Safety Precautions When Handling Brake Fluid

by Justin Chacos

Like commercial aircraft landing gear, backhoe buckets and racing jacks, your vehicle’s brakes are driven by a powerful liquid-based system. This pressurized, sealed system uses the muscle pressure of a hydraulic medium to slow your vehicle when you press the brake pedal. Brake fluid, regulated by the Department of Transportation, is hazardous and must be handled with care.

Glycol-based Brake Fluid

DOT-3, DOT-4 and DOT-5.1 glycol-based brake fluid has several hazardous properties. Ingestion is a major concern and may cause liver or kidney failure, and affect lung and central nervous system function. Although it has low volatility, inhalation of large quantities of glycol-based brake fluid mist, fumes or vapor may cause cough, nausea, vomiting, convulsions, or even death. It is an eye irritant and can be absorbed through the skin. Spilled glycol-based brake fluid is slippery and may cause falls.

Silicone-based Brake Fluid

Silicone-based DOT-5 brake fluid is an eye and skin irritant and may be absorbed through the skin. It has a lower ingestion toxicity and inhalation is not a large concern due to its viscous nature. However, use extreme care to avoid ingestion or inhalation, wear proper personal protective equipment, and apply first aid if swallowed or ingested.

About the Author

Justin Chacos is a professional mechanic with experience on all vehicle types, from cars to boats to airplanes. He has been writing since 2006 and has been published in multiple maintenance manuals and journals. He holds a Master of Science from the University of Arkansas.

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