How Does Brake Fluid Get Contaminated?

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For the most part, the braking system in a vehicle is closed, meaning bits of grit and grime can’t make their way in through any holes or gateways. In theory, that should mean the brake fluid inside the system will never get dirty and things like a brake fluid flush or replacement should be reserved for rare occasions when something serious is amiss. Unfortunately, your brake system doesn’t operate in a theoretical realm and moisture can make its way into the brake fluid through the hydraulic lines. As that moisture causes the fluid to chemically break down and the moisture begins to rust metal components in the system as a whole, you can end up with contaminated brake fluid.

If your vehicle has dirty brake fluid, it needs a brake flush, or a thorough cleansing to remove all unwanted particles and residual moisture before replacing the fluid with fresh, uncontaminated brake fluid. The problem lies in knowing when you have contaminated brake fluid. This is why many mechanics and manufacturers recommend performing a brake fluid flush every two years or 24,000 miles as a precautionary measure. There are circumstances, however, when you should consider a brake flush more frequently or may need one immediately, including:

  • Driving under heavy braking conditions: If, for example, you frequently tow a trailer or have a mountainous commute, you likely demand more of your brake system. With those increased demands, moisture will enter your brake fluid and begin wreaking havoc more quickly than usual.

  • Any time other work is performed on the brake system: There are two reasons why a brake fluid flush should be included when you have your brake shoes replaced or other brake system maintenance. First, it’s easier to do when you or a mechanic is already there. Secondly, your brake fluid is more vulnerable to accumulating moisture and other contaminants when other work occurs in that region of your vehicle.

  • Brake warning lights on your dash: When you see the ABS or Brake System light illuminate on your dash, don’t hesitate to have your brakes and brake fluid checked. This often means the fluid levels are low, which is likely caused by leaking brake lines, which also allows contaminants to enter into the dirty brake fluid.

  • Noticeable change in pedal pressure: Some people refer to this as a “spongy” feeling to the brakes, but it really refers to either the pedal depressing harder or more easily than usual. Both are bad signs and indicate you should have your brake system inspected, including checking for contaminated brake fluid, because fluid is likely leaking through the lines or master cylinder.

  • Pulling to one side while driving: If your car or truck noticeably pulls to one side as you drive, it could indicate a brake fluid leak, which would also mean the remaining fluid is contaminated from moisture and grit entering where the fluid escapes. Although this may be caused by other issues, it is important to rule out any problems with your brake system for safety purposes.

Contaminated brake fluid can have catastrophic consequences, which is why any issue with your braking system should not be taken lightly. If you suspect you have dirty brake fluid and may require a brake flush, don’t hesitate to call one of highly qualified technicians for a consultation.


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YourMechanic Brake Pad Replacement Service

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Number of Reviews

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Rating Summary
11,350
339
70
35
90
11,350
339
70
35
90

Jose

8 years of experience
33 reviews
Jose
8 years of experience
BMW 325i - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Redwood City, California
I had a few mechanics from YM and _all_ of them arrived late (some even 2 hours late) , but not Jose! He arrived right on time! I gave him the keys and let him do his job. I am a curious person so I asked him a few questions about his techniques and he had no problem answering them all with detailed explanations! He did run into a problem on my car because of stripped bolts, but he literally went above and beyond and found a way to remove it. Best mechanic ever.
Lexus CT200h - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - South San Francisco, California
Jose was on time and did a great job on my brakes. He was friendly and explained the entire process. Would highly recommend.

Augustine

11 years of experience
35 reviews
Augustine
11 years of experience
Chevrolet Equinox - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Rio Rancho, New Mexico
Augustine was amazing. He was the perfect example of customer service all around. While he was working, I was recommending him to my neighbors. Next time I need work, I will be requesting Augustine specifically!!!!! Please give him a raise or bonus!!!
Toyota Corolla - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Albuquerque, New Mexico
Mr. Sanchez showed up on time and finished replacing my rotors and break pads. He was very informative and treats your car like his own. He was very time efficient and communicated very well. I highly recommend Mr. Sanchez’s services!!!!

John

26 years of experience
552 reviews
John
26 years of experience
GMC Yukon XL 1500 - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - League City, Texas
I am so happy John is back. I trust him very much. He is efficient and has a tremendous amount of mechanical knowledge. He is a true asset to Your Mechanic.
Ford F-150 - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Alvin, Texas
I like John because he is very knowledgeable about all my vehicles. In addition he is very organized regarding how he performs his work.

Wesley

8 years of experience
45 reviews
Wesley
8 years of experience
Dodge Nitro - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Peoria, Arizona
Great experience. Very professional, friendly, and knowledgeable. Highly recommended and will continue to use for future work.

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