Monthly Archives: July 2016

Change Your Brake Fluid

download-44The recommended intervals for changing brake fluid are all over the board depending on the manufacturer, from as often as every two years to never. Really.

For example, Chevrolet says to change the brake fluid on most models every 45,000 miles, but Honda says to do it every three years regardless of the vehicle’s mileage. Three years is also the recommended interval for most Volkswagens, but Mercedes-Benz vehicles typically call for fresh fluid every two years or 20,000 miles.

In contrast, on the Ford Escape, Hyundai Elantra, Toyota Camry and other models from those manufacturers, there are no recommendations for replacing the brake fluid, only instructions to inspect it periodically.

This leaves it up to the owner to consult what the manufacturer says in their car’s maintenance schedule and rely on the advice of a trusted repair shop.

Brake fluid lives in a sealed system and can survive for years, but moisture from the surrounding air can work its way in through hoses and other parts of the brake system. Water in the brake lines lowers the boiling point of the fluid, so stopping ability can diminish in hard stops as heat in the system increases. In addition, over time the moisture can cause internal corrosion in the brake lines, calipers, the master cylinder and other components.

Flushing and replacing brake fluid might cost $100 or less on many vehicles, but replacing rusted brake lines and other parts can run several hundreds of dollars, so clearly there’s value in keeping up with maintenance.

As a rule of thumb, it’s wise to have the brake fluid inspected and perhaps tested for moisture content every few years and no more than every five if you live in a high-humidity area.

You might be able to tell it’s time for a change by looking to see if the fluid is still fresh. Brake fluid is often light brown in color, but in some vehicles it’s clear (at least when new) and will darken with age, becoming murky from water contamination. A better way is to have it tested by a professional for moisture and see what they recommend.

 

Oil for High Mileage Engines

Most major oil brands market oil made specifically for engines that have more than 75,000 miles of wear, claiming that additives help reduce engine wear and provide anti-aging benefits. They are often a blend of synthetic and petroleum-based oils, and they typically cost at least a couple of dollars more per quart than conventional oils.

But are they worth the extra dough?

Some oils may be more beneficial than others because they contain conditioners purported to rejuvenate seals to prevent or stop oil leaks, a common ailment in engines with a lot of miles on them.

Internal seals and gaskets become brittle and shrink as they age, allowing oil to seep by. Sometimes this becomes visible as oil stains on a garage floor or as streaks of oil on lower engine parts. When valve-guide seals wear, oil can leak into combustion chambers and the engine will literally start burning oil. With small leaks, blue smoke from burning oil may not be visible from the exhaust, but your oil level will probably drop below the full mark on a regular basis.

The seal conditioners found in some high-mileage oils may reduce or eliminate small leaks and seepage by rejuvenating seals to their original size and shape. If an engine isn’t burning or leaking oil, or if it uses, say, less than a quart over 6,000 miles or so, switching to high-mileage oil may not be worth the extra cost for you. It’s really a judgment call if you should pay more for high-performance oil when your car has 100,000 miles on it but is using little or no oil. It doesn’t hurt and it could prevent leaks from starting. Most vehicle manufacturers would say it’s normal for an engine to consume some oil between oil changes.

In addition to having seal conditioners, high-mileage oils usually boast more detergents designed to clean out sludge inside the engine, plus other additives meant to reduce wear on moving parts. Every oil, though, makes similar claims that it does great things inside an engine.

Some mechanics recommend switching to a thicker (higher viscosity) oil — such as 10W30 instead of 5W20 — or using oil additives to stop oil leaks. Thicker oil makes an engine harder to start in cold weather, reduces oil circulation around the engine and increases oil pressure, which means there will be more pressure trying to push the oil past seals and gaskets.