Avoid car repair rip-offs (part 6)

How do you avoid the trap of paying for car repair services you don’t really need?

One of the most common ways car repair facilities can rip off unsuspecting customers, is to oversell items – services you don’t need, or don’t need just yet.

This is the sixth in a series of articles, developed exclusively for readers of CARP.ca and 50Plus.com by X-Mechanic Inc. that explains how to avoid this trap.

Article#6 – The Brake Fluid Flush

The rip-off:
Selling you this unnecessary service

What it is:
Brake fluid is the fluid that is used to apply the brakes. When you apply the brake pedal in a hydraulic brake system, you are pressurizing the fluid in the system forcing the calipers or wheel cylinder at each wheel to apply the brakes. The fluid is in a closed system and is sealed from the element of nature. Antilock braking systems, or ABS as it is known, is usually standard on all hydraulic braking systems. The brake fluid is also designed to absorb moisture, which keeps the components of the braking system from rusting.

What the service consists of:
The brake fluid flush or service consists of draining all of the brake fluid from the system by either opening all of the bleeders in the system to allow the fluid to drain through gravity. The other way is to attach a vacuum machine at each wheel and using suction, suck all of the dirty brake fluid out of the system while filling it with clean fluid at the same time, resulting in only fresh, clean brake fluid in the system.

When you should have it done:
It is our recommendation and experience that you should never be asked to perform this service.

A mechanic may tell you that if you don’t your warranty will be voided. They may also try to tell you that it needs to be done because the vehicle has ABS, which brakes down the brake fluid. Don’t fall for this, as it is not true. Also if you are having a caliper or wheel cylinder changed, they will tell you that they need to perform a brake fluid flush. Tell them that you just want them to fill and bleed the brake system, which is part of the repair anyways, and it shouldn’t cost you any extra above the brake repairs. They try to double up on labour this way. This service is an absolute waste of your hard earned money and therefore don’t fall into this trap.

There are only two rare exceptions to this rule:
1. It is highly unlikely that the manufacturer will recommend this service in the owner’s manual. (Not the dealer, whose “advisors” are on commission). If it is in your owner’s manual then you must do it at the scheduled intervals to keep your warranty valid.

2. If you or someone else has mistakenly put the wrong type of fluid in the reservoir of the braking system, then it will need to be flushed as soon as possible or else all of the seals in the braking system will swell up and leak, which can result in a spongy brake pedal or no brakes period.