What you need to know about brake fluid before the next time you bleed your brakes – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings

What you need to know about brake fluid before the next time you bleed your brakes – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings


In everyday driving, you probably think about bleeding your car’s brakes about as often as you wonder whether you’ve adequately arranged your sock drawer. Even though you ultimately place a great deal of faith in brake fluid to do its job without fail day in and day out, it routinely goes overlooked even during normal maintenance.

On the other hand, you’ve probably driven a car with a soft brake pedal or a pedal that dropped straight to the floorboard and suddenly found yourself unable to think of anything but brake fluid, as the stop sign and the brake lights ahead of you grew increasingly close increasingly fast.

It typically happens about half of the way home when picking up a new project vehicle, and leads you to wonder why you even dared to think you could fix up that rusty heap, a car that probably reached that state of dilapidation long after somebody else stopped thinking about its brake fluid altogether.Indeed, brake fluid bleeding is far from the sexiest task.

It doesn’t add horsepower, it doesn’t make the car any more attractive, and the best result you can hope for is that the car will stop as it was designed to, no better. On the other hand, just like insuring your car, it’s a necessary task. It’s also less of a convoluted or labor-intensive task than many people fear it to be.

1. Need To Bleed?

A spongy or ineffective brake pedal is usually the first indicator that something’s wrong with your brake system, and the causes behind that one symptom can range from rusted brake lines, to cracked flexible brake lines, to worn cylinders or seals in the calipers or wheel cylinders. Generally, you can count on finding some part of the normally sealed brake system admitting air, which compresses while fluid doesn’t. So bleeding – or flushing the brake fluid system – is necessary to get out all of that trapped air, but it’s also something that should be done on a regular basis to replace degraded fluid with reduced effectiveness. Your car’s user manual likely recommends bleeding every two to three years.

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