Scam or not

I went to a quickly place and had my oil change. I was told that I had dirty brake fluid and power steering fluid, so had those fluids changed too. My father heard about this and said I got ripped off from a scam. That you never change your brake fluid or power steering fluid. Was he correct?

You don’t mention the make, model, and year of the car. If the brake fluid is over 5 years old, it should be flushed/changed. This is especially relevant if the car has ABS as you don’;t want to damage the ABS power module with degraded brake fluid.

The power steering fluid is debateable. If there is a chance that moisture has gotten into the reservoir, it is a good idea to change it. Otherwise, I would have passed on flushing of the power steering system.

Hope this helps.


Brake fluid is supposed to be flushed out every 2 years

Brake fluid is hyroscopic, meaning it attracts water over time. The higher the water content, the lower the boiling point of the brake fluid.

Most people don’t do it that frequently . . . or ever

That doesn’t change the fact that it is a maintenance item

It’s just the ol’ UP-SELL thet everybody does to try to sell something…anything, more that you first mentioned…“Ya want FRIES with that ?”

Generally , when they give you the attempted UP-sell you should just say ‘‘thanks for the info , I’ll look into it.’’…then look into it just in case.
Read the owners manual for the manufacturers recomendations and go with that if no obvious problems are presenting themselves.
If you’re not d.i.y. in that sense get the opinion of your regular tech or d.i.y. who knows these things.
Most of those up-sells are not a scam per-se’ but usually not needed…right now today… as they make it seem. aimed at keeping your vehicle in showroom new condition. ( that’s their caveat anyway to it not being a scam )


The only problem I have with owner’s manuals is that often don’t mention a maintenance interval for the brake fluid

That doesn’t change the fact that brake fluid is hygroscopic

Tough call. The owner’s manual won’t recommend changing it often enough; the quickie lube place will change it every time if they think they can. Best bet is to find a local mechanic you can trust. But that’s easier said than done these days.

Those places have a conflict of interest. To make a profit they have to sell you something in addition to a $25 oil and filter change. To avoid this, I think it is wise to just let those quick oil change places do the oil and oil filter only. If they recommend something else be done, ask your own inde mechanic about it, you know, the shop you use that fixes the struts and the clicking CV joints and figures out why the idle is too fast.

@GeorgeSanJose: I don’t know if I’d even let them change the oil and filter. They often make mistakes, and while the oil is probably going to be name brand as advertised to draw you in, the filter is probably the cheapest no-name p.o.s. they can find.

Yes the brake fluid should be changed. Brake fluid absorbs moisture and that moisture, over time, will rust the metal brake lines and eventually a hole will pop and therefore no brakes.
I have seen this happen twice.

It’s a compromise @oblivion. If you simply cannot afford to have the oil and filter changed any other way than one of the quick-change places, doing it there is probably better than not changing it at all. It would be a good idea after using one of those place though to check right after the oil change, before driving the car, that the oil is at the proper level on the dipstick and there are no oil leaks. Then check both in a couple miles again. Then again, the next morning.

But if a person can afford it, as you imply, they’ll get a better job with better parts (oil filter make and model) if they have their own inde mechanic they’ve already established an owner/shop relationship with do the job.

Or owners – if they have the time and are able to use common sense safety – can do it themselves.

Not a scam to have power steering fluid replaced. Here’s why.

The power steering system is a hydraulic system. This means when pressure is applied to the fluid the fluid heats up. This heating up of the fluid causes the fluid to oxidize. The fluid then loses it’s additives that are supposed to prevent things like foaming, and seals from becoming hard and start leaking. This is why some vehicle manufacturers have their own special power steering fluid. It has the proper additives for the seals.

I always find it cheaper to maintain the fluid in a hydraulic system. Rather than ignore it and have a component fail in that hydraulic system.

Ask any heavy equipment owner/operator.


The bad new, in my opinion . . .

Many people and organizations (BBB, consumer protection, etc.) feel that power steering flushes and brake flushes are a scam. They cite the various owner’s manuals, which usually don’t have a maintenance interval for those fluids.

I don’t entirely agree with them.

I don’t feel that doing a brake flush on a 10 year old car with original fluid is a scam.

Check this out. Read the topmost paragraph on page 20

Sheppard steering gearboxes are used on many large commercial vehicles.

