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Brake fluid flush?


Dave Downs
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Flushing the brake fluid seems to be a new recommended service from the car dealer shops. My niece took her Toyota to a dealership near her for an oil change - they contacted her with $1400.00 worth of ‘recommended’ service that her 54,000 mile car should have…….

One of the services was a brake fluid flush - that’s a new one to me. Unless I replace calipers or wheel cylinders I just leave the brake fluid as is.

I’d like your opinions.

- and she declined all of the ‘recommended services’.

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I have a tester, looks like a big sharpie with 2 probes. I am amazed at what it tells me as far as brake fluid condition. Usually i find bad fluid in vehicles that sit. My truck has 135k on it and the fluid tests fine. Its all Down to moisture contamination. My Saab the might see 2 k a year and sits all the time needed changing. I think the tester was 20 Bucks from Amazon. 

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I've never flushed brake fluid.  Maybe I should but I don't.  We usually run our cars until we can't and brakes we never have had problems.  My wife's car is a 2018 with 110,000 miles.  This the lowest mile vehicle we own. They have all kinds of recommended service we should have done.  As far as maintenance  oil, filters, and tire rotation gets us 200,000 to 300,000 pretty easily.  

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   Brake fluid is hygroscopic,  absorbs water better than a sponge.  Brake fluid has a shelf life of 2 years in a sealed bottle.  Less in your vehicle,  worst maintained item in the auto industry.  Depending where the vehicle is affects amount of moisture in the brake fluid.  Meaning dry or humid climate Like Vtfireman said,  needs to be tested.
 

   How old is the Toyota car?  I have owned Toyotas close to 25 years,  great product. Low Mileage doesn’t  mean doesn’t need to be replaced.  There is no doubt in my mind since she young lady they took advantage of her.  Seems pretty high dollar amount for some maintenance.  I would ask to be shown the tester in the fluid first.  
 

Dealers like “menu” pricing,  just like fast food restaurants.  It fills the shop full of work.  Could call around to get quote on flush,  not hard to do.  Shouldn’t take much more than a hour.  
 

 

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This is not a new service recommendation.  I learned this in high school auto shop in the late 90's when most vehicles back then had a lot more iron, calipers, masters cylinders, wheel cylinders ect.

I do it on all my vehicles today and attribute no caliper or master cylinder replacement to clean fluid.

Scott

 

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We bought our first new Toyota in 2007.  Gave $700 for a 100k factory warranty.  At 60k they wanted to flush the brake fluid. I’d never heard of such a thing, but for $340, it was part of their “all fluids flush” package.  Steering, trans, axles, etc.  I figured to keep the warranty happy….I’d let them do it.  It has never been back to their dealership before, (I change engine oils, buy the filters from them,  kept receipts).  Anyhow, I’m pretty fussy.  I paint axles/differentials on new vehicles, I paint brake shields, and I sometimes while washing  axles i have knocked the dust caps off of brake bleeders….so I glue those on with a dab of black RTV on the outer edge.   So I go back to the local Toyota dealer, where we bought the truck, and I pay for the $340 fluid change package.  Then I go out and look….and man did I almost lose my poop.  My painted over axle drain and fill plugs…..undisturbed.  Transmission pan bolts/plug/cooler line hoses…all undercoated…..undisturbed. My glued on caliper bleeder caps. Alllll still glued.  And on top of that, they charged me for a tire rotation (they should have had the tires off anyway right?) well, one rim had a tiny ding in it from my wife rubbing the concrete at the end of my driveway once, and I Know that I had last rotated that tire to the front left….and it was still there.  $tealership.  They pulled the window sticker off a new suv for me to drive it home as a loaner that night.  Asked if I’d like to watch their technician “redo” the service.  I said What? He’s not “redoing” anything. He’s just doing it for the first time. And I don’t want him doing it at all.  They had a senior tech there that I knew from years earlier when he worked at their ford store. I asked that it set there, until He could do it. 

