Dirty Brake Fluid: No Big Deal or Flirting with Disaster?

If you’re reading this – perhaps you’re trying to figure out if you need to do something about the brake system on your vehicle. The same one that stops thousands of pounds of steel barreling down the highway at 60+ mph.

OK, I’ll admit – the title is a bit clickbaity and the above is a bit dramatic but it’s worth bringing forward this very real question, “Is dirty brake fluid a big deal?” Not to be all “doom and gloom” but yeah – it could be the difference between a minor accident and a fatal crash.

In case you’re more visual, I think my friend Tommy Boy did a pretty good job explaining it this way:

Tommy Boy Brakes Scene

Yeah, yeah. Tommy was talking about brake pads and not the fluid itself – but it is indeed one of the components that does wear down faster if your system is not properly maintained.

Dirty brake fluid is one of the leading causes of costly brake system failure and is bad for several reasons. Lots of these impact performance, safety, or both:

  1. Reduced Performance: Brake fluid is a hydraulic fluid that transmits the force applied to the brake pedal to the brake components at each wheel. Over time, contaminants can enter the line leading your fluid to contain contaminants like dirt, moisture, or air bubbles. This can result in a spongy or soft brake pedal, leading to decreased braking performance.

  2. Corrosion: Contaminants in dirty brake fluid can contribute to corrosion within the braking system. This can damage brake components, such as the master cylinder, calipers, and brake lines. Over time, this corrosion compromises the integrity of the brake system and leads to leaks, failures, and costly repairs.

  3. Increased Wear: Clean brake fluid is designed to lubricate various brake system components. When the fluid is dirty, it loses its ability to lubricate effectively. This can lead to increased wear on critical components like the master cylinder and brake calipers, potentially resulting in costly repairs.

  4. Reduced Boiling Point: Brake fluid has a high boiling point to withstand the heat generated during braking. If contaminants are present in dirty brake fluid this can lower its boiling point. If the fluid boils, it can lead to the formation of air bubbles, causing brake fade or a complete loss of braking power.

  5. Compromised ABS (Anti-lock Braking System): Modern vehicles often have an Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) that relies on clean and functional brake fluid.

    Dirty brake fluid may compromise the effectiveness of the ABS, reducing its ability to prevent wheel lockup during heavy braking.

  6. Brake System Failure: In severe cases, the accumulation of contaminants and degradation of dirty brake fluid can lead to brake system failure. Complete brake failure is a serious safety concern and can result in accidents or loss of vehicle control.

I get it – no one wants to pay to maintain their vehicle, however, it is a necessity to ensure your vehicle is running optimally and safely.  As such, it’s crucial to adhere to the manufacturer’s recommended brake fluid change intervals and replace the fluid if it becomes dirty or contaminated.

Most service centers and dealerships will offer brake inspections and the best ones will have a menu to take out some of the guesswork.

Sincerely hope this has helped you make an informed decision about what to do about your dirty brake fluid. We specialize in maintenance programs for dealerships and independent shops and everything else you need to be successful. 

Want to work with us? Click here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *