By on January 17, 2014

01 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinYou see some weird stuff in San Francisco Bay Area wrecking yards, from lunatic-with-a-glue-gun art cars to dipped-in-battery-acid rust to chopped, Italianized Swedes. Last weekend, I stopped by a well-stocked Oakland self-serve yard and found this puzzling brake-fluid test vehicle.
03 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinI’m thinking that Cartel Products probably didn’t hire some East Bay Maxima driver to use their silicone brake fluid and advertise the fact with scary-looking nail-polish-painted signs all over the car. That leaves the question: who, and why?
06 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinWell, nail-polish and mailbox stick-on letters.
09 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThe radiator smelled like brake fluid.
12 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinBut it gets weirder than that. Who puts brake fluid in the windshield washer system? And then installs inline fuel filters in the squirter lines?
08 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThis is one of those 1980s Japanese cars that had all the control labeling translated directly into English, regardless of hyphenation. SECU-RITY!

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62 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1986 Nissan Maxima, Brake Fluid Overdose Edition...”

  • avatar

    What the pfargtl?

  • avatar
    Shane Rimmer

    Well, I don’t know when the pictures were taken, but, judging by the install date written on the hood, this didn’t work out too well or the scrap-yard people got really bored.

  • avatar

    Works well if you need to junk it in a hurry.. Perhaps they thought the Cash for Clunkers was still going on? What the hell are people thinking?

    Is there any merit to this brake fluid as coolant?

  • avatar

    Brake fluid! It’s also a powerful afrodisiac…and it’s even good on toast! What can’t it do?

    This seems like something a high school auto shop class would do to a car.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    So they put brake fluid in the radiator on 9/19/13 and then the car is found in the wrecking yard less than 4 months later.
    This is one of the rarer times I think everyone can probably guess what caused it to get there.

    Easy like 1st gen V6 Mazda6es, early 2000s Accord V6es, late 90s Subaru Legacies.

  • avatar

    I think I get his logic (which, in itself, frightens me.) California Condors and stupid dogs just love ethylene glycol coolant (apparently, it’s quite tasty to them,) so when your radiator boils over at the top of Baker Grade, Condors die. If it happens in your driveway, your dog dies. So this person’s zeal to protect Condors and dogs led them to ask the question, “If only there were another fluid that wasn’t tasty to Condors and dogs, yet didn’t freeze.” Which led to, “Eureka!, Ive found it! – BRAKE FLUID!” As you can see, the experiment ended after 3 months. Nice try though.

  • avatar

    I use blinker fluid instead of motor oil.

  • avatar

    I don’t even… huh… what?

    Coolant… okay; weird, but I don’t see any sign of immediate impending doom there, although I don’t know how well silicone transfers heat. Pricey, but at least it’ll never boil!

    But the windshield washer line? I’d be fascinated to know what the thought process was there…

    • 0 avatar
      slow kills

      Well, with paint-eating DOT3, I’ve heard the trick of spinning the little washer nozzles that some Euro cars have for the headlights around to shoot at cars in front of you…

      • 0 avatar

        and run down your own bumper or blow back onto your own hood. but i guess if you had a some POS euromobile you wouldn’t care so much about that if it meant ruining some asshole’s day.

      • 0 avatar

        While DOT3 will eat paint, DOT5 is more like Armor-All, only thicker and stickier (and purple). I used to work at a plant that made light-duty off-highway vehicles and those that were equipped with hydraulic brakes all used DOT5 as factory fill. Me and one of the other engineers used to spray DOT5 on the tires and plastic trim to spiff up the show cars at product launches.

        I don’t know how well it would work as a dirt/bug remover, but you’d never have to use your wipers to repel water if you periodically spritzed DOT5 through the washer nozzles. Of course, it would condition and lube the wiper blades into ineffectiveness anyway.

  • avatar

    Interestingly ;

    My ex FIL used to rub brake fluid on his arthritic knees , he claimed it reduced the pain to zero .

