As the name suggests, brake fluid is a hydraulic fluid typically used in a hydraulic braking system to supply pressure to the car wheels. If there’s no fluid in the brake reservoir, the brakes will not work even when you depress the brake pedal to the floor.
However, some folks have complained that brake fluid is a paint stripper. Some argue it can remove paint on metals only, while others argue it removes paint on metal and plastic. But will brake fluid remove paint, whether on metal or plastic?
Here, I’ll also explain the effects of brake fluid on paintwork and what to do if brake fluid pours on your car paint. Please sit down and relax while I uncover all you need to know.
Will brake fluid remove paint?
There are several types of brake fluid in the market. However, the differences between them are small. Manufacturers formulate most brake fluids with harsh compounds on painted surfaces.
If brake fluid pours or drips down on a painted surface and stays for an extended period, it’ll loosen the paint on the affected areas. Then, it’ll peel out the paint on that surface. However, all brake fluid may not peel out all paint. This is because some paints are strong. Though, the brake fluid may disrupt the aesthetic feel of the paint.
If you want to remove stubborn paint from a car or any surface intentionally, try rubbing alcohol or isopropyl alcohol. These solvents will remove paint from plastic surfaces without causing any harm. Thinner and other harsh paint strippers will do an excellent job on metal surfaces. However, they’ll cause more harm than good on plastic surfaces.
DOT 3 and 4 brake fluids strip all types of car paints, whether those metallic alloys, lead-free or lead paints. You can use them to strip off the paint on your car. With these in mind, always take precautionary measures when filling your brake fluid reservoir to prevent it from spilling on paint surfaces.
Thankfully, it takes a while before the fluid can damage your car paint. So you can also prevent the fluid from damaging your paint if you accidentally pour it on your car paint. In the following sections, I’ll explain what to do when you mistakenly pour hydraulics on car-painted surfaces.
What effect does brake fluid have on car paint?
If brake fluid spills on your car paint and stays there for an extended period, it’ll start breaking down the coat layers on the paint. The fluid will leave stripes or vertical marks on the paint surface with time.
As diethylene glycol (DEG), a toxic compound used in formulating brake fluids, starts eating deep into the car paint, it causes severe damage to the car paint. It can go as deep as showing the vehicle’s metal parts and invariably exposing the car to rust.
What to do if brake fluid comes on car paint
The most feasible brake fluid on paint fixes is cleaning the area. Wiping off the fluid is all you need to prevent it from peeling the car paint. Here’s how to clean the fluid to prevent it from spreading to other areas.
Blot off the fluid
Get a soft towel and soak the area covered with brake fluid. Do not wipe it to prevent spreading the fluid to other areas.
Wash off the fluid
Apply detergent on the affected area and wash it off with clean water and a wet towel or sponge.
Rinse the affected area
After washing off the fluid, rinse the surface with enough water to ensure the fluid is clearly off. Whether you have brake fluid thrown on the car or you accidentally pour brake fluid on your car, this will prevent the brake fluid from corrosion and peeling the paint coat layer.
Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs
Q: How fast will brake fluid remove paint?
It’ll take 3 to 5 minutes for brake fluid to remove paint from metal or spray paint from any surface. Typically, brake fluid will compromise your painted surface after 3 to 5 minutes, but it’ll take up to 10 minutes to ruin or damage the car paint. However, I advise you to wash it off as fast as you can to prevent it from causing unexpected damage to the paint coat layer.
Q: Can I use brake fluid as a paint remover?
While it is meant for brakes, you can use brake fluid as an alternative stripper for removing paint from any surface. It can do the same job as paint strippers. You have to be cautious when using it on plastic surfaces because it can melt some rubber materials. Instead, you can get a paint stripper or rubbing alcohol from the market for an effective job.
Q: Will DOT 3 brake fluid damage the paint?
All DOT 3 and DOT 4 brake fluids contain diethylene glycol, which can peel paintwork on any surface. Therefore, DOT 3 brake fluid can damage your spray paint because of the diethylene glycol chemical in it. In fact, DOT 3 and DOT 4 are the best brake fluids for stripping paints.
Thankfully, the damage will not happen immediately. It can take up to 5 minutes before the brake fluid starts causing havoc on the paintwork. You can, however, prevent it from causing any damage by washing off the fluid once it spills on the paint surface.
Q: Is brake fluid corrosive to metal?
Brake fluid is not corrosive to metals. If it is, it’ll always corrode the master cylinder, the brake booster, the wheel pots, and the brake caliper. Though in some cases, it can corrode metals. Here’s how it happens; since brake fluid is hygroscopic, it can collect moisture from air. If you don’t perform brake fluid flush or change the fluid for an extended period, the moisture will corrode the metal components in the brake system.
Q: Will DOT 5 brake fluid damage paint?
DOT 5 brake fluid is different from other conventional brake fluids, and it is a silicone-based brake fluid. DOT 5 brake fluid is incompatible with other brake fluid types and does not damage car paint. Besides this, DOT 5 does not collect moisture like DOT 3 and DOT 4, invariably preventing it from corroding metal components over time.
Whether you are asking, will brake fluid remove paint from the car, or will brake fluid remove paint from concrete? The answer is yes. Brake fluid is an alternative paint stripper that will peel off the car paint if it stays on for more than 5 minutes.
However, it is essential to wash off brake fluid from your car paintwork once it spills on it, whether DOT 3, DOT 4, or DOT 5. It is better to take preventive measures than to repair or fix anything.