Why Do You Need to Flush Your Brake System?

Flushing Your Car’s Brake System Improves Its Stopping Power

At Milito’s Auto Repair, brake services and repairs are among the most common reasons our valued clients come in to see us. And it’s quite often that those jobs include completely flushing the braking system. That means removing all of the brake fluid from the entire system and replacing it with clean, uncontaminated fluid that meets the manufacturer’s specification for their car or truck. From time to time, however, our customers understandably wonder whether brake flushes are necessary, so we wanted to take some time to explain why periodically flushing your braking system is a necessary part of modern automotive maintenance.

First, it’s important to understand that hydraulic brake fluid is what allows the pressure you apply to the brake pedal to translate to the rest of the system and effectively slow down your vehicle. When you step on the brake pedal of your car or truck, the brake fluid in the system compresses, and that pressure is transferred to the system’s friction parts (pads, rotors, etc.), and that friction is what actually slows down the car. Over time and through regular use, this essential fluid starts to deteriorate, which makes the entire brake system less effective.

To explain why vehicles need brake flushes, let’s take a closer look at what happens to brake fluid over time.

Moisture Buildup Can Cause Brake Issues

Hydraulic brake fluid is a hygroscopic substance, meaning that brake fluid absorbs moisture – including water vapor from the air. As this moisture builds up, the brake fluid becomes literally “watered down” and performs less effectively.

In addition to reduced performance, the moisture in the brake lines can lead to rust and corrosion in other parts of the braking system. The increased water content also reduces the boiling point of the brake fluid, and combined with the heat generated from regular braking, this can cause bubbles in the lines, further reducing the system’s performance. A full brake flush will replace the fluid and get rid of potentially harmful moisture.

Heat Can Cause Brake Fluid to Deteriorate Over Time

Even without a reduced boiling point from moisture buildup, heat still causes brake fluid to deteriorate over time. ABS and traction control systems are particular sources of this type of heat, and normal use eventually takes a toll on the quality of the brake fluid, especially in “stop and go” driving conditions often experienced in Chicago city traffic.

Different types of brake fluid have different additives and properties, but heat takes its toll on them all. As the fluid breaks down, it becomes less and less effective in its function, and that requires the system to work harder for the vehicle to stop safely.

Debris in Your Brake Fluid

Over time, brake fluid can become contaminated by particles of debris from both the braking system and the outside world. Like the air bubbles mentioned above, this debris dilutes the brake fluid and causes it to work less efficiently. Even worse, this debris can also lead to damage in various parts of the system – which in turn puts more debris, metal particulates, and outside contaminants into the fluid.

Debris in brake lines creates a vicious cycle of reduced performance and ongoing damage that not only makes the braking system operate less effectively, but contaminated brake fluid can lead to costly repairs as well.

How Often Should Brake Fluid be Changed?

Every vehicle has different service interval requirements, so it’s best to consult your manufacturer’s recommended scheduled maintenance guidelines to determine when to service the brake fluid in your car or truck. As a generalization, performing this service every 30,000 miles is a good benchmark.

Flushing the braking system and replacing brake fluid is an important part of ongoing vehicle maintenance, and helps extend the life of the vital braking system components. It also helps ensure that brake systems are performing at their highest level for safe slowing and stopping.

If it’s time to schedule a brake flush for your vehicle, have questions about how the process works, or want a brake system inspection to see if it’s time for a flush, contact Milito’s Auto Repair in Chicago today!

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