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How to Properly Flush Brake Fluid for Optimal Performance and Safety

Driving with well-maintained brake fluid is crucial for your safety, although many drivers are not aware of its importance. Brake fluid serves the vital function of converting pressure into braking force, allowing you to stop your vehicle effectively. However, over time, brake fluid can become contaminated or aged, leading to potential issues with its performance. This is where the necessity of a brake fluid flush comes into play. While simply changing the fluid can still maintain a functional brake system, flushing offers several benefits worth considering.

What is a Brake Fluid Flush?

A brake fluid flush refers to the process of completely removing all old, contaminated brake fluid from the system and replacing it with fresh fluid. This not only ensures a clean fluid but also keeps the housing and transfer channels free from debris. A brake fluid flush helps maintain the optimal working condition of the fluid, allowing it to function effectively in stopping your vehicle. Most manufacturers recommend including a brake fluid flush as part of your regular maintenance routine.

The Importance of a Brake Fluid Flush

Many drivers often question the necessity of a brake fluid flush. The answer is a resounding yes, and here’s why: your vehicle’s braking system relies on various components working together to bring your vehicle to a stop. Among these components, brake fluid plays a vital role in supplying the necessary braking force. In a disc braking system, the brake fluid transfers hydraulic pressure to the caliper, which then squeezes the piston against the brake pad, creating friction against the disc rotor, ultimately stopping your car. Similarly, in a drum braking system, the brake fluid supplies force to the wheel cylinder, which pushes the pistons against the brake shoes, pressing them against the brake drum to stop the vehicle.

Considering both scenarios, clean brake fluid is essential for optimal performance. However, with time, brake fluid accumulates dust and other contaminants from various brake components, resulting in decreased effectiveness. Additionally, brake fluid has a hygroscopic nature, meaning it absorbs water over time, further diminishing its efficiency. Moreover, the heat generated during braking can cause the fluid to break down. Therefore, a brake fluid flush is necessary to ensure clean fluid and maximize its braking power. A thorough brake fluid flush not only enhances braking performance but also improves your safety on the road. It reduces the risk of brake fading and extends the lifespan of calipers and wheel cylinders, ultimately saving you money.

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Consequences of Neglecting Brake Fluid Flush

If you neglect the importance of flushing your brake fluid, several issues can arise. Brake fluid, when left unattended, absorbs water and becomes contaminated by air and other brake components. These actions lead to a decrease in viscosity and efficiency, directly affecting its overall effectiveness. Consequently, brake fade and the failure of calipers or wheel cylinders can occur, resulting in expensive repairs. Additionally, moisture in the brake fluid can cause corrosion in the hydraulic system, leading to further complications. Such situations can significantly reduce braking performance and even result in brake failure during critical driving conditions, posing a dangerous and terrifying experience.

How to Properly Flush Brake Fluid

While it’s recommended to have professionals handle the brake fluid flush due to their specialized tools and quicker process, you can also choose to do it yourself and save some money. However, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the process before attempting it. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you through the process:

Prepare your vehicle

Park your car on level ground, engage the gear, and place a wheel chock or an alternative behind the tires to prevent any rolling.

Locate the master cylinder reservoir

Open the hood of your car and locate the master cylinder reservoir. Check the color of the brake fluid, which should ideally be a light yellow. If uncertain about its condition, you can use a brake fluid tester to determine if it needs replacement. If the test confirms the need for replacement, proceed to the next step.

Remove fluid from the master cylinder reservoir

Drain all the brake fluid from the master cylinder using a transfer pump, large syringe, small siphon pump, turkey baster, or any suitable tool for the task. Keep in mind that some fluid may still remain, approximately 20%, but this is not a cause for concern.

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Fill with fresh fluid and bleed

Refill the reservoir with new brake fluid and begin bleeding the brakes. It’s advisable to start with the back caliper or wheel cylinder and then move to the front. To facilitate the process, jack up the side of the car you want to bleed by approximately 2 feet and support it with jack stands. Remove the wheels to access the caliper or wheel cylinder and proceed with bleeding.

