My dealer wants $195 to change the brake fluid on my 2008 Forester with 54,000 miles. Does this really need to be done? Is this reasonable?
Brake fluid is hygroscopic
: It absorbs water. As it does, its boiling point (“dry” when new, “wet” as it ages and absorbs water) is reduced. Under heavy/severe conditions (i.e., long down hill drives) the brakes can get hot enough to boil the fluid. The resulting gas from the boiling “wet” fluid can be compressed, and this will reduce/eliminate the car’s brake effectiveness – the dreaded “brake pedal to the floor” syndrome.
So, yes, periodic brake fluid changes do need to be done, especially in high-humidity climates. Subaru’s 2008 Maintenance Guide
“recommends” changing the fluid every 30K miles / 30 months, or every 15 K miles / 15 months in “high humidity or mountainous areas”.
My personal view is that these are very
conservative recommendations. However, as your car approaches 60K on the odometer, it’s now probably time for a brake fluid change, especially if you're in a high humidity area of Washington state. My wife’s ’06 Honda Accord is almost to 60 K miles, and, among other things, we just had the original brake fluid changed. We live in a fairly high humidity area.
Note, BTW, that brake fluid can be fairly corrosive. If you decide to change it yourself, handle it carefully keep it away from painted surfaces.
Finally, my local dealer in the Washington, D.C. metro area (Tysons Corner) charges $115 (plus shop fees and tax) for a brake fluid job. Accordingly, $195 (plus shop fees and tax?) would appear to be a bit on the high side; you might want to try another dealer.
Jim / crewzer