Do you take your vehicle's braking ability for granted? Do you ever stop to wonder how your vehicle comes to a halt when you undergo the simple act of putting your foot on the pedal? In truth, your braking system is quite complex, but it relies on a certain type of fluid to be present and in good order, to operate properly. Why do you need to pay so much attention to this fluid?
How Does Brake Fluid Work?
Brake fluid is part of the hydraulic system used to transfer a small amount of power to attain a bigger end result. Its specially designed so that it copes in all kinds of tough conditions and has a high boiling point due to its consistency. Most brake fluids today are equipped with a glycol – ether base, to elevate the boiling point accordingly.
Why Is the Fluid So Important?
The fluid is designed to transfer the limited amount of force that you place on the brake pedal to a much greater braking effort, applied to the discs at each wheel. The fluid also keeps the moving parts in the system lubricated, so that they don't corrode or overheat. It's very important for the fluid to be protected from contamination, to ensure that it maintains its ability to resist extreme temperatures. If it were to boil, it would vaporise and the entire system would fail.
What to Be on the Lookout for
Usually, brake fluid lasts very well in between regular servicing. However, sometimes you may get a warning that something is wrong. You may feel a strange pressure in the brake pedal, or a light may illuminate on the dashboard. Either one of these could indicate an inadequate amount of fluid in the system.
What to Do Next
Get used to checking underneath the bonnet at least once per week to have a look at the brake fluid. This is a good time for you to check all fluid levels, but pay particular attention to the brake fluid reservoir. In a modern-day car, these are transparent so you will be able to see the level at a glance.
Be aware that the colour of the fluid will change as it becomes more used. In the beginning, it is quite translucent and a light orange in colour, but if you see that it is dense and brown to black, then this is a sign that it needs to be changed.
Taking the Right Action
While you can top up the reservoir if you see that the level is below the maximum line, always ensure that you use the proper fluid, as they should never be mixed. This information is normally contained in the owner's manual, but you should ask your mechanic or brake specialist for advice, just to be sure.