To bleed, locate and remove the bleeder valve (which prevents spillage) and attach the brake fluid flush tube. Ask your partner to pump the brake pedal while you simultaneously open the bleed valve to drain out the fluid. Once you notice fresh fluid coming out of the tube, indicating that all the old fluid has been removed, repeat the process for the other wheels. After bleeding each wheel, always check the master cylinder reservoir. If no brake fluid is coming out during bleeding, it’s possible you have a faulty bleeder valve, caliper issues, a clogged brake system, or air bubbles in the system.

Top it off

Once all four wheels have been bled, pour additional brake fluid into the reservoir until it reaches the fill line. Afterward, check the brake fluid level in the reservoir and ensure there are no leaks in the system.

The Cost of Brake Fluid Flush

The cost of a brake fluid flush varies depending on whether you opt for professional service or perform it yourself. Additionally, your vehicle model can also influence the cost. When performed by a mechanic, the price typically ranges from $70 to $110, with labor constituting most of the expense. However, if you choose to do it yourself, the cost can be significantly lower. The manufacturer-recommended brake fluid usually costs around $8 to $30, and acquiring a brake fluid flush kit will further help with the process. Overall, performing a brake fluid flush independently requires more time compared to a mechanic’s service.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How often should I flush brake fluid?

Brake fluid flush should ideally be performed every two years or every 30,000 miles, whichever comes first. However, it’s always best to refer to your vehicle’s manufacturer-recommended interval. Regular drivers who accumulate mileage quickly may need to flush the brake fluid more often. In such cases, conducting a visual inspection can help determine the fluid’s condition.

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How long does brake fluid last?

If the brake fluid is already inside your vehicle, it should remain viable for the next two years or for 30,000 miles. However, if you have opened a newly purchased brake fluid, it is advisable to use it within 12 months. Brake fluid stored for longer than 12 months may become contaminated with air, dust, or moisture, rendering it unsuitable for vehicle use. In such cases, the fluid should be discarded.

How long does a brake fluid flush take?

A brake fluid flush typically takes between 15 minutes to 1 hour, depending on your approach. If you choose to perform it yourself, it may take longer compared to a mechanic’s use of a brake fluid flush machine. A professional mechanic can complete the process within 15 to 30 minutes using this specialized equipment. However, if you consider a brake fluid flush a waste of money and decide to do it independently, it may take up to an hour or longer.

Can I mix old and new brake fluid?

If the old fluid in the system is not contaminated, you can add new brake fluid to it. However, ensure that the new fluid matches the specifications of the old one. In the case of contaminated or aged fluid, it’s best to drain all the old fluid and refill the system entirely with new fluid.

Does Walmart provide brake fluid changes?

No, Walmart does not offer brake fluid changes. While mixed answers may be found online, a visit to Walmart’s service page reveals that they do not provide this service or any brake-related jobs. However, they offer oil and tire change services. It is generally advised to entrust sensitive car components such as brakes to qualified mechanics rather than inexperienced technicians.

What does a brake flush entail?

A brake fluid flush involves draining all the existing brake fluid from the system and replacing it with fresh fluid. Apart from the fluid itself, the entire brake system, including the reservoir and brake fluid lines, is cleaned during the process. Additionally, it is a good practice to inspect other brake components, such as brake pads and rotors, during the flush.

In Conclusion

Performing a brake fluid flush is essential to ensure your safety while driving and protect critical brake components, ultimately saving costs in the long run. While performing the flush yourself can save money, taking your vehicle to a professional mechanic ensures a faster and cleaner process, thanks to the use of dedicated brake fluid flush machines. To find mechanics near you, simply search for “brake fluid flush near me.” Over time, brake fluid may become contaminated with water, dirt, or air, leading to decreased effectiveness. Failure to flush the brake fluid can damage brake components, compromise braking performance, and even result in brake failure. So, for those questioning the necessity of a brake fluid flush, the answer is clear: it is indeed necessary.

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