Skip to main content
lou's garage

Just saw a Globe and Mail newspaper article in the Ontario edition from Mar 18, 2010, that recommends changing brake fluid every two years. Do you still recommend this frequency even with all the advancements in vehicles and quality of oils and fluids? Thanks. – John V.

Brake fluid is hygroscopic, meaning that it absorbs moisture. When I think back to my mom’s old Ford, I remember the brake master cylinder lid offering a tight seal, limiting the amount of moisture that could penetrate the system. This is one of the reasons why brake fluid replacement wasn’t really a regular maintenance item then.

Current generation cars have a master cylinder reservoir cap that is not sealed. Because of this, fluid in the master cylinder is exposed to the environment and will absorb moisture from the air. Keep in mind that your braking system now incorporates anti-lock brakes with traction control and is significantly more complicated than our parent’s car. Your brake fluid is an integral part of that system and is designed not to boil. Water in your brake fluid lowers the boiling point and effects braking performance. An electronic tool that measures moisture content in brake fluid is typically employed, with any result over 2 per cent being a fail. At 3-per-cent moisture content, the brake fluid boiling point is lowered by 25 per cent. Additionally, moisture introduces a corrosion element.

Most manufacturers recommend a minimum 24- to 36-month brake fluid replacement interval. It has been my experience that most vehicles will fail a moisture content test well within that period.

I was involved in a minor accident in my 2018 Toyota Camry Xse. A local body shop initially gave an estimate of $7,000. But my insurance company gave an estimate of $20,000 and wants to write off the car. I don’t want to accept the insurance company’s offer. What should I do? – Mariya V.

I have a problem with the dollar value difference between the estimates. There is too much of a discrepancy; the local body shop estimate has to be inaccurate.

I suspect that the accident wasn’t as minor as you think it was – potentially severe enough to cause one or more of the Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) air bags or seat belt pretensioners to deploy. Any kind of SRS event will drive the price of the repair up very quickly. Additionally, your Camry will have multiple sensors and cameras located in the front end to operate the Toyota Safety Sense systems.

The initial estimate you received could not have taken into account any any SRS items or additional electronics. I would ask your insurance company appraiser for a copy of its repair estimate and, with that in hand, take it to the first local body shop for a review. If my theory is correct, the shop will then amend its estimate to include any additional items initially missed. The overall dollar values will now be similar, and things will make more sense for you. Writing off the car will likely be the best and only answer at that point.

Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail, placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.