    Not surprisingly he’s now dying of total organ failure , slowly and painfully…..


  • avatar

    Too bad we can’t post images but seriously this seems to be the only appropriate response…

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    What I want to know is, what’s that Lexus stereo doing in the engine bay??

    As to the car, these were popular in NC when I lived there in the early 90’s. By then the 4DSC had been introduced, but this previous version was common in the trade-in section of the dealership I worked at. I remember taking a metallic red one with stick shift out for a spin and being awed by its acceleration. VERY fun car to drive!

    • 0 avatar

      “What I want to know is, what’s that Lexus stereo doing in the engine bay??”

      “Not much!”

      Someone pulled it from another car and stashed it there, then decided it was stupid to want it, I’m guessing?

  • avatar

    For many years, science has wondered what happens when humans drink too much Red Bull, then don a tinfoil hat on a sunny day. And now they know. Ah, progress…

  • avatar

    I have heard this piece of advice years ago. Brake fluid has a much higher boiling point thant water plus anti-freeze, so it must be better. Or so the story goes.

    Is there any science in this? What can go wrong?

  • avatar

    I just checked, Cartel DOT 5 fluid is almost $100/gallon! This guy invested over $200 on this bit of wacko!!

  • avatar

    Not to bring a bit of seriousness to this post, but if you really are worried about a pet getting into your coolant, while the alleged benefits of Honda OEM coolant can be argued, one that CANNOT be argued is it smells and tastes incredibly sour, so much so that a dog won’t touch it. The additional cost is neglegable and while I do buy off on the other benefits, I also like the fact that my dog hates it.

  • avatar

    I’m terribly fascinated by this. In the rad, ok. Dumb, but whatever. But brake fluid as windshield washer fluid? Truly bizarre.

    I’d wager that if this was done as a serious project and not as a joke, then the owner also sends letters to various government entities espousing wacko conspiracy theories on a regular basis. Having had an internship with a state agency, I can say that some are truly entertaining.

    • 0 avatar

      Having spent nearly 3 decades with a state highway department, I can tell you it’s not entertaining when elected officials take them seriously and demand answers why metal beam guard rail can’t be replaced with old tires tied together, or why, if an on ramp needs a second lane, it wouldn’t be better to shut the ramp down and force people to take another ramp that already has two lanes.

      One guy wanted the state to subsidize bus lines instead of filling in a long-delayed link between two freeway stubs that dumped their traffic onto a surface street in between. When we told him that didn’t make sense, he wrote to a federal Inspector General who demanded that the Federal Highway Administration explain to him why the “bus alternative” was rejected and federal money approved for the project. I thought the Inspector General was an old Danny Kaye movie!

  • avatar

    But wait, there’s more! If you call in the next five minutes we’ll double your order for Cartel Products Dot 5 Silicone Brake Fluid! That’s right! The miracle brake fluid that is sweeping America with over 101 household uses (just pay shipping and handling).

    You get all the benefits of Cartel Products DOT 5 Silicone Brake Fluid! Replace your coolant! Replace your washer fluid! Replace the water in your pet’s bowl! Wash your dishes in it! Use it as shampoo! It makes an amazing laundry detergent that will brighten your whites! As used in hospitals…

    I’m a doctor, really, and I love this stuff.

    Serve it as a breakfast drink to the kids! You can’t lose! Two bottles for the price of one (just pay shipping and handling)

  • avatar

    FWIW ;

    Etheline Glycol Coolant is deadly stuff because it’s naturally sweet so kids and dogs like to drink it , causing death , NO CURE .

    I lost one of my Pups once , I’m always very careful with coolant but this guy must have stuck his nose in a drain pan for an *instant* because his kidneys failed bit by bit .

    Many coolants now have ” TOX GUARD ” ~ a bitter taste added to defer kids and pets from drinking it .


