Everything You Need to Know about Brake Fluid

Brake fluid is a hydraulic fluid that moves the components of your vehicle's braking system. Without it, your vehicle wouldn't be able to stop. The brake fluid can be found in cars, trucks, boats, motorcycles and some of the more advanced bicycles. In order to ensure that your brakes continue to work properly, there are a number of things that you have to understand. This is true regardless of whether or not you decide to change the brake fluid yourself - even if you leave the entire process in the hands of the professions, it is important that you understand what you dealing with.

Brake Fluid and Moisture

Because brake fluid is a hydraulic fluid, it has a tendency to absorb moisture. The more moisture it absorbs, the more it degrades. While you can delay the degradation by making sure the brake fluid doesn't come in contact with water, it will inevitably absorb moisture from the air. Slowly but surely, the brake fluid will become more and more degraded until it is rendered completely useless.

Replacing Brake Fluid

Brake fluid should be replaced no less than twice a year and no more than once a year. You will need to completely flush the old brake fluid out of your car and replace it with new brake fluid. The process will require two people - one to press the brake pedal and one to handle the actual draining. Unless you are a mechanic or know someone who is the mechanic, you are better off leaving the process to the professionals. 

Checking and Adding Brake Fluid

You should check your brake fluid levels at least once a month. First, you must locate your brake master cylinder. If you have any doubts about its location, consult your vehicle's manual. If the cylinder is transparent, simply look at the markers. If it's not transparent, open the cylinder. The markers are located on the inside.

If there is a slight decrease in brake fluid levels, simply pour in more brake fluid until brake fluid levels reach the "full" marker. If the decrease is significant, there is leakage in your braking mechanism. If that's the case, you should take it to a mechanic as soon as possible.

Brake Fluids and DOT Ratings

If you ever need to add or change your vehicle's brake fluid, it is important that you check the fluid's DOT rating. DOT rating is a rating given by the US Department of Transportation to describe how the brake fluid reacts to heat and moisture. To make sure that your brakes continue working property, you should not mix differently rated brake fluids, even when you're completely replacing it.

Safety Tips

Brake fluid is highly flammable, toxic and corrosive. If the brake fluid gets on your vehicle, it can dissolve paint. Keep it away from fires and electric outlets. Be sure to wear gloves while working with brake fluid. If it comes in contact with your skin, wash it off immediately. You should be especially careful if you have small children - they are much more vulnerable to the brake fluid's harmful effects than adults.