February 18

Brake Fluid Flushing

Auto Repair


Many vehicle manufacturers recommend flushing brake fluid. Why does it need to be done?

How often is it recommended?

Does it matter where I live?

Do all manufacturers recommend brake fluid flushes?

Mark: Hi, it’s Mark from Top Local Lead Generation and we’re here with Bernie Pawlik of Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, BC - fifteen time winners of Best Auto Repair in the city as voted by their customers. How’re you doing Bernie?

Bernie: I’m doing well.

Mark: So brake fluid flushing. I’ve got admit when you first talked to me about this, I went ok, this is you know, typical car repair hoohah. But that’s quite a few years ago and you’ve turned me around. So many manufacturers recommend flushing, why does it need to be done?

Bernie: Good question - why does it need to be done? Basically because brake fluid is a hygroscopic fluid, now that’s a big word but what that means is, it’s a material that absorbs water out of the air and brake fluid is one of those materials. Now I should qualify this, there are some brake fluids that don’t, but you’ll not find those in any common car, people put them into vintage restored cars or something unusual. But for all intents and purposes, all vehicle brakes with dot 3 or dot 4 brake fluid are all hygroscopic so they absorb water out of the air. The water will actually permeate through the rubber brake hoses, it will find its way through rubber parts, through the master cylinder. It seems unbelievable, but it does make it’s way in. Over time, water builds up in the brake fluid and makes the brake fluid less effective. Brake fluid also gets dirty, it’s subjected to a lot of heat from the braking process so eventually it deteriorates in a certain way but mostly because of the water build up.

An example why it’s important to flush it is that dot 3 brake fluid, which is the most standard brake fluid, when it’s considered dry, that’s pure dot 3 brake fluid, it has a boiling point of 205 degrees Celsius or 401 degree Fahrenheit. With 3.7% water, which is not a lot, the boiling point will drop down to 140 Celsius or 284 Fahrenheit which is just a little bit above the boiling point of water. Brakes generate a tremendous amount of heat so that deteriorates the brake fluid significantly. If brake fluid boils it will create steam and you can loose your brakes. That is serious!

Mark: How often is the brake fluid flush recommended?

Bernie: Usually every two to three years is the general time frame.

Mark: Does it matter where I live?

Bernie: Well, all the manufacturers just cater their maintenance schedules to general usage but I think it does matter where you live. If you live in the desert, you never see a lot of moisture or a lot of rain, you could probably go three or four years between flushing. But if you live somewhere extremely wet, like Vancouver, you know two years is really the maximum you want to go between brake fluid flushes. There is a lot of moisture in the air. In fact most of Canada, a lot of the United States gets a lot of rain. So you need to flush it every two to three years.

Mark: What if you’re driving a lot?

Bernie: It doesn’t seem to matter. Time seems to be more the factor with brake fluid flushing than mileage.

Mark: And do all manufacturers recommend a flush?

Bernie: Well here’s the interesting thing, a lot of manufacturers don’t. The Europeans for a long time have recommended every two to three years, some Japanese do and the odd American manufacturer does, but a lot of them forget about it and it seems very strange to me because it’s the same fluid, the same braking system, the same climate. Some manufacturers care more than others. I’m reflecting on why that would be and I think there’s a bit of a throwback to the days when manufacturers just recommended tune-ups and basic oil changes as a maintenance schedule and they didn’t really think any further about other items like brake fluid, transmission fluid or power steering fluid. They just kind of forgot about it.

So anyways, it doesn’t matter what make or model of car you have, they all live in the same climate, they all have the same fluid and they all need brake fluid to be flushed

Mark: So if you haven’t had your brake fluid flushed and you need your car operating at optimal performance or you just want it to be safe, give Bernie a call 604-327-7112 to book your appointment or check out their website pawlikautomotive.com

Thanks Bernie

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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