A new report  reveals that the brakes on a quarter of all cars in the UK could fail at any time.

Research conducted for Cosan Lubricants’ Comma brand, tested the quality of brake fluid at service garages across Europe and found that 26.5% of UK motorists had defective brake fluid, with nearly one in 10 unintentionally risking their lives every time they drove. Overall across Europe, that figure rose to 41% of vehicles operating with sub-standard brake fluid.

While the poor quality of brake fluid in the nation’s cars was alarming, the study also revealed a worrying lack of understanding among motorists about how brake fluid functions – three quarters had no idea, offering workshops the chance to build trust and educate their customers.

The extensive range of Comma brake fluid covers over 99% of vehicles on the road in the UK and can be found in detail on the VRN function at www.CommaOil.com.

Brake fluid absorbs moisture from the atmosphere, which reduces its effectiveness by lowering the boiling point. Once the boiling point dips below 180°C, brake fluid becomes all but useless, potentially causing sudden and inexplicable brake failure.

Brake fluid testing expert, Alba Diagnostics, recommends replacing brake fluid when its boiling point reaches 200°C. But, shockingly, some of the vehicles tested by Comma had brake fluid that boiled at 130°C.


Researchers found that the age and mileage of a vehicle is not necessarily linked to the quality of its brake fluid. One in seven vehicles with less than 80,000 miles on the clock had fluid showing a boiling point of less than 200°C.

Meanwhile, 75% of workshop customers either admitted that they don’t know how brake fluid works, or gave an inadequate account when questioned. More than a third (34%) had not changed their brake fluid for over two years.

The rest of Europe is not much better, with a total of 71% of motorists quizzed unable to explain how brake fluid works.

Mike Bewsey, spokesperson for Comma, said: “The poor quality of fluid that controls such a safety-critical vehicle component in the UK is alarming, as is the widespread lack of understanding about how it works.

“Unfortunately, once brake fluid is contaminated, there’s no going back and there is a much greater risk that it will boil,” he said. “This can happen in stop-start conditions or under heavy braking, and the risk increases significantly in vehicles that are towing something. It’s an elusive problem and very difficult to diagnose because, after an accident and once the fluid has cooled again, it will appear to be normal.”

Cosan Lubricants believes that the ‘phantom’ nature of brake fluid failure could account for thousands of accidents every year. But, while a visual fluid level check might – or might not! - be carried out during a vehicle’s MOT, quality testing forms no part the test. “

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