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Brake fluid exchanges maintain brake system, components

In Brake Fluid Flush, Brakes by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

The brake fluid in today’s cars, trucks and SUVs are under greater pressure and heat than ever before. 

This is simply from normal wear and tear.

In order for a vehicle to stop, the brake pads clamp against the brake rotors, which are connected to the wheels. The calipers hold the pads.

As you brake – which is often if you live or travel through Northern Virginia – a lot of moisture and heat is generated.

Regular brake fluid exchanges help maintain this system and its components.

Benefits of a brake fluid exchange

Moisture in the brake system can lead to corrosion.

Flushing the brake fluid removes moisture and prevents corrosion from forming on components, including the calipers.

This service also helps your anti-lock braking system (ABS) last longer and restores the brake pedal so it feels firm.

If you put off a brake fluid exchange, the internal seals can wear out prematurely. The inside of soft brake hoses may also degrade, making it difficult for brake fluid to get where it needs to. 

Bleeders could become rusted overtime from not being adjusted.

How often to get this service

Steve’s Auto Repair recommends brake fluid exchanges every 30,000 miles. The time between each flush does differ among vehicles. Some manufacturers suggest this service be performed more frequently. 

Cars with systems that are run by computers, for example, may require them on 18 month or 24 month intervals. By looking at the owner’s manual, you can confirm what services your vehicle needs and when.

Mileage isn’t the only factor to consider when it comes to brake fluid flushes.

You should also keep an eye out for certain symptoms that let you know the fluid needs to be replaced.

One indicator is dark fluid that contains rubber particles that have worn off the ABS or master cylinder.

A soft brake pedal is another sign. This occurs when moisture that has collected in the brake system is boiling.

We can check the brake fluid with a test strip, which tells us if there are metal contaminants.

Sometimes you may not be able to see metal contaminants in the brake fluid reservoir. If you see black specs, that normally has to do with pieces of the rubber seals. 

Another test that can be done is testing for moisture in the system. That would tell you if you have too much water in the system. The water can boil under extreme braking and cause a brake pedal fade. 

A lot of pen testers we have found don’t do a very good job, so we stopped using them.

Cars that have electric brakes don’t need a brake fluid exchange.

Brake fluid flush process

We replace old brake fluid with new brake fluid when performing a brake fluid flush. This is done using a machine that’s hooked up to the master cylinder. 

New fluid is added to the machine and the old fluid is removed by going to each wheel.

Our technicians use BG DOT 4 Brake Fluid. This product hinders rust and moisture from building up and preserves the brake system.

When in bumper to bumper traffic, you should feel confident as you step on the brake.

Brake fluid exchanges are something you can do to take care of the system, preventing expensive repairs and keeping you and your family safe.

Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Goodyear tire dealer located in Woodbridge, Virginia. Automotive repair services are performed on all makes and models, including BMW and Mercedes. Services include oil changes, brakes, alignments, inspections, and computer engine diagnostics.

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Squeaky brakes: What causes them?

In Brakes by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Have you just recently driven your car backed out of the driveway and noticed your brakes were making a squealing or squeaking noise?

With the cold and damp weather, your brakes might make these sounds when you’re first hitting the brakes in the morning. 

In this case, squeaky brakes are nothing to be concerned about. A lot of cars have been sitting for awhile.

If you’ve been at home for a while or your kids are getting ready to start driving back and forth to high school or college, a squeaking and grinding noise may be heard. That grinding can be rust buildup on the brake rotors, which is caused by moisture and the vehicle sitting there.

Try going for a 20 or 30 minute drive and do some normal braking to see if it goes away. If it does, your brakes are probably OK. 

However, it’s probably not a bad idea to go ahead and get them checked at your automotive repair shop. 

You might also want to have a quick safety check done.

A service advisor at your local auto repair shop would be more than happy to get you in and take a look at your vehicle, just to make sure everything’s up to snuff before your kids get back on the road.

In addition to weather conditions and rust buildup, squeaky brakes can be caused by the brake pads some vehicles have.

For example, performance brake pads may make a squealing sound when they are cold, even during warm, dry weather. This is because they need a little heat to grab and perform really well. After two or three brake stops, these brakes can be easily up to 200 or 300 degrees, which is when they work better.

If you do need new brakes, you should have the brake pads and rotors replaced at the same time. 

You’ll also want to have someone to look it over too, so they can make sure the brake calipers, the brake hoses and the brake fluids are good, and they can ensure that the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) is working correctly. A lot of these vehicles require special brake bleeding procedures due to ABS.

And another thing to look into getting – whether it’s due to time or there’s contamination in the brake fluid – is a brake fluid exchange. During a brake fluid exchange, we hook up a BG machine to actually push the fluid through the master cylinder, ABS system, the brake hoses, and the calipers to make sure that all the old brake fluid is out. Therefore, the pedal will always feel good and the brakes will be able to form correctly.

Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Goodyear tire dealer located in Woodbridge, Virginia. Automotive repair services are performed on all makes and models, including BMW and Mercedes. Services include oil changes, brakes, alignments, inspections, and computer engine diagnostics.

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How do you do a complete brake job?

In Brake Fluid Flush, Brakes by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

This week, we replaced brakes on a Dodge Charger. They were low, due to normal wear and tear.

But doing a complete brake job doesn’t just consist of putting brake pads in and letting the car go.

When working on the Dodge Charger, we measured the brake rotors and determined if they were machineable. 

complete brake job
Dodge Charger

For most of these vehicles, it’s best to replace the rotors, even if they are machineable. That way, you don’t have to worry about warping or the brake pedal pulsating – which is when the car vibrates as a driver steps on the brake.

We recommend you use a good brake pad. Cheap does not equal good. There are businesses that will offer a lifetime warranty on brake pads, because they are cheap and can be thrown on anytime. However, these places will always find something wrong with your car.

You should also ensure that the caliper slides move. It’s also a good idea to clean them up and use the correct lubrication, so they can move back and forth freely.

During a brake job, our technicians also replace the hardware, if present. Hardware is a spring tension piece of metal located between the brake pad and caliper bracket that prevents the pad from banging back and forth and reduces squealing. It needs to be lubricated correctly, as well.

complete brake job
Brake hardware

Making sure the caliper piston boot isn’t torn or leaking is also important. 

Once the brake system is reassembled, we test the brake fluid to see if there are any contaminants. Over time, moisture builds up in the brake fluid and old seals and metal cause contaminants to accumulate. That is why we perform brake fluid exchanges.

So, in summary, a complete brake job means:

  • Replacing the brake pads and rotors
  • Checking the caliper slides
  • Replacing the brake hardware
  • Performing a brake fluid exchange
  • Doing a test drive

Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Goodyear tire dealer located in Woodbridge, Virginia. Automotive repair services are performed on all makes and models, including BMW and Mercedes. Services include oil changes, brakes, alignments, inspections, and computer engine diagnostics. 

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When to replace drum brakes

In Brakes by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

With the stop-and-go traffic found across Northern Virginia, it’s especially important to make sure your brakes are taken care of.

A 2002 Ford Explorer Sport had its drum brake shoes replaced recently.

Drum brakes are one of two types of brakes a car will have, with disc brakes being the other one. The parts of each brake type and how they work differ.

For drum brakes, two shoes push out and pull the drum up.

Disc brakes are found on the front and rear of most vehicles, but some have both.

Brakes should be a minimum of 2/32 of an inch to pass the Virginia state inspection.

We recommend drivers begin replacing their brakes when they hit 3/32 of an inch or 4/32 of an inch, depending on the vehicle. Some manufacturers may suggest they get changed sooner.

Because the brake shoes press against the drum, you may hear a squealing or grinding sound when they’re getting low.

The parking brake not holding as well might also be an indicator.

Sometimes, an adjustment can fix the parking brake. But if it needs to be adjusted too much, it may be time to replace the brake shoes.

Pulsation could mean that brake repair is needed. However, that sign is normally associated with the drum being out of round.

Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Goodyear tire dealer located in Woodbridge, Virginia. Automotive repair services are performed on all makes and models, including BMW and Mercedes. Services include oil changes, brakes, alignments, inspections, and computer engine diagnostics.

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Brake problems on a Ford Explorer

In Brakes by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Brake problems are something drivers should be watchful for.

We worked on a 2000 Ford Explorer XLT that had a stiff brake pedal when the customer started braking. Then, it would become softer as they continued pressing on the brake pedal. 

A car’s brake pedal is supposed to be able to maintain pressure. If it goes down, something’s wrong.

As the Explorer stopped, it would pulsate.

While working on the Explorer, Brian discovered heavy rust on the brake rotors, which was one of the reasons behind the pulsation. 

We installed a new wheel hub and bearing assembly, which have Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) sensors.

brake problems
hub and bearing assembly

The ABS monitors the wheel speed compared to the others and prevents a vehicle’s tires from locking up when there’s an emergency. This enables you to maintain steering control.

In old cars, during a panic stop, the vehicle could start to slide.

Also known as “wheel bearings”, a hub bearing helps keep the wheel on. It is pressed into hub bearings, and the axle runs through them.

The Explorer’s front brake pads and rotors were also replaced.

If the steering wheel shakes or shimmies, it could be a sign the brakes are going bad.

Read about other signs that you need new brakes and rotors.

Our technicians are able to address brake problems and can provide brake repairs.

Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Goodyear tire dealer located in Woodbridge, Virginia. Automotive repair services are performed on all makes and models, including BMW and Mercedes. Services include oil changes, brakes, alignments, inspections, and computer engine diagnostics.