A d v a n c e d A u t o M a i n t e n a n c e
Checking the brake fluid levelÖ
Check the brake fluid level weekly at the brake fluid reservoir (on top of the brake master cylinder) when the vehicle is on level ground. If the reservoir is transparent, allowing you to see the level of the brake fluid, thereís no need to remove the cap from the reservoir. If itís a bit difficult to discern where the level of the brake fluid is, it can help to push down on a front corner of the vehicle to rock the vehicle so that the level of the brake fluid moves and you can detect it.
The brake fluid should never be allowed to fall below its minimum level as marked on the outside of the reservoir. This will lead to a deterioration in braking performance and even the possibility of brake failure if the level is too low, since air is then able to enter the brake system and cause spongy, dangerous braking. If the brake fluid level is significantly below the maximum level as marked on the outside of the reservoir, you should top the fluid up and observe the following points:
Maintain cleanliness to prevent dirt, dust or other contaminants from entering the reservoirÖ
Ensure that the cap, the outside of the reservoir and the surrounds of the reservoir are clean before taking the cap off, in order to prevent dirt, dust or any other contaminants from entering the reservoir. If theyíre dirty, itís important to wash them down with water (such as from a plastic watering can) and to blow that water off thoroughly (with your mouth) before taking the cap off. Failure to do this could easily see dirt or other contaminants finding their way into the brake fluid in the reservoir. The precision-engineered master cylinder is directly below the reservoir is supplied with brake fluid by the reservoir. Any dirt entering the reservoir could exacerbate wear in this vital component which compresses the brake fluid when the brake pedal is pressed down.
Keep the reservoir cap and float assembly clean when you place it asideÖ
Itís vitally important to ensure that the reservoir cap and any float assembly attached to it doesnít attract any dust or dirt when you remove it from the reservoir and place it aside, so that no dirt enters the reservoir when you place the cap back on it. Even if the area surrounding the reservoir is clean, itís a good idea to put the reservoir cap in a clean plastic bag while itís off the reservoir in order to keep it free from dust or dirt, especially if the cap has a cumbersome float assembly attached to it. Another reason why itís a good idea to put the cap in a clean plastic bag is that it stops the cap dripping brake fluid onto the area surrounding the brake fluid reservoir inside the engine bay.
Donít over-fill the reservoir with brake fluidÖ
Be careful not to over-fill the reservoir above the maximum mark on the reservoir seeing as the reservoir cap often contains a float assembly that will displace a lot of space in the reservoir and raise the fluid level when the cap is returned to the reservoir. By only topping up the fluid in the reservoir to some margin below the maximum level (when the cap is removed), you can ensure that the reservoir wonít be over-filled above the maximum level when the cap is returned to the reservoir. If you happen to over-fill the reservoir, you can use a clean, plastic syringe to extract the surplus fluid from the reservoir. This type of syringe is available from your local pharmacist in various sizes.
Use a clean, plastic funnel to pour brake fluid into the reservoirÖ
If itís difficult to pour brake fluid into the reservoir without spilling it, you can use a clean, plastic funnel. However itís important to be aware that using a plastic funnel increases the risk that the reservoir will be over-filled because of the tendency of most people (myself included) to pour too much fluid into the funnel.
Wash brake fluid spilled on the vehicle off with water immediatelyÖ
If any brake fluid is spilled onto the paintwork of the vehicle, such as in the engine bay surrounding the brake fluid reservoir, wash it off immediately with water to prevent it from damaging the paintwork. (Itís obviously important to make sure the cap is on the brake fluid reservoir before washing the area around the reservoir with water, in order to prevent water from entering the reservoir.) Donít wipe the brake fluid off. Brake fluid eats into the paintwork, making it soft. Wiping the fluid off could smudge and damage the paintwork.
In addition to keeping a garden hose close to where your vehicle is parked at home, itís quite handy to also keep a plastic watering can next to the garden tap, which can be used to quickly wash away small spills such as brake fluid on paintwork.
Copyright 2016 Andrew Mackinnon. All rights reserved.