    • 0 avatar

      I am pretty sure a bittering agent is required by a law or even voluntary action by the manufacturers. I rarely see (human) antifreeze ingestions these days. Usually it’s someone who was really depressed and very drunk who then drank antifreeze to attempt suicide. Fortunately the alcohol helps (a little). The old school treatment for antifreeze ingestion is an ethanol IV drip!

    • 0 avatar

      PS: Nate, sorry about your dog.

      • 0 avatar

        ” Pancho ” was a good little pup , a tiny brown rescue Chihuahua from the same Man who’s dying now .

        Sadly Pancho was well named ~ he only weighed maybe 4 Lbs. but he brooked no crap nor listened to anyone , not me , not the other two larger Chihuahua’s I have , he’s the only pup I’ve ever had that was able to find automotive fluids to drink , all the rest have lived to 16 or 17 years and died peacefully in their sleep in my junkyard like good Dogs ought .


  • avatar

    Yes…”Brake system failure can kill”. No kidding. How does filling your cooling system with brake fluid help prevent brake system failure? Does he think the cars immune system will move the excess brake fluid wherever it’s needed?

    If it’s because animals don’t like it, there already is eco-friendly coolant. I’m not sure why all coolant doesn’t just come standard with a bittering agent though.

  • avatar

    My Saturn SL1 suffered from a common issue the Saturn sohc engines have. They get a crack in the head by a cam journal and oil is forced into the coolant, but no coolant gets in the engine. The car ran fine as long as there was oil in the engine, when it died, I assume it was because I didn’t keep the engine filled. Coolant was mostly oil at the time. Fortunately Saturn engines are $250 or less at the junkyard, so I replaced it, and got another 50k miles until it happened again and the engine failed.

    I was reading up on oil as coolant, and apparently early cars used it in some areas with no issues at all. Might have been used until the 50’s and in especially cold areas, but I would have to look again. I’m sure brake fluid would work fine as coolant.

    PS: the Saturn DOHC engines don’t have this failure, and their mpg are only slightly less than sohc mostly due to more aggressive transmission ratios.

  • avatar

    The Crabspirits story on this one is going to be EPIC!

  • avatar

    Possible failure mode:

    Brake fluid ate through the water pump seal, and that was the beginning of the end of the cooling system.

    Looks like the rest of the car was ready to go too.

  • avatar

    I’m reminded of the billboard from Fight Club that advised people to fertilize their lawns with used motor oil.

  • avatar

    The funny thing is it looks like a girl’s handwriting.

  • avatar

    And my wife thinks I am crazy for putting salad dressing on my steamed mixed veggies…

    This guy puts Cartel on his.

  • avatar

    My guess: the POS car overheated constantly, and the owner had some used brake fluid around when he refilled the radiator – silicone brake fluid has a higher boiling point than antifreeze, maybe it would help?

    The windshield washer was used as a refill tank for the radiator in case it boiled over again.

    Surprisingly the car ended up in a scrapyard.

  • avatar

    Upon further reflection, this car was probably about three startups away from ending up in the junk yard anyways. So some enterprising young gearheads thought what the hell.. “Lets see what happens when we replace the radiator fluid with brake fluid!” “Let’s put it in the windshield washer too!” “F%$k Yeah!, let’s do it!”

  • avatar

    Bernice was a 1986 Nissan Maxima.

    Bernice chimed her little heart out with glee as the key was inserted. It was time to go to work. Transporting her owner to his place of employ was a task she performed with pleasure. He was an absolute dream, after all, he was a mechanic. Every day of life was one to be fortunate for. She knew that she was an old car, and a great many of her type were not nearly as lucky. Gone were the days when her power figures were impressive, and she assumed her family members in Chicago must have rusted into oblivion by now. Chad fired up her VG30. No anomalies were detected other than the usual ethanol-induced malfunction of her oxidized fuel level sender. Though misinformation at what was presumably still a third of a tankful remaining, she always alerted Chad. “Fuel level is low.”

