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Fluids and Brakes

  1. I have a 2005 Toyota Matrix with about 73000 miles driven. I have been advised to perform a brake flush (found fluid to be dirty/contaminated); and to perform a power steering flush (found power steering fluid to be dirty/contaminated). Is this correct and necessary?

    2. I have also been advised to replace brake pads and resurface the rotors. Is it advisable to resurface the rotors each time pads are replaced?

Brake fluid flushes should be done about every three years or 30K miles. Check your owner’s manual; I suspect your Matrix maintenance schedule calls for this. Power steering fluid flush may be considered optional, but check your maintenance schedule. You may achieve a similar effect on the PS flush by using a turkey baster and replacing the fluid a couple of times after driving the car.

Usually rotors should be replaced or resurfaced when brake pads are changed. If they can’t be resurfaced within specs, then replacement is indicated.

  1. Brake fluid flushes are a good idea and should be done every few years, normally as part of a routine brake job. Fresh fluid will prevent problems with the hydraulic components and your ABS system. Power steering flushes are generally an additional profit generator for dealership service departments and anyone else who wants to lease or buy flush machines. All they do is replace the old fluid with new through the reservoir. You can do this yourself much cheaper with an old turkey baster (or other similar vacuum or siphon device) and a bottle of power steering fluid. Suck the old stuff out (engine not running) and refill it with new. Repeat a few times after driving for best results. The whole job takes five minutes, tops.

  2. Many shops suggest or require brake rotors to either be replaced or resurfaced to avoid comebacks. That is when a customer brings the car back to the shop because they are not happy with the work. Resurfaced rotors are much less prone to noise, pulsation, and other problems than the surface applied to them by the old brake pads. If you have no brake pulsation and don’t mind if the brakes make noise and feel funny for a while after the pad replacement, you could do without the resurfacing, but I wouldn’t for my car.

Brake fluid will absorb moisture over time and contaminate it. Heat from braking will break down the fluid over time, even if you don’t stomp on the brakes. You should change your brake fluid at 30,000-40,000 miles to keep them functioning properly. The rotors should be resurfaced or replace every time you change pads. Any grooves in the rotors will be worn into the mew pads and reduce braking effectiveness. Also, overheated rotors may change the metal microstructure at the surface; also reducing brake effectiveness. Grinding off the surface layer will take care of both issues.

Brake fluid will absorb water and in due time rust a hole in the metal brake lines, therefore no brakes. I have seen this happen 2 or 3 times. Fresh fluid is good.

This was at the dealership, yes?
Count on them pushing unnecessary work.

I recently took my 2006 Matrix with 23000 miles to the dealer to get the engine computer replaced under recall.
The service writer told me the transmission oil was dirty.
I told him I changed it 2000 miles ago.
He asked if I flushed it or just drained and refilled.
I asked how does one flush a manual transmission (hint: one cannot).
Then he said my power steering fluid was dirty.
I didn’t bother to tell him I drain and refill the reservoir once a year, which is an easy DIY job.

Anyway, I change brake fluid every 3 years.

There’s no need to take an out-of-warranty vehicle to the dealer.
Find a non-chain independent mechanic with a good reputation.

Thank you for the reply. Others who have posted have suggested draining the steering fluid reservoir with a turkey baster. Is that the way you do it?

Its one way to do it. Its easy and cost effective.

I prefer to siphon.
I cut up some 1-2 foot lengths of clear rubber hose, about 1/4" inner diameter. Bought at the Home Despot.
One for the power steering reservoir and one for the brake fluid reservoir.
Another to bleed the calipers.