Brake fluid plays a crucial role in braking performance as it transfers the force created when a driver presses the brake pedal directly onto the wheel hub. Heat generated under braking, especially under heavier breaking, may affect the brake fluid which will only work if it hasn’t turned into vapour due to heat. Therefore the boiling point your brake fluid achieves is critical to efficient braking as temperatures above the boiling point form vapour bubbles in the system, potentially resulting in brake failure.
Brake fluid is hygroscopic and absorbs water from the atmosphere – even if the car isn’t used. Most of the water absorption takes place through the flexible rubber hoses.
Hydraulic brakes rely on the principle that you can’t compress a liquid.
Under heavy braking, such as a long downhill descent, the brakes get hot and heat up the brake fluid. In extreme cases, water in the brake fluid can boil and vaporise.
Though you can’t compress a liquid, you can compress a vapour and if this occurs brake feel will become ‘spongy’ and full braking performance will be lost.
Whilst regular servicing will check the boiling point of your brake fluid, vehicle manufacturers recommend that you change your brake fluid a maximum of every 2 years regardless of mileage. Changing brake fluid when recommended prevents brake failure and maintains the boiling point at a safe level.
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