In a car, every part is important. But certain elements are quite simply essential for your safety. Among these parts you should never negligate, there are the brakes. However, these brakes need fluid to function properly.
Like any fluid in a car, brake fluid must be changed or even drained. You also have to choose the right one for your vehicle.
So, what is this famous brake fluid used for? How often do you need to flush brake fluid? Which brake fluid should I choose? What is the brake fluid warning light? What is the price of brake fluid? Here is our practical guide.
Brake fluid is a type of hydraulic fluid. It is responsible for moving the various components of your vehicle's braking system.
Basically, the hydraulic fluid transfers power into your vehicle's braking system. This is what ensures that when you put your foot on the brake pedal, your vehicle will stop.
The brake fluid is an essential part of your vehicle. Anything that could degrade the quality of your fluid, such as moisture absorbed into the air, will adversely affect its performance and could ultimately hamper your vehicle's braking.
The fluid operates at high temperature and high pressure, and without it your car or truck would be unable to stop when you press the brake pedal.
Brake fluid is a non-compressible substance found inside the brake lines, which applies the force created by pressing the brake pedal to each brake disc located in the four corners of your vehicle.
This puts pressure on the wheels and slows or stops the movement permanently. Here's a step-by-step and somewhat simplified overview of how brake fluid works in a hydraulic brake system:
|DOT 3||DOT 4||DOT 5.1|
|Boiling point||205 °C (400 °F)||230 °C (446 °F)||260 °C (500 °F)|
|Features||The cheapest, suitable for normal driving||The most common because more qualitative than DOT 3||Most suitable for sporty driving|
Now you understand the function of brake fluid and you know that it is an essential part of your braking system.
However when it comes to replacing it, choosing the right brake fluid is not always easy because there are several classes called DOT (Department Of Transportation).
These are in fact safety standards that it is essential to respect: the brake fluid you choose must have the same DOT as that used during the construction of the vehicle. The different DOTs are DOT 3, DOT 4 and DOT 5.1. The number corresponds to the boiling temperature of the brake fluid.
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Among the four most common types, DOT3 is the least efficient: it is not recommended if you have sports use of your vehicle. However, it has many advantages: compared to DOT4, it is less hygroscopic, i.e. it absorbs moisture less quickly. It is also cheaper and easier to maintain. Its main drawback is that it boils quickly.
DOT3 classified brake fluids are made from a synthetic base. Hydraulic fluids with a synthetic base are recognizable in particular by their amber color. They have the advantage of not being corrosive, so they do not damage the seal of the brake calipers. This characteristic also allows them to be miscible with each other, meaning that they can be mixed without problem.
Also produced on a synthetic basis, DOT4 performs better than DOT3 and is therefore suitable for more sporty use of your vehicle. It is a standard liquid which is therefore widely available in the market.
On the other hand, it is more hygroscopic than DOT3 and becomes oxidized on contact with water. It is recommended to change the DOT4 type fluid every year.
DOT5.1 classified brake fluid also has a synthetic base. It is ideal for sports use because it can withstand more heat than DOT3 and DOT4, it will come to the boil much less quickly. Like DOT4, it is hygroscopic and must be changed every year.
DOT5 brake fluid is produced on a silicone basis. It is hydrophobic, which means it does not absorb moisture. Another important advantage is that it is not corrosive, so it does not risk damaging the paint of your vehicle, unlike synthetic-based fluids.
However, it is harder to find on DOT5 in the market, therefore it is quite expensive. Compared to synthetic liquids, it loses a little in incompressibility and its purging is more complex. This type of brake fluid is often reserved for classic cars or in the case of use involving strong temperature rises, such as in competition.
Fresh brake fluid is clear with a hint of yellow coloring. If your brake fluid resembles oil, and is a dark brown or black color, then you need a brake fluid flush and replacement.
Indeed, over time, the fluid can absorb moisture from the air, causing it to degrade and malfunction. This is why it is important to regularly drain the oily liquid and replace it with a new one to ensure its proper functioning.
So, how long does brake fluid last? Generally it lasts 2 years. Most mechanics suggest changing the brake fluid every one or two years, although each vehicle has different maintenance needs, the brake oil changes frequency varies.
If you do not know how to check if the brake fluid needs changing, here are a list of signals your brake system needs attention:
You can also check the brake fluid level.
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It is possible to replace the brake fluid yourself, with a few tools and someone to assist you. The process must be done with care. Indeed, the old fluid should be completely drained from the system and the substance should be handled with care.
Furthermore, it is also important not to mix certain grades of brake fluid. For example, mixing a glycol-based liquid with a silicone-based liquid will cause the latter to deteriorate.
If you are afraid of making a mistake, do not hesitate to entrust this operation to a professional, because it is not trivial.
Note that the procedure may vary depending on the model of your car. Whether you have a Toyota, a Ford Focus or a Honda, the process may be different.
In particular, with vehicles equipped with ABS sometimes you have to disconnect the battery before starting the process. Some other models of cars require the engine to be left to run while changing the fluid.
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Here is an example of the procedure for replacing the brake fluid in your car:
No matter which car you have, every vehicle needs a quality brake fluid in order to run properly.
Driving with contaminated brake fluid can compromise your safety. If you are still not sure how often you need to change the fluid, or if you think something is wrong with your brake system, don't hesitate to book a mechanic to have it bleed and replaced. your brake fluid.
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