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  #1  
Old 03-19-2013, 11:46 AM
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Flushing Brake System with Denatured Alcohol

Hi All,

I know brake flushing has been written on extensively, but not not so much with using alcohol to clean the system.
I'm about to do a pretty comprehensive brake system overhaul. Replacing a troubled master cylinder, flushing fluid, new hoses, etc. and I'm wondering if it would be wise, since I'm going to all this trouble, to actually CLEAN the system first. Of course I don't know if the system is dirty and gunked up, but I assume it hasn't ever been truly cleaned.

Could this lead to bigger problems? Trouble getting the alcohol out of the lines and perhaps it could mix and dilute the fluid? Thoughts and EXPERIENCE would be so appreciated.

Cheers
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  #2  
Old 03-19-2013, 12:29 PM
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If at all I'd use brake cleaner and compressed air.
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Old 03-19-2013, 12:34 PM
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I wouldn't do it.
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  #4  
Old 03-19-2013, 12:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by werminghausen View Post
If at all I'd use brake cleaner and compressed air.
Compressed air sounds smart, but why do you say brake cleaner over denatured alcohol?
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Old 03-19-2013, 12:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Phillytwotank View Post
I wouldn't do it.
I appreciate your opinion but do you mind sharing why you feel this way? It will be much more valuable if I (we) have something more to go on.
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  #6  
Old 03-19-2013, 02:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Coastal220 View Post
Compressed air sounds smart, but why do you say brake cleaner over denatured alcohol?
Denatured alcohol is hydroscopic as it absorbs moisture and would need to be flushed with brake cleaner or the moisture it has absorbed would be trapped in the system and has a vey low boiling point so if it wasn't flushed could cause brake failure when the alcohol vaporizes . Brake fluid Boils about 200 degrees higher than denatured alcohol.
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Old 03-19-2013, 02:48 PM
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Coastal:

Re: Use of "Brake cleaner". Spray can brake cleaners are intended for use on metallic parts. They contain hydrocarbon based solvents which are not compatible with the rubber parts in the brake system. If you strip the system of all old rubber parts, and then flush the steel lines with cleaner, followed by air, there will be no hazard. The solvents evaporate quite quickly, so there should be no residual. When the system is reassembled and bled, it will be clean.
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Old 03-19-2013, 06:50 PM
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Why not use fresh brake fluid? It will flush out any old stuff if you run enough through it. Of course, keeping it changed out would be your best bet in the first place.
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Old 03-19-2013, 06:57 PM
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What is denatured alcohol anyway? Is this the same stuff as gas line anti- freeze or are there different types? Is this mythel dydrate or is that something different than what I've already mentioned?

Or is it simply the name used is the USA while other places use a different handle? Is mythel the same stuff as ethanol?
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Old 03-19-2013, 07:29 PM
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Fresh clean brake fluid will do all the flushing that you'll ever need done to the brake system.
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Old 03-19-2013, 09:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Benz Dr. View Post
What is denatured alcohol anyway? Is this the same stuff as gas line anti- freeze or are there different types? Is this mythel dydrate or is that something different than what I've already mentioned?

Or is it simply the name used is the USA while other places use a different handle? Is mythel the same stuff as ethanol?
Denatured alcohol is ethyl alcohol (ethanol) with an additive that makes it poisonous, while methanol is poisonous without any additives.
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Old 03-19-2013, 09:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Benz Dr. View Post
Why not use fresh brake fluid? It will flush out any old stuff if you run enough through it. Of course, keeping it changed out would be your best bet in the first place.
X2
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  #13  
Old 03-19-2013, 10:22 PM
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I plan to maintain the brake system properly from here on out, but my concern is that it has been neglected in the past, and some of this neglect may have taken the shape of "build up" in the lines from old, dirty, contaminated fluid. Again, I have no idea whether this is true, but since I am flushing the entire system and changing all the hoses, it seems like this could be the right time to do a true cleaning of the lines.

Sounds like many of you think that brake fluid is caustic enough that it has a "self-cleaning" property, so to speak. Is this correct?

For those of you who recommend NOT cleaning the lines with brake cleaner, why not?
Is it that you feel this isn't worth the time and trouble, or because it has potential ill effects?
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  #14  
Old 03-19-2013, 10:27 PM
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Not worth the time and trouble. Think about it. Anything which will eat paint from the exterior of your car (brake fluid) is probably strong enough to keep the system clean.

Do an annual flush as part of your spring "tune-up" routine and you'll be fine.
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  #15  
Old 03-19-2013, 10:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank Reiner View Post
Coastal:

Re: Use of "Brake cleaner". Spray can brake cleaners are intended for use on metallic parts. They contain hydrocarbon based solvents which are not compatible with the rubber parts in the brake system. If you strip the system of all old rubber parts, and then flush the steel lines with cleaner, followed by air, there will be no hazard. The solvents evaporate quite quickly, so there should be no residual. When the system is reassembled and bled, it will be clean.

Frank,

As always, I appreciate your thorough responses. It's one thing to receive an opinion, it's another thing entirely to receive an opinion supported by an explanation. I like explanations. Cheers.
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