I think they have the right idea. Once a year is a bit excessive for a passenger vehicle, but servicing the fluid every few years doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.

You might have needed it, but not this way. I don’t trust that qwiky shops will know when it’s needed, or do it correctly. Find a good independent shop, check your owners manual, and get it done when needed.

Thanks. My car is a 2003 Lexus Rx 300 with 140k miles. I guess it’s true that you should not listen to your father when it comes to cars. Haha. I also live in the rainy Northwest.

Having a 19 yr old oil-change “mechanic” in a quick-lube shop come rushing to you declaring your brake and PS fluids need changing, without any knowledge of your maintenance history, and with only an interest to line his pockets, is not the way to go. Who knows what kinds of fluids they used or if they performed the job properly - a common complaint from the Jiffy-Quick-Buck industry.

I’m a believer in replacing brake fluid every 3-4 years. Though I understand the fluid in the ABS unit won’t be flushed unless you use a special tool, or unless you go out afterwards and hit the brakes hard on a gravel road or snow to trigger the ABS.

As for hydraulics, when I worked on heavy machinery, yes we would replace the hydraulic fluid as part of normal maintenance. I’ve not seen that need translate to automotive PS units (though I’m open to new data).

Not a scam at all. Changing brake fluid every 2 years is normal in Germany since their ADAC tests for water in the fluid every inspection. Changing the fluid every 3-4 years will keep the different metals in your brake system from corroding and failing. As for PS fluid, yeah, 30K to 50K change intervals couldn’t hurt since the amount of fluid is pretty small and the fluid will wear out. I’d worry a bit letting the mouth-breathers at the local Quickie Lube do the work.

And HERE is where you have to watch for the actual scammers.
You just had it done and you know there’s going to be years till the next…
But the very next time you go have your oil change…
guess what they’ll attempt to sell you ?
just guess
c’mon I dare you.

That’s when you know it’s a ruse. Those minnimum wage oil changers are told by bosses to say it to every customer every time .
If you’re not paying attention to your vehicle’s history they’ll get you commin’ and goin’.

“If you’re not paying attention to your vehicle’s history they’ll get you commin’ and goin’.”

In my younger years, on more than one occasion I had certain maintenance procedures done prematurely, simply because I was not well-organized, and because it was time-consuming to sort through a pile of service invoices. That is why–beginning about 25 years ago–I began compiling a checklist of vehicle maintenance on one easy-to-read chart that I construct each time that I buy a car.

I take a piece of 8.5 x 14 inch paper, turn it sideways, and on the left axis, I list all of the maintenance procedures that are specified by the car’s mfr, and then I add a few additional procedures, such as wheel alignment. Then, I create a grid, leaving spaces along the top axis for notation of the date & odometer mileage of each service. Placing an “x” in the appropriate spaces later allows me to see when (and at what mileage) I changed my oil, rotated the tires, replaced the air filter, changed the coolant & trans fluid, changed the differential oil, replaced the spark plugs, and so on.

I’m sure that there is a computer program that would accomplish the same thing, but creating this chart in the first place takes all of about 5 minutes, and updating it after each service takes no more than 30 seconds. And…voila…at a glance, I can see what has been done–and when it was done–thus eliminating premature duplication of services.

Brake fluid is part of a 30K service according to some manufacturers, others never have it as scheduled maintenance. But as you’ve seen here, most are fine with a brake fluid service every 3yr/30K.

Power steering fluid I recommend when the fluid is discolored significantly or smells burnt. I know that’s subjective but that’s all I’ve got!

A little off-topic here, but this is why I encourage people to find a stick with a reputable local independent professional shop. Stick with one place and they will have all your service history on file and there will be no question what has and hasn’t been done. They may not always be the cheapest or most convenient, but there’s value in dealing with the same people in the same place time and again.

I’ve had my car for about 5 years. This quickly oil change place was not the first to tell me about my dirty brake fluid, but they were the first to tell me about my power steering fluid. During my ownership to had not done any of that work, and I put on 50k miles. I have also not flushed the radiator or change the transmission fluid. When should I do that? My car has only needed oil change, new brakes, and new tires. I did have a couple of bad senors replaced. Otherwise, it runs like a dream.