What's your definition of a high performance car?
Most would say horsepower and how quick it can get to 60 from a dig. The track junkies among us however, not only care about acceleration, but also a car's braking performance...and they have a valid reason. When you drive a car on its ragged edge, having good brakes can save your life.
What does this have to do with car maintenance in general?
As it turns out, brake fluid is possibly the most neglected component of a vehicle. Can you recall when was the last time you've done a brake fluid flush?... I don't either. We check our tire pressures and change the engine oil at a regular interval. No one cares about brake fluid.
Brake fluid's functionality is a rather simple concept. Imagine you need a doorstop. Rubber doorstops have some wiggle room while the hard plastic/wooden ones don't. New brake fluid is in a way the same as the hard doorstop. When fresh, brake fluid is incompressible. So the instance you step on the brake pedal, that same amount of pressure will be transferred directly to the caliper to slow the car down. Used brake fluid is on the other hand similar to the rubber doorstop.
When new, most brake fluids won't boil until the temperature in the brake line reaches 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Over time they gradually lose their temperature resistance and will boil much earlier (due to its absorbance of moisture). Boiling produces air bubbles and air bubbles are compressible. Therefore, boiling brake fluid leads to a soft pedal feel (longer travel).
It is summer time here in MN and while we have not been blessed with many sunny days yet this year, be proactive and get your car in good shape before those long road trips.