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#1159843 - 05/27/08 10:36 AM neutralizing brake fluid with water
JHZR2 Offline

Registered: 12/14/02
Posts: 34230
Loc: New Jersey

This doesnt really go into the brake fluid forum because it is multifaceted...

I was doing a brake flush yesterday on my saab and BMW. On the BMW, there is a 17 y.o. rubber hose that goes from the reservoir to the clutch master cylinder, which is only held on with a barb (no clamp on there as OE, because it is a low pressure system). Ive done the pressure bleed before, keeping presure low, around 10 psi, without issues. But the hose is 17 years old and a bit cracked around the end. It blew and got brake fluid all over the underside of the car.

My concern - paint/undercoat damage, as well as what dripped on my driveway. I took the car into the street and washed off everything that I could. I think I got it all. It made the water a whitish color.

Reading on the internet, it claims that water "neutralizes" brake fluid. But there is no explanation of why/how. Im not sure if it is purely a pH type neutralization, or if the claim is that the ethers/alcohols dissociate or break down in water.

So, will putting water onto brake fluid that is on paint prevent the fluid from damaging the paint? Does water help the brake fluid break down?

I used oil absorber on the spots on my driveway. I also used water on some of them, and it seems to have done well. Does water help destroy the toxicity or issues pertaining to brake fluid? Is there anything else that I should do to break it down?

Any thoughts would be most appreciated.



#1159857 - 05/27/08 11:08 AM Re: neutralizing brake fluid with water [Re: JHZR2]
eljefino Offline

Registered: 06/15/03
Posts: 24654
Loc: ME
maybe since the brake fluid absorbs water it'll absorb so much it disintegrates.

You could always take a vial and throw some brake fluid and water in it, cap it, shake, and see what comes out. Then dribble it on some painted metal from the junk pile.

#1159897 - 05/27/08 12:13 PM Re: neutralizing brake fluid with water [Re: JHZR2]
Pablo Offline

Registered: 10/28/02
Posts: 46739
Loc: Duvall WA - Pacific NW USA
I'm pretty sure it's not nuetralizing in the chemical sense - more of a rinsing off. Sounds like you did the right thing. Where did the run-off go?

#1159978 - 05/27/08 02:09 PM Re: neutralizing brake fluid with water [Re: Pablo]
JHZR2 Offline

Registered: 12/14/02
Posts: 34230
Loc: New Jersey
most of the spill is on my driveway, covered in some of the oil-dry stuff. What washed off went in the street, and is part of the pile of dirt and rotten leaves along my curb. All will be disposed - containment and disposal is easy - etching of my paint, undercoating, and rust on my car is not.



#1159980 - 05/27/08 02:11 PM Re: neutralizing brake fluid with water [Re: JHZR2]
Oldmoparguy1 Offline

Registered: 01/21/05
Posts: 4119
Loc: Charlotte, NC
The good news is the brake fluid is biodegradable. Sounds like you handled it correctly..
"Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind." George Orwell

#1160029 - 05/27/08 03:13 PM Re: neutralizing brake fluid with water [Re: Oldmoparguy1]
Kestas Offline

Registered: 06/04/02
Posts: 10887
Loc: The Motor City
I don't think water neutralizes brake fluid as much as it dilutes the fluid. Brake fluid is an alcohol, and like any alcohol (such as antifreeze or vodka) it is perfectly miscible with water.

#1160047 - 05/27/08 03:50 PM Re: neutralizing brake fluid with water [Re: Kestas]
JHZR2 Offline

Registered: 12/14/02
Posts: 34230
Loc: New Jersey
It is an alcohol with an ether or an amine. I did see a coloration change, but that doesnt necessarily mean much.

Its just funny that on the net the term "neutralize" is used a lot. Ive not run the experiment, so I dont know... dilution makes sense...


#1160058 - 05/27/08 03:59 PM Re: neutralizing brake fluid with water [Re: JHZR2]
Pablo Offline

Registered: 10/28/02
Posts: 46739
Loc: Duvall WA - Pacific NW USA
You just keyed something in my brain - I'm foggy after the 3 day break. Of course, brake fluid contains amines, and the they are basic by nature. (And very agressive toward organic coatings). So in a sense, by dilution, enough water will "neutralize" the base......