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We've supplied quality 4WD accessories to customers from Iceland, Japan, the USA, Europe, Arabia, Africa and South America since 1996.

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163 Abbotsford Road, Bowen Hills,
Queensland 4006 Australia.
Phone: +61-(0)7-3252-4039
Fax: +61-(0)7-3852-1808
Email: info@motorcare.com.au
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The Truth About Brake Fluid - To Stop or Not?


The efficient operation of a vehicle’s braking system is the most important consideration before setting the wheels of a motor vehicle in motion. Just about everything that’s on the new car market these days provides the motorist with more than enough power to get them off the mark and take them over that government revenue generating speed limit before they realise.

Now the hard part-how to stop that vehicle with the same degree of efficiency and control that the vehicle had when it was new. The question relates to how efficient is the braking system on the vehicle when it’s a little older, say 12 months, and it has travelled some 30,000 kilometres. That leads to the most overlooked component of a vehicle braking system-The Brake Fluid.

Vehicle and brake fluid manufacturers recommend that the brake fluid be changed periodically. Brake fluid is Hygroscopic-it attracts and absorbs water. This is unavoidable. It is part of brake fluid’s chemistry and even though it is in a "closed" system, the attraction for water is so strong that it is still absorbed.

When brake fluid absorbs water, its boiling point is reduced. A good quality fluid, having a boiling point of say 260C when new, could, over two years have its boiling point gradually reduced to about 160C. This deterioration continues and eventually the heat produced by friction between the br ake lining materials and discs or drums may vaporise the fluid.

Vapour, unlike liquid, is compressible, so pressing the brake pedal merely compresses vapour instead of operating the brakes. (This is known as the vapour lock point and it is slightly lower than boiling point). This kind of brake failure can only be avoided by changing the brake fluid regularly. How often should brake fluid be changed? Brake fluid deteriorates not with distance but with time. It continues to absorb water even when the vehicle is stationary.

Most vehicle manufacturers recommend regular brake fluid changes on a time basis, eg. every year. Unfortunately, such recommendations are not always followed and independent surveys have shown that many vehicles have dangerous brake fluid in them.

Vehicle manufacturers also specify the brake fluid performance required, usually by reference to a DOT specification, and brake fluid should therefore always be changed before it "falls out" of specification. DOT specifications include minimum boiling point requirements and measurement of boiling point is one of the best ways to determine whether or not fluid needs changing. With the price of good quality brake fluid below $14 per litre it makes good sense to change it on a regular basis.

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