if you frequently drive in heavy traffic or mountainous terrain, you may need to change your brake fluid more often than someone who mainly drives on highways.
Similarly, if you frequently tow heavy loads or use your vehicle for commercial purposes, you may need to change your brake fluid more often than someone who only uses their vehicle for commuting. It's also essential to note that some types of brake fluid, such as DOT 5, have a longer lifespan than others. DOT 5 brake fluid, used in high-performance vehicles, can last up to five years. We advise you to consult your vehicle's owner's manual or a qualified mechanic to determine your vehicle's brake fluid change interval.
Signs that It's Time to Change Your Brake Fluid
Even if you follow the recommended brake fluid change interval, your brake fluid will eventually need to be changed. The following are some of the indicators that your brake fluid may be contaminated, has degraded, and needs replenishment:
Reduced braking performance
If your brakes take longer to engage or don't feel as responsive as they used to, it may be time to change your brake fluid.
Spongy brake pedal:
If your brake pedal feels soft or spongy when you apply the brakes, it may be due to air bubbles or moisture in the brake lines, which indicates that your brake fluid needs to be changed.
Discolored brake fluid:
If your brake fluid appears dark instead of clear or slightly yellowish, it may be contaminated and needs to be changed.
If you notice a burning smell coming from your brakes, it could be a sign that your brake fluid is overheating and needs to be changed.
Brake warning light:
If your brake warning light on the dashboard comes on, you should rush to the mechanic. It could be a sign of low brake fluid or a more severe brake system issue. If you experience any of these symptoms, it's crucial to have your vehicle inspected by a qualified mechanic immediately. Delaying brake fluid replacement can lead to more significant issues, such as brake system failure, which can put you and your passengers at risk.
How to Change Brake Fluid
Changing brake fluid is an easy task. Here's a general overview of the steps involved in changing brake fluid:
Locate the brake fluid reservoir:
The brake fluid reservoir is under the hood near the brake master cylinder. It's essential to clean the area around the fluid reservoir to prevent dirt and debris from falling into the system.
Check the brake fluid level:
Before starting the replacement process, check the brake fluid level and ensure it's at the recommended level. If the level is low, top it up with the recommended brake fluid.
Remove the old brake fluid:
To remove the old brake fluid, start with the wheel farthest from the master cylinder and remove the wheel. Attach a clear tube to the brake caliper's bleeder valve and submerge the tube's other end into a container of fresh brake fluid.
Bleed the brake system:
Ask a helper to press down on the brake pedal and hold it while you open the bleeder valve to allow the old brake fluid to flow out of the system. Close the bleeder valve and repeat until clean brake fluid flows through the tube.
Refill the brake fluid reservoir:
Once you've bled the system, refill the brake fluid reservoir with fresh brake fluid to the recommended level.
Repeat the process:
Repeat the process for each wheel, starting with the wheel farthest from the master cylinder.
Test the brakes:
Once you've completed the brake fluid replacement, test the brakes to ensure they work correctly. Pump the brakes several times to check whether the pedal feels firm and responsive.
It is integral to understand the role of brake fluid if you want to keep your car's braking system in tip-top shape. This vital component allows your foot on the brake pedal to translate into a safe and effective stop. To ensure your brakes will work when you need them most, stick to the manufacturer-recommended brake fluid change schedule.
Being proactive by knowing the warning signs of old or contaminated brake fluid is a wise move. Whether you're a seasoned DIYer or prefer to leave car repairs to the pros, follow the correct procedure when changing brake fluid. With the correct technique, you'll avoid air bubbles and ensure your brake system operates smoothly and safely.