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New Brake Fluid in your TV lately? Safety Concern and Good Idea for your Weekend!


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Most truck owners are good about changing engine oil and filter, maybe trans fluid or antifreeze, though brake fluid often gets overlooked. For motorcycles, it is standard to replace brake fluid annually. Riding street bikes is dangerous and good brakes are a must. I do mine every 2 years, since I ride occasionally, and I live in the dry SW (it is mainly moisture that ages brake fluid and brake fluid is designed to absorb moisture).

I just purchased an old Dodge Ram 2500 Cummins, now 23 years old. I always change ALL the fluids and rubber components (belts & hoses) whenever I acquire a used vehicle. I observed evidence that the brake fluid had never been changed, same with the rear diff. The trans had newer fluid and the engine oil looked fine, but I changed both, replacing all fluids. If we lived north, I would have done the antifreeze too by now, but waiting to afford a new high-performance water pump (known to fail on the Cummins) and will replace the antifreeze and serpentine belt at that time.

You may be thinking I'm OK, we have a newer truck! But even on late model vehicles, you should change brake fluid every 3-5 years, especially when towing. DOT 3 or 4 Brake fluid is clear when new. It gets yellow->brown->black with age as it collects water and dirt. It is moisture in the calipers that lowers the boiling point, producing steam and serious brake fade. This can easily occur when descending mountain grades.

More on how I did mine to come...


Brake Master Reservoir.jpg

Chris & John in Prescott, AZ | 2016 EII #113 | '01 Ram 2500 Cummins!

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So, the last picture shows how clean the brake master reservoir looked after service. The first thing I do is get the truck on jack stands (it was already up for suspension work and trans service). You can bleed brakes with wheels on, but I prefer to take it straight on and then it only takes a few minutes.

The fluid in my master cylinder reservoir was BLACK with clumps of junk in the bottom, and same in the calipers. I drained the calipers when off the vehicle, bleed valves open, using a Channel Lock to compress both cylinders. Removed the reservoir and cleaned it inside. There was a pin punched in place to hold the reservoir to the master. I filled a little tub with full strength Super Clean ($10/gal at Walmart), let it soak overnight and next day shook the reservoir hard until everything came loose and clean.

To bleed the brakes, you need a container (I use an empty handle-bottle of Vodka!) and an 18" length of clear hose, that fits the bleed valve. Clear so you can see air bubbles and the color of the fluid. Some say bleed the furthest wheel first, but it really doesn't matter. Some of you with modern ABS systems may need additional service, but only if you have any ABS issues.

You can open the bleeder valve and just pump the brake pedal hard a few pumps (hose connected into bottle). Make sure you keep an eye on the reservoir, and never let it empty. The last bleed, your partner needs to pump the brakes 2-3 times hard, hold them down and do not let go, then you open the bleed valve and close it. She can now let her foot off the brakes (that would be my wife Chris). Your brakes will be much improved and safe in the mountains.

Do yourself a favor, pop your hood today and look at your brake fluid. If you see anything but clean clear fluid, schedule this maintenance! 😊

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Chris & John in Prescott, AZ | 2016 EII #113 | '01 Ram 2500 Cummins!

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