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How to Flush Brake Fluid


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Your

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is one of the most important liquids in your vehicle. Brake fluid is what transmits your foot’s movement of pressing on the brake pedal into movement of the friction material at the wheel. It is rarely seen unless you check their brake fluid level or are unlucky enough to have a brake system leak. But your brake fluid is not immortal and needs changed just like any other automotive fluid. Your owner’s manual lists how often to flush brake fluid for a reason, so let’s take a look at how to flush brake fluid.

Why Flush Fluid Brake Fluid?

Just like every other automotive fluid, brake fluid changes as time passes. In the case of brake fluid, it gets contaminated.

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is hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs water. That’s bad because if the water content in the brake fluid gets too high, it might boil under heavy braking. Brake fluid can also become contaminated with rust and copper. 

Brake Fluid Flush Preparation

Before starting a brake flush, you need to take these first no matter which type of brake flush method you choose:

  1. Turn off the ignition of the vehicle.
  2. Using a vacuum bulb or similar siphon, remove almost all of the old brake fluid from the brake fluid reservoir. Leave a shallow puddle of it to prevent air from entering the brake system.
  3. Top off the brake reservoir with fresh brake fluid.
  4. Lift the vehicle off the ground and support it on jack stands. Never work under a vehicle that is only supported by a jack. A jack is a lifting device only, a jack stand is a support device.
  5. Remove the tires and wheels. If possible, remove all four wheels, but you may also flush one wheel at a time.
  6. Place a drain pan under each wheel that you flush to catch the brake fluid as it drips.

Once these steps are completed, you can move on to the brake flush method of your choice.

Gravity Brake Flush

With this method you let gravity do all the work. The tradeoff is that it takes more time than any other method.

  1. Open the brake bleeder valve on each wheel
  2. The brake fluid will drip from the open bleeder valves
  3. Keep the brake reservoir filled with fresh brake fluid
  4. Wait for the fluid dripping from the bleeder valve to run clear (this may take more than an hour)
  5. Once the brake fluid runs clear, close the bleeder valve
  6. Top off the brake fluid reservoir if necessary

Manual Brake Flush

This is the method most people think of when bleeding or flushing brakes. One person sits in the driver’s seat working the brake pedal while another person opens up the bleeder valves.

  1. Have an assistant sit in the driver’s seat
  2. Choose a wheel and locate the brake bleeder valve
  3. Ask the assistant to pump the brake pedal three times and then hold it down
  4. Open the brake bleeder valve to release the pressurized fluid
  5. Close the brake bleeder valve
  6. Check the brake fluid reservoir and top it off with fresh fluid if necessary
  7. Repeat steps 3–6 until the fluid is clear
  8. Top off the brake fluid reservoir if necessary

Pressure Brake Flush

Pressure brake fluid tools have become increasingly popular. This brake fluid flush tool uses pressurized air to push brake fluid through the system.

  1. Read the instructions included with the pressure brake fluid tool
  2. Fill the pressure brake fluid tool with fresh brake fluid as directed in the tool instructions
  3. Attach the pressure adapter to the brake fluid reservoir 
  4. Pressurize the tool as directed in the tool instructions
  5. Open the brake bleeder valve to release the pressurized fluid, and allow the fluid to flow until it is clear
  6. Close the brake bleeder valve
  7. Top off the brake fluid reservoir if necessary

Vacuum Brake Flush

As the name implies, this method uses a vacuum tool to pull brake fluid through the system. It is usually part of a

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that includes a brake fluid catch bottle.

  1. Read the instructions included with the vacuum brake fluid tool
  2. Attach the vacuum brake fluid tool to the brake bleeder valve
  3. Pump the vacuum brake fluid tool to create vacuum at the brake bleeder valve
  4. Open the brake bleeder valve to begin pulling brake fluid through the system
  5. Allow the brake fluid to flow until it is clear
  6. Close the brake bleeder valve
  7. Check the brake fluid reservoir and top it off with fresh fluid if necessary
  8. Repeat steps 3–7 until the fluid is clear
  9. Top off the brake fluid reservoir if necessary

Regardless of which

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you choose, the goal is to replace as much old fluid as possible. You will likely use more brake fluid than you expect, but considering the long service interval, it is worth using a bit more fluid just to make certain. There is no difference between a brake fluid change vs. flush, they are the same process with the same goal: new brake fluid.

The cost to flush brake fluid depends on who is doing the work. A DIY brake flush at home will only cost you the price of a few bottles of brake fluid, but a professional brake fluid flush using specialized equipment will likely put the cost at more than $100. 

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