    “Aaaaaah.”, Bernice sighed with content. It was another fantastic day in the Bay Area as per usual. Her SOHC V6 droned happily over the Bay Bridge at a rocksteady 2300 RPM, sounding like a harmonious water buffalo. “Awwww, do we have to go to work today?”, she thought to herself while winding her way off the Bayshore Freeway onto Harrison Street. Chad left Bernice on the street to ponder a fantasy about cruising Highway 1 again, and went into the shop.

    “It’s better!”, Chad said to Dan as they both climbed into the Maxima to grab lunch. “There’s nothing wrong with good old fashioned DOT 3. You just have to not be an idiot and change it out every now and then.”, replied Dan. Chad retorted immediately, “HO HA! That’s the thing. That Cartel stuff lasts forever. I’ve had it in Bernice here since 2008. No problems.” Bernice would have backed up her man if she could, saying “That’s right. He gave me the good stuff. It feels great!” Chad added, “Hell, I bet I could replace every fluid on this car with the stuff, and if would work fine.” Bernice wasn’t so sure about this daring-do with her vital systems. She thought for a moment, and then laughed it off as a joke in the form of muffled puffs of exhaust gas from her leaking “doughnut” gasket.

    Chad and Dan re-emerged from the taco joint, and got back into Bernice. “EVERY fluid. You promised.”, Dan laughed. Chad looked confident but concerned, and reaffirmed his co-worker, “Every fluid.”
    Bernice was very confused.

    It was dark out on Harrison Street. The garage door would drop soon. Chad would be coming any minute now to take her home. Tim, aka “boss man” instead exited the shop laughing, “Just make sure you guys lock up when you’re done.” Bernice was pleased as punch when Chad scurried out and pulled her into the service bay. “Ohhh, he’s an absolute DREAM.” What could it be? An early oil change? She called out “Headlights are on.” with delight as Chad got out and popped her hood. Dan laughed as he watched Chad go to work on the Nissan. “Oh my stars! It’s a coolant flush!”

    Suddenly, Bernice’s joy turned to sheer terror. “You sure you want to do this now?”, laughed Dan. Chad dragged the drum of Cartel DOT5 behind him and said, “Dude. DOT3 is basically ethylene glycol, and DOT5 is better. It doesn’t eat rubber.” Dan disappeared into the office, and reappeared with Cartel promotional stickers. “Okayyy. You should put these on to promote your folly then.” Chad grabbed the stickers, and proceeded to pump Bernice’s radiator full of the stuff. She choked initially. “Arrrghfll! This isn’t..arghmmmmm…actually, it’s not too bad.” She felt the odd fluid course through the veins of her VG30, and was as satisfied as a 27 year old gal trying her first taste of sushi. Dan laughed at the running Nissan full of brake fluid. “Okay, lets do the washer fluid next.”

    Confidence restored in her man, Bernice was inquisitive. “Ohhh ow. OW!” Her washer nozzles had stopped up from debris related to her incompatible washer fluid pump components. Dan laughed. Chad responded, stating, “It’s just crud being released. We need filters.” Chad ducked into the storeroom, and returned with two stolen Napa 3011’s. Bernice was sure he only needed one, but assumed it was “nothing but the best” for Chad’s baby. Repairs completed, the windshield was successfully doused with brake fluid. “Oh my god.”, said Dan. Chad shut Bernice’s hood and festooned her with the labels standard of a test vehicle of import. “Phase one completed!” Phase two would have to wait for tomorrow.

    The next day on the commute over the bay, Chad rinsed the Maxima’s windscreen with the fluid. “Hmmm”, Bernice thought, “It doesn’t work as good. Dirt is sticking to it.” Tim and Dan popped out of the shop to have a look at her. “You have Ed’s number right?”, Tim chuckled in a foreboding manner.

    After work, it was time for phase two. Bernice’s oil was drained. She was nervous. The fluid was administered. Something felt off after idling for five minutes, but she couldn’t quite place it. “Wow.”, Dan said, surprised.

