What is Brake Fluid and When Should it be Flushed?

Brake fluid plays a critical role in ensuring the safe and effective operation of a vehicle’s braking system. However, brake fluid can degrade over time, compromising its performance and potentially jeopardizing your safety. Below, our Sterling, VA, team will explore what brake fluid does, how it degrades, and how often it should be flushed to maintain optimal brake system functionality.

What Does Brake Fluid Do?

Brake fluid transmits the force applied to the brake pedal to the wheels, allowing for controlled deceleration and stopping. It is a hydraulic fluid that transfers the force from the brake pedal to the brake calipers or wheel cylinders, creating the pressure necessary for the brake pads or shoes to contact the rotors or drums. It operates under high temperatures and pressures, making it crucial for the fluid to have certain properties, such as a high boiling point and excellent lubrication.

How Does Brake Fluid Degrade?

Brake fluid degradation occurs due to various factors. Here are the primary reasons:

  1. Moisture Absorption: Brake fluid is hygroscopic, readily absorbing moisture from the surrounding environment. Over time, this moisture absorption can lead to water content buildup within the fluid, lowering its boiling point and potentially causing vapor lock or brake fade.
  2. Heat and Oxidation: Brake systems generate significant heat during operation. Over time, this heat, combined with exposure to oxygen, can cause brake fluid to oxidize. Oxidation leads to varnish and sludge formation, hindering the fluid’s performance and potentially damaging critical brake components.
  3. Contaminants: Brake fluid can become contaminated by dirt, debris, and even small metal particles from the wear of brake components. Contaminants can negatively impact the fluid’s lubricating properties and increase the risk of brake system malfunction.

How Often Should Brake Fluid Be Flushed?

Following the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding brake fluid flushing intervals is crucial to ensure the brake system’s reliability and safety. However, a general guideline is to have the brake fluid flushed and replaced every two to three years. Keep in mind that specific vehicle models or driving conditions may require more frequent flushes. Our Sterling, VA, technician will tell you where your vehicle stands.

Factors that may necessitate more frequent flushing include:

  1. Severe Driving Conditions: If you frequently drive in stop-and-go traffic, on hilly terrain, or tow heavy loads, the brake system experiences increased stress. Consequently, the brake fluid may degrade faster, requiring more frequent flushes.
  2. High Humidity or Moisture: If you reside in an area with high humidity or your vehicle is frequently exposed to moisture, it can accelerate the moisture absorption process in the brake fluid. In such cases, more regular flushing is recommended.
  3. Extended Periods of Inactivity: If your vehicle sits idle for extended periods, moisture buildup in the brake fluid can be more significant. Consider flushing the brake fluid if the vehicle has been inactive for an extended duration.

Brake Fluid Flushes at Casey’s Automotive in Sterling, Virginia

Regular maintenance of your vehicle’s brake fluid is essential for optimizing brake system performance and safety. Understanding the role of brake fluid, its degradation factors, and the recommended flushing frequency empowers you to take proactive steps in maintaining a reliable braking system. Adhering to manufacturer recommendations, considering driving conditions and environmental factors, and consulting a professional mechanic will help you determine the appropriate flushing intervals for your vehicle. Remember, it’s always better to be cautious and proactive regarding your safety. Contact us for a brake inspection today!

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