The brake system on a car operates through the power of hydraulics. In other words, force is transmitted through means of a fluid, commonly referred to as brake fluid. This brake fluid flows throughout your brake system through the fluid lines, thereby allowing the often distant parts of the system to work in together with one another.
Unfortunately, many car owners overlook the role that brake fluid plays in the operation of a vehicle. As a result, they often find themselves facing expensive - and potentially dangerous - situations. If you would like to learn more about the importance of maintaining your brake fluid and common brake fluid issues, read on.
1. Insufficient Brake Fluid
The most common brake fluid problem also happens to be the simplest: too little fluid in the system. A low fluid level frequently stems from one of two common causes.
First, the fluid level will gradually lower as your brake pads wear down. As the pads get thinner, the caliper piston will sit lower in its housing in order to maintain adequate contact. As the piston moves lower, there is extra empty space inside the housing. This causes fluid levels to go down throughout your system.
In addition, low fluid may stem from a leak. These represent a more serious problem, as the fluid will continue escaping until the leak has been isolated and repaired.
Once your brake fluid level has dipped below the minimum threshold, it will begin to affect your car's stopping power. In other words, your brakes will gradually lose their ability to stop your car. Be sure to have a professional check your brake fluid levels on a regular basis.
2. Water Contamination
Regardless of your brake fluid level, you must be proactive about having your brake fluid replaced on a regular basis - generally every 24 to 36 months. Consult the manufacturer's recommendations for the most specific timeline. If you fail to replace your brake fluid promptly, then you may end up facing serious problems.
A lot of these problems stem from moisture that has contaminated the brake fluid. Brake fluid constitutes what is known as a hygroscopic fluid. That simply means that it will naturally attract moisture, often present in the form of water vapor. If water levels in your brake fluid reach a certain threshold, then your brakes will begin to struggle.
The enormous amounts of heat generated by your braking system will actually cause the brake fluid to begin boiling, which in turn greatly reduces its performance. Even a water content as little as 3 percent, reduces your brake fluid's boiling point by more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Changing your fluid regularly will keep these issues from negatively impacting your car.
3. Wrong Fluid Type
Three types of brake fluid exist, known respectively as DOT 3, DOT 4, and DOT 5. These differ primarily in terms of their boiling point. DOT 3 fluid has the lowest boiling point, whereas DOT 5 has the highest. For this reason, heavy-duty vehicles often require DOT 4 or DOT 5 brake fluid, in order to compensate for their higher operating temperatures.
Also, DOT 5 differs from both DOT 3 and DOT 4 in that it consists of a silicone-based fluid. The other two types consist of glycol-based fluid. Silicone exhibits a better ability to resist moisture absorption.
For this reason, many car owners think they can improve performance by switching to DOT 5 fluid. However, this will often create unanticipated problems and damage to your brake system. Always be careful to utilize only the fluid for which your vehicle's brake system was designed.
For more information about which type of brake fluid your car utilizes, please contact the car repair experts at Corporate Auto Works.