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Old 03-27-2015, 02:39 PM   #1
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Replace Brake Fluid?

The Freightliner maintenance manual that came with my 2008 MB Sprinter calls for "Replace brake fluid every 2 years". I've never had a vehicle that recommended changing the brake fluid as a periodic maintenance item. Does anybody do this? Is it really necessary and if so why?
Experience, comments, suggestions?
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Old 03-27-2015, 03:39 PM   #2
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I believe that recommendation came along w/ the advent of ABS.
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Old 03-27-2015, 03:46 PM   #3
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Brake fluid is hygroscopic. The water it takes up typically sits in the low point of the system, either the ABS controller or the calipers. When the water sits there, it can lead to corrosion, pitting, etc (eventually, a seized caliper in the worst case, or problems when pads are changed out and the caliper is pushed back onto the area behind the caliper piston that is now damaged). Changing the brake fluid every 2 years started some years back as a preventative maintenance item, to avoid the complications of that water collecting. If you don't do it, I don't think your brakes are likely to fail (although the ABS controller may be more sensitive). What changing the brake fluid does do is reduce the likelihood of having to overhaul calipers (and that ABS controller) over time. It is an ounce of prevention.

I have changed the brake fluid every 24 months, as recommended, on my last five vehicles.

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Old 03-27-2015, 05:05 PM   #4
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You guys are forgetting the fact that as brake fluid absorbs water, the boiling point greatly reduces. That's why you never use brake fluid that's been opened; even in a closed container the fluid has already been compromised.

When you're pulling that big trailer over a mountain pass, coming down the other side your brakes are REALLY working, even with downshifting to help save the brakes. But, if you have old brake fluid, the risk of brake failure is exponentially increased.

The hotter the brakes get, the greater the breakdown risk of the fluid...and the older the fluid, the more water it has absorbed, and the lower the boiling point. And, the greater the risk of losing your brakes.

I change mine out every few years, or if I know I'm doing a big mountain climb I'll change it out before that trip. Being in a very humid environment the risk is much greater of absorbing water in brake fluid...sometimes finding a non-humid day to flush the brakes is an issue as you should never even open your brake reservoir with 90% ambient humidity due to the risk of compromising your brake fluid's boiling point. It'll soak that moisture right up.
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Old 03-27-2015, 05:17 PM   #5
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I change mine in all my vehicles. I am convinced that my calipers last much longer that way. Bear in mind when calipers get corroded and hang up they typically cause the pads to wear out faster along with the rotors.
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Old 03-27-2015, 07:27 PM   #6
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Silicone brake fluid (DOT5) is hydrophobic and has a much higher boiling point (500*) but I seem to recall reading that it wasn't suitable for ABS. Found it >>> DOT 5 traps air and ABS can cause it to foam.

It also is not a paint remover like DOT 3 and DOT 4 are. Still use it in the '73.
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Old 03-27-2015, 07:27 PM   #7
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All the above posts are basically correct. ABS motors hate water and when cycling at the rate they do, the watered brake fluid will end up crystalizing in the motor and will cause it to fail.

As with oil in an engine, brake fluid is cheap compared to calipers and ABS motors, especially when you add traction control to the ABS motor. I change my fluid every 2 years and am still running my original calipers on my 03 Tracker and 07 Altima.

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Old 03-27-2015, 07:54 PM   #8
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I failed to change the brake fluid on my Ford Van about 16 years ago and the fluid boiled on a haul down the canyon between Joseph and Lewiston, There were no van braking. The disc brakes on the Airstream saved the day and us. Change your brake fluid, especially if you are planning a tow in the mountains.
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Old 03-27-2015, 08:38 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dwightdi View Post
I failed to change the brake fluid on my Ford Van about 16 years ago and the fluid boiled on a haul down the canyon between Joseph and Lewiston, There were no van braking. The disc brakes on the Airstream saved the day and us. Change your brake fluid, especially if you are planning a tow in the mountains.
VERY good advice. I had a similar situation coming down the climb at Kolob Canyons in Zion in my van without pulling a trailer. It's very steep in places, and I was coming down in 1st gear. But, that wasn't enough...I was tapping the brakes, and I kept gaining speed. I was pumping them (no ABS) yet things were getting scary. I had to do a "Bo and Luke" and turn the van sideways in a gravel pullout on the edge of a cliff to stop it. The front brakes were smoking like I was grilling a steak. They got hot enough to boil the fluid which of course caused me to lose all my brakes.

That afternoon I re-did my brakes in the WalMart parking lot in St. George with new ceramic pads and Super Dot 4/Dot 5.1 fluid. I tested it several times TRYING to get the brakes to smoke coming down Zion and never had a problem since in that van.

Old brake fluid is definitely risking death...ESPECIALLY when pulling a trailer, nevermind coming down a 14% grade!

Change that fluid. An idiot can do it.
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Old 03-27-2015, 08:45 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dwightdi View Post
I failed to change the brake fluid on my Ford Van about 16 years ago and the fluid boiled on a haul down the canyon between Joseph and Lewiston, There were no van braking. The disc brakes on the Airstream saved the day and us. Change your brake fluid, especially if you are planning a tow in the mountains.

Had a similar problem in my B190, but it was from being a hot day plus having several people pull out in front of me. Flushed the fluid and I never had another problem. It's most definitely something that should be done regularly.
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Old 03-27-2015, 09:08 PM   #11
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Change that fluid. An idiot can do it.
Not necessarily true w/ ABS if you want to purge the air and old fluid out of the pump. Some systems require a scan tool to activate the ABS pump in order to get the air and old fluid out of it.

Bleeding ABS Brake Systems
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Old 03-27-2015, 09:19 PM   #12
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Bleed each brake the proper old fashioned way at each wheel, starting from the wheel farthest away from the reservoir.

You shouldn't have to "purge the air" out of the pump as there shouldn't be any air in it in the first place, only old fluid.

As long as you don't introduce any air into the system (which is unlikely since you are only working downstream of the ABS pump) there is little chance of air getting into the system upstream; thus, there is hardly anything to worry about bleeding brakes the "old fashioned" way. As long as you bleed plenty of fluid through each wheel line, you'll be fine.
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Old 03-28-2015, 12:08 AM   #13
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But that doesn't purge the pump of the old fluid.
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Old 03-28-2015, 03:11 AM   #14
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Original fluid in my o4 Tahoe and my o8 Silverado, original everything else but pads.

I am not saying that any person shouldn't change their fluid, but fact is, the brake system is sealed from the air, so it should not pick up water.

Maybe the manufacturers might recommend changing the fluid more to cover their own donkey than to protect us?

I wonder how much a dealer charges for changing brake fluid?

I mean really, it seems to me that a brake system will be exposed to the atmosphere to a greater extent in a single bleeding event than it will be for years and years of normal service and regular topping off.


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