    Chad was jubilant as he climbed onto the Bay Bridge with his gal. Bernice felt sick. “What is going on?”, she thought. The tone dropped out of the VG30, and the Maxima began to slow. “What is this? It…it feels like…like sand!” Her motor locked, Bernice had a heart attack, in more ways than one.

    Ed came and laughed at her misfortune. As he dragged her lifeless corpse onto his flatbed, she saw her beau for the last time. The only thing she could say was “Lights are on.”

    She was a celebrity at the junkyard. People dragged parts down the aisles, caught sight of her, and just had to sniff to see if it was true. They would usually mutter things like “What an idiot.”, shaking their heads. A yard worker picking up clutter, tossed a Lexus radio in her open engine bay, then smiled. A large man with glasses and a mustache perched on her fender, and inspected. He responded with “WOW! AAAAIIIEEE!”, before hoisting his camera. In a way, she felt loved.

    A Volvo was carelessly tossed into the smusher off into the distance. The smusher ran all day. She knew her time would be up soon.
    “It’s okay. I kind of feel like dying.”

  • avatar

    Oh man, this one makes me sad. I’m sure hardly anybody cares for an old ‘U11′ Nissan Maxima such as this one, and not to be anal, this one is an ’87, 86’s have a slightly different front end and different tail lights.

    I have an ’88 Maxima GXE and it was my high school car. It was the old family car hand me down and it had roughly 130k on it. Being that I was an ignorant punk and I had my heart set on an V8 Mustang, I hated the car…. I flogged it daily, within an inch of it’s life. I red lined it, I would rev to 6 grand and drop it into drive, I would pull parking lot J turns with the E-brake, hit speed bumps at speed… I beat the shit out of that car trying to kill it.

    Couldn’t do it. No matter what I did, the VG30E just shrugged it off. It refused to die. It started everyday on the first key turn, the only exception was the time it didn’t start during my senior year and at the time I was the yearbook photographer and I had to get to a football game about 40 miles away…. ended up riding the cheerleader bus to the game…. DID NOT MIND AT ALL. Good times. In the end, it was a loose battery terminal. Heh.

    The car grew on me. It had damn good brakes, even being non-ABS, they always stopped the car and had the best feeling ever. It drove great too, plenty of feel and it wasn’t overboosted, to me it was just right. Handled great too, these Maximas still had independent rear suspension, I later owned an ’02 Maxima SE and it had a friggin’ BEAM axle….. WTF Nissan!!?? On your flagship car!!?? Oh and that VG30E… what a delight that engine is. Sure it probably went 0-60 in 10 seconds and it “only” had 160 hp (then again that was great for the 80’s) but the car just felt fast, even if it wasn’t in a literal sense and that motor sang, it sounds great, truly a lusty burble that turns into a snarl at higher RPM’s. Z car derived. I can see how this car was favorably viewed with the BMW 3 series at the time. Still have mine to this day, but I would love to find a clean ’87-’88 SE with a 5 speed to really appreciate the VG30E…..

  • avatar

    One wonders what other critical fluids the misguided owner replaced with DOT5…

    Perhaps the motor oil?

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    i think the answer lays in the locale. San Francisco . A cold, dank,foggy climate. A large preponderance of sexual alternative folks. Feminine hand writing by a male..yeah it all fits.

    • 0 avatar

      Me – YOW !Ron .

      I know how much most guys dislike & fear Gays but they’re people too and I might remind you : would anyone really _choose_ that hated ‘lifestyle ‘ ? .

      FWIW : I know quite a few gays , Male & Female and my freind Tom is one of the best Machinists I’ve ever met , honest , hard working and courteous too , not a common thing in The Auto Trade these days .

      I also know more than a few who are the toughest hombre’s I’ve *ever* met , I live in The Ghetto and would love to have them by my side when things go sideways , not so much to be up against them when they’re mad .

      All that being said , yes there are lots of weird flamers out there too , maybe this car belonged to one , maybe not .


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