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I know I’ve told both of these stories here before, but here’s the second one:  another local new car dealership, my father-in-law is a older gentleman, pretty trusting guy. Always takes his new vehicles in for oil changes and tire rotations, (I’ve offered to do it but he knows I’m pretty busy most of the time.)!He drives slow and so little that his brakes rust  up from just sitting inside of his garage. At 30,000 miles they put rotors on his four-wheel-drive truck and they changed the oil. At 34,000 miles he takes it back, early, for his 35000k oil change.  They call him and ask him to authorize a complete brake job because this truck needs all four rotors replaced. He said “well that seems odd , I feel like you guys  just recently put those on. Could they maybe be defective? Let me check my records”.  -Yes they had just put them on like six months and 4000 miles earlier. They were trying to put them on again.!! When he called them on it they apologized and said oh, sorry sir, we have two trucks in here that are identical to yours and our technician was looking at the wrong one. Yeah right.  ($$$$)….. 

Mind you he had taken his brand new truck directly to the body shop and had them make it a two-tone model by painting the lower body all the way around the bottom, adding fender flares and painting the lower edge  of the tailgate. Yes, I’m sure they were looking at another truck that was identical to his. 

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My daughter's used BMW came from the local dealer. They sent her a list of "needed" service and she called and asked how much. I was floored when she told me the price and said don't. I replaced a brake caliper on her car and that's the most brake fluid change it's had. When she first got it she wanted to change the oil when the car said it was time. I said fine, I'll pick up a filter, look in the owner's manual and see what oil it wants. She told me it said "see your dealer". She looked online to BMW owner's groups for the recommendation.

I do like the idea of a water content tester.

My '54 MG TF has DOT 5 fluid installed by the previous restorer. - The car was at several shops that did the chassis and some body restoration before I got it and finished the engine. DOT 5 is often used in antiques that hardly get driven as it's not hygroscopic. It can only be installed if the entire system is new.

Some day I'll get back to finish that car.

EDIT: Never mix DOT 3 or 4 with DOT 5.

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I would use a vacuum bleader kit sucking though the bleeders, add fresh fluid until its clean.

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I took a 2 yr auto tech course right out of high school in the mid 80s. The brake and suspension teacher ( who was  old school and worked in dealerships starting in the 50's) said you should do a yearly brake tune up which included flushing the brake fluid and lubing any moving parts in the system (brake caliper bolts and where brake shoes rubbed on backing plate). Now having said that I have rarely done all that. 

But as others have said you gotta watch dealers. It's the service managers job or part of it to sell service. Some are honest some are not.

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2 hours ago, iowaboy1965 said:

But as others have said you gotta watch dealers

Oh ya 

Had one of my orphan brand GM cars in for state inspection at the local Chevy dealer

It also needed the hood latch cables replaced cause the release handle was broken.

I had the part and figured they'd done a bunch of them on all different models so it should be second nature for them 

I explained it's a two latch system like a Vette ought to be pretty straight forward I would imagine its in the manual  

 I'd been opening the hood by pulling on the cable end with a pair of vise grips I took the vise grip off because I didn't want it to disappear. 

Dropped the car off at 8AM said I'd be back at close to pick it up

At 1PM I get a call from the service writer wanting to know how to open the hood so they can replace the cable 

OMG they can't figure that out!!

So I explained starting off with "Like you would do on any cable operated device with a broken pull you pull on the cable end with a vise grip!! Its a pretty simple concept"  

He paused a bit and said I'll tell the tech that 

When I got the car back the invoice referenced replaced per GM procedure XX.....

Unbelievable 

 

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5 hours ago, oleman said:

How do we flush the brakes on a hydraulic brake IH tractor?

I don’t know about large frame tractors but in the 85 (and probably 74/84 series too you have to take the axle assembly loose to do it. 

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It’s not new for recommended service. I’m with most everyone else here where the only time I’ve done it is when replacing brake lines or calipers or something like that. Most of my vehicles are 10+ years old, I should do it to all of them. But my “to-do” list is long. It’s in the same area of the list as power steering fluid flush and fill. 

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1 hour ago, MTB98 said:

It’s not new for recommended service. I’m with most everyone else here where the only time I’ve done it is when replacing brake lines or calipers or something like that. Most of my vehicles are 10+ years old, I should do it to all of them. But my “to-do” list is long. It’s in the same area of the list as power steering fluid flush and fill. 

The only time I flush is when bleeding and I bleed it till it runs clean in the jar.

Might as well use the whole container it don't keep well. 

I do the power steering fluid when do the oil change with a transfer pump just suck it out from the fill cap and replenish 

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