Q: My owner’s manual tells me to bleed my brakes as part of vehicle maintenance. I don’t remember having to bleed brakes on my older cars. Do I need to have my brakes bled?
A: Brake fluid maintenance has become an important part of maintaining and preserving the brake system. This is especially true in today’s vehicles with an ABS (Anti Lock Brake System) brake system. Over time this moisture can wreak havoc on the brake system and very expensive ABS brake components. Many manufactures recommend brake fluid replacement to assure safe operation of their vehicles.
Brake fluid by nature takes on moisture, in one year brake fluid can contain 2% water in18 months 3% and it is not unusual to find vehicles that have not been properly maintained with 8% water.
Many studies have shown the effects of moisture in the brake system. As brake fluid becomes saturated the boiling point of the brake fluid is reduced. New brake fluid that would have a boiling point of 400 degrees may boil at 250 degrees or less. The result is a condition called “brake fade” it is where under heated braking conditions the brake fluid boils in the caliper causing steam in the system and a fading brake pedal. Stopping distances are severely affected leading to a dangerous condition. If you need to stop quickly you won’t. Brakes will again stop normally after the fluid cools down. If you are experiencing poor stopping after several stops in heavy traffic or steep declines replace your brake fluid immediately, it is the likely cause of the problem.
The steam that is created by boiling fluid can also expand in your brake system and cause your brakes to drag causing further heating conditions and excessive brake pad wear because when engaged due to the expansion you are driving the vehicle with the brakes applied.
There are also documented claims of dirty brake fluid restricting ABS components causing malfunctions in the ABS system. Finally water is corrosive and in time you are rusting out the brake system from the inside out.
Our suggestion is because of the relatively low cost, flush and bleed your brake fluid every two years or during brake repairs where you have not replaced the fluid within two years. It will assure you that your brakes will operate as the manufacturer intended them to and if you will be keeping the car it will help to keep expensive brake parts from wearing out.
There is much more detailed information online. This information is written as a brief compilation in one place in plain English so that you can benefit without taking a college course in physics.
If your mechanic is not checking the boiling point of your brake fluid or is not recommending brake fluid replacement as per manufacturers specifications they are either 10 years behind the times, unaware of the importance of dry brake fluid or is not a true brake expert.
Please contact Bill Pelletier, President Brake Centers of America for more information at BrakesUSA@aol.com or on website www.BrakeCenters.com. For a flush and bleed of your brake fluid stop by a Brake Center store.