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1998 VW Jetta: Brake Fluid / Change


I just got my car back from the dealer (they rotated and balanced my tires), anyhow, they are recommending that I get a brake flush. They mentioned that the brake fluid should be replaced every 2 years. I have a 1998 Jetta 2.0L and have owned the car for 3-4 years and have never replaced the brake fluid. I have no braking issues and was curious to know if this is a pretty standard practice.

Furthermore, if it is recommended to replace the brake fluid, can a grease monkey like myself do it?? Any suggestions are much appreciated.

D in AZ

D in AZ

Flushing the brake fluid is a good idea since brake fluid is hygroscopic which means it absorbs moisture. The metal brake lines can and do rust through which means a leak and no brakes at the worst possible moment. I have seen it happen, once on a boat ramp.

The car’s owner’s manual will list the standard time for replacing the brake fluid. It is a wise move to follow that instruction. If I remember correctly it is every 2 or 3 years for your car. When in doubt, do it more often. It is important.

While you have the owner's manual out (can you find it) look up all the other maintenance items it list and catch up on any others you might have missed, especially the timing belt. That one could be very expensive if you neglect it.

I have to add the fact that there is are very important safety issues with not having the fluid changed.  They are the kind of issues you don't know about until it is too late.  I had one such issue in the 70's when I found out that I was very lucky the other traffic could avoid me and that the parking brake does little to stop a car.

Prior to the advent of disc brakes and later ABS brakes brake fluid was changed rarely if at all. Modern cars with ABS brake systems, traction control, and stabilty control require better quality brake fluids. These systems are very complicated so moisture and dirty brake fluid can cause brake malfunction that is expensive to fix. Changing the brake fluid every 3 years regardless of mileage is good practice.

Can you do it yourself? Yes, but why would you? It is a 2 person job. You need to be very careful and to do it properly becaue you can easily introduce air into the brake lines, very bad things happen if any air gets in there. It is very messy and you have to do each wheel separately. There are kits available to reduce the mess and ease the process but they are too expensive for most do it yourselfers.

Bottom line, pay someone who knows how to do it. Brakes are too important to leave to chance. On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 easy, 10 hardest), changing oil and filter is a 1, doing a brake flush is a 9.5.

Uncle, I agree with you on the importance of this so a novice should not attempt.

But, for the well versed this is a one man job. I always blead brakes by myself except when I had a very stubborn air bubble.
I simply removed the lid for the m/cylinder and used a battery filler bulb (turkey baster) to remove most of the old dirty fluid, then refill and leave the lid off. Go to the closest screw and remove it. This will not introduce air into the system. While the caliper is bleeding take a pin vise and drill bit and clean the screw. Replace the screw but do not tighten, let it bleed until clean fluid comes out. Now do the rest, BUT, always monitor the fluid level in the cylinder, if it goes dry, then you will have air bubbles.