Many of today’s cars have disc brakes in the front and drum brakes in back. And all brakes rely on friction, which is supplied by either a brake pad or a brake shoe to slow and stop your car. To stop a wheel, a disc brake uses a caliper fitted with brake pads to grab a spinning disc, or rotor. A drum brake has a wheel cylinder that pushes a brake shoe against the inside of a spinning drum.
Brake systems are fairly simple and incredibly effective technologies, but when they need a mechanic’s attention, they give certain warning signals. For example, a low or spongy pedal can mean that there’s air in the hydraulic system. A pulsing feel in the brake pedal or wheel shake during braking is also an indication of a problem. A red brake-warning light that stays on could mean that there’s an imbalance in your hydraulic system or low fluid.
And while some brake noises are normal, chirps, continuous squeals and grinding sounds almost always mean that it’s time for new brake pads or shoes. Anytime you notice something irregular about your brakes, it’s a good idea to have them checked out by a brake systems specialist.
Your car’s owner’s manual will provide a maintenance schedule designed to keep your brakes in good condition. Following it is the easiest way to avoid expense brake systems repairs and the potential for catastrophic brake systems failure. At the very least, you should have your brakes inspected every year.
Our Brake Systems Repair Services:
- Pad Replacement
- Lining Replacement
- Hose Replacement
- Wheel Cylinders
- Master Cylinders
- Emergency Brakes
- Brake Drums
- Brake Rotors
- Power Boosters
- Anti-Lock Systems
Why It’s Important to Flush Your Brake Fluid
The brake fluid flush is one of the most frequently forgotten car maintenance services. Many owners do not even realize that a brake fluid flush is an item that should be on their maintenance list and others feel as though their mechanic is trying to take advantage of them or sell an unneeded service when a brake fluid flush is recommended. A vehicle’s brake fluid does need to be flushed periodically in order to help prevent costly brake system repairs.
Unfortunately, vehicle manufacturers have omitted brake fluid service from their service schedule. We suspect that this resulted from manufacturers trying to reduce the apparent cost of long-term vehicle maintenance in an attempt to make their products more appealing. This isn’t much of a concern for the first couple of years but with the struggling economy and many people choosing to keep their vehicles longer, brake fluid maintenance becomes important.
Brake fluid should be flushed periodically because it is a hygroscopic fluid, meaning that it readily absorbs and retains moisture. It may seem a bit odd at first glance, but that is exactly what we want the brake fluid to do. With the understanding that many of the brake system components are made from metal, we can quickly see that moisture is the enemy. Brake fluid, by absorbing any moisture that gets into the system and retaining it, helps to prevent moisture related corrosion and failure of internal brake system components. Even the highest quality brake fluid can only retain so much moisture, however, so it periodically must be flushed from the system and replaced with new fluid.
There are special test strips and other similar items available to help determine when the fluid is in need of changing, but the best method is to analyze the color of the brake fluid in your vehicle’s brake fluid reservoir. Fresh/new brake fluid is clear in color with a very slight yellow hue. Brake fluid which has served its useful life and is in need of change is deeper amber in color (even brown, in some cases). The use of a flashlight can be helpful in gaining an understanding of brake fluid condition. Use the flashlight to shine through the master cylinder of most late-model vehicles. For older vehicles with metal master cylinder reservoirs, shine the light down from the top and look through the fluid to the bottom of the reservoir. If the fluid has a heavy amber hue, the fluid is ready to be replaced.
A good general rule of thumb on the frequency for having your modern vehicle’s brake fluid flushed is to have it done every two years, especially on those vehicles equipped with antilock braking systems. Years ago, prior to the advent of antilock brakes, flushing the brake fluid was not as much of a concern. The more intricate fluid circuitry of the hydraulic control units on today’s antilock brake and traction-control equipped vehicles are much more sensitive to moisture and small particulate debris. Additionally, the actuation these systems during braking or traction controlled events generate heat which further contributes to the breakdown of the brake fluid. With the potential of vehicle safety concerns and brake system repairs that could cost hundreds of dollars, the money spent on a brake fluid flush every two years is well worth the peace of mind.