Unlike the previous aspects of maintenance, brake fluid is not added at particular intervals. Instead, we can measure when brake fluid or coolant should be changed. The measurement for when brake fluid should be flushed is 200 copper parts per million.
Brake fluid is hygroscopic, which means that if you left the can open overnight, the contents would be ruined because the moisture it would absorb overnight would render it unusable inside your vehicle. It is imperative to keep brake fluid tightly sealed.
Brake fluid is designed to absorb moisture in your brake system since moisture deteriorates all the metal components the brake fluid comes in contact with. Brake fluid is a hydraulic fluid crucial to proper braking.
If your brake fluid becomes too heated (especially if it heats to boiling) it creates air bubbles. If you’ve ever had air in your system, you know that the brake pedal gets “soft” or even goes to the floor and still doesn’t stop the car! It’s a horrifying experience. Moisture contamination over time greatly reduces the temperature at which brake fluid will form vapor (air bubbles) due to heat. The moisture also causes the fluid to become corrosive to all of the metal parts in the system.
Once the fluid reaches 200 copper parts per million due to normal wear in the system components, the brake fluid’s corrosion influence is greatly increased, which could potentially cause problems. The destruction to your brakes would not occur suddenly, so by the time it causes actual problems, your system could already be ruined—which will be quite an expensive repair.
Since we have started doing brake flushes on vehicles, we seldom have to replace the calipers. Some companies will recommend putting new calipers on your car as part of a routine brake job, but typically, they are not needed.
Most brake flushes currently cost less than $150, and need to be done every two to four years (depending on fluid measurements and the environment), whereas brake caliper replacements will often cost between $300 and $600. Luckily, in the desert southwest, moisture contamination is not as common as elsewhere in the country.
That’s another important reason you should take your car to a licensed technician who will keep it in proper running condition and replace fluids appropriately. The old Ben Franklin quote about an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure is really true when it comes to maintenance on your car.
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