Brake flush?

I’m being told by a mechanic that my 1990 Toyota Corolla wagon (with 148,000 miles on it) needs a brake flush for $79.95. I’ve never heard of this. Is this a gimmick or legitimate maintenance?

I don’t know about a “brake flush,” but the fluid should be replaced at some interval (by bleeding out the old fluid and replacing it). If it has the original brake fluid, it’s overdue.

what mechanic? what kind of shop? any other brake problems? i am skeptical.

Gimmick, find another mechanic.

Brake fluid won’t go bad unless it gets water in it and that’s rare. I’ve never flushed a brake system on a vehicle some of which I’ve put nearly 300,000 miles on. I have done it on boat trailer brakes because they tend to get water in them after a season of being soaked at boat ramps.


Check your owner’s manual, mine require brake fluid replacement every two years. Do you seriously think 18 year old brake fluid does not need to be replaced?

No, its not a gimmick. Dirty brake fluid SHOULD be flushed out at intervals. I would do it when servicing the brakes if the fluid looks bad.


It’s not a gimmick. Some cars actually do need to have their brake fluid replaced. The problem is that many mechanics insist on doing it for every car that enters their shop. If you had a fairly new car I’d say the mechanic is merely looking for extra profit. For your 18-year-old car, this service is probably a sensible precaution.

For a Corolla wagon I wouldn’t bother doing anything expensive, but if they won’t change it any cheaper or you can’t do it yourself, it’s ok to do it. I can say that I flushed the fluid in my 83 Camry with 240,000 miles on it, but it had no brake fluid in it when I got it for free.

Brake fluid can absorb moisture.  That moisture can damage brake parts, but the real problem is that under the worse conditions, like coming down a steep grade, it can get hot enough to boil and then you can loose the brakes.  So brake fluid should be changed on a regular basis.  I have seen times like 2 years to 10 years suggested.  I suggest three to five years.  Check the owner's manual, it should list it.  

That said, I am always suspicious of any service that is described as a flush.  I would certainly change it, but I might want to get a second opinion on the price.  Another qualified mechanic may well change it for less.

I agree with Mr. Meehan, as I usually do. Brake fluid does indeed absorb moisture, and old brake fluid (in this case, possibly 18 yrs. old!) is likely to contain a lot of water at this point. I can recall a friend’s 1960 Falcon (purchased in 1976) that had fluid in the brake system that was so heavily contaminated with water that it was mind-boggling!

As Mr. Meehan pointed out, in addition to damaging brake system components, this water can, and does, BOIL under the type of continual braking that one is forced to do when driving on steep downgrades like mountainous roads. The boiling of the water in the brake system leads to brake fade, and brake fade leads to BIG problems.

The factory maintenance schedule for Subarus specifies a change of brake fluid every 30k, and I do this religiously. I suspect that other Japanese manufacturers have a similar requirement. And, even if the manufacturer does not have this requirement, just the possibility that this fluid is contaminated with water should cause you to want to purge the hydraulic system completely.

So, if this fluid has never been changed, or has not been changed for many years, I think that a flush of the system, followed by refilling with new fluid of the proper specification is an extremely good idea.

Not unless it’s got water or rust or some such in it. I might bleed a little off and take a look at it and see if it’s cloudy, has water in it or looks bad. Other than that, No. To my thinking the word “Flush” means putting some kind of pressure pump on it and flushing through several quarts of fluid. I’ve drained brake fluid before when I noticed it was bad, but wouldn’t call that a “Flush”. I honestly don’t think that’s necessary unless he’s otherwise got a problem. It sounds to me like his mechanic got hooked on some new fangled machine and needs to pay for it.


I too fully agree with Mr. Meehan’s and VDCdriver’s replies.

Brake fluid won’t go bad unless it gets water in it and that’s rare.

Try again. Brake Fluid is hygroscopic…which means it absorbs water. Dot-5 doesn’t absorb water, but water will pool…still needs to be flushed. I do mine every other year (about 90k miles).

When doing a brake job that included replacing the calipers, I noticed that the brake fluid I was bleeding out was dark and dirty (after about 100,000 miles). Just bleeding the brakes until the fluid is clear seems like the thing to do every time you get a brake job done.

I don’t know what “flush” means to the OP, but you certainly do need to replace your brake fluid periodically, regardless of how it “looks.” What does your owner’s manual say? It is a very simple process to bleed out the old fluid and replace it on a pre-ABS system. I agree that every two years is a good interval.

When you disassemble a brake caliper, or brake master cylinder, especially one you have a problem with, you’ll often find pits in tha cylinder wall caused by those tiny amounts of water which have oxidized those spots. Regularly replacing the brake fluid can help prevent this.

" Just bleeding the brakes until the fluid is clear seems like the thing to do every time you get a brake job done."

I would say it may be more often than that. I had the brakes bleed but I did not need new pads or other brake work done, that was at about 45,000 miles.

I second that. I change the brake fluid on my '88 Accord every two years, along with the coolant. My last set of front pads lasted 7 years, and I changed them only because the brakes were moaning when used at highway speeds, there was plenty of pad left. Why would old pads moan/groan?

Agree with Craig, check the ownwer’s manual. This car likely does not have ABS, so a short interval may not be specified.

Personally, on a car without ABS, in the absence of specific instructions, I would drain the fluid with every brake job, about 50,000 miles or so.

Wow!!! what an avalanche of replys. I have posted several times & MikeInh has on this thread that brake fluid is hygroscopic, it abosrbs water. The fluid will boil but thats not all. Your brake lines are made of metal and they can rust through when you least expect it. I have seen it on one of my loaner cars and it happened to my fishing buddy on a boat ramp. $80 is not pocket change but it’s cheaper than a collision or death.