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Oil & Fluids

How Often to Check Your Brake Fluid Level?

How Often to Check Your Brake Fluid Level
Written by Nick Steiner

In ideal conditions, brake fluids can last for years. But unfortunately maintaining those “ideal conditions” isn’t always possible.

That’s why it’s advised to check the fluids at least once a year, and replace them every 1.5/2 years. It’s a good practice to change your brake fluids when you change your oils.

Let’s learn more about why your brake fluid needs changing, what factors are in play, and how you can do it yourself.

How often should you check your brake fluid?

You should check your brake fluid once a year. That roughly counts for 12,000 miles. Having too much or too little in the system can damage the engine over time. That’s why it’s advisable that you check your fluid regularly and change it when you change the oil.

In optimal conditions, brake fluid can last up to 4-5 years. However, the lifespans depend on a number of variables like your driving style, road/weather conditions, and the model of your car.

What happens if you don’t change the brake fluid

Moisture contamination

The brake fluid is hygroscopic in nature. That means it will absorb the moisture from the surrounding environment. That’s one reason it is used in a sealed system and your mechanic tells you not to open the reservoir without good reason.

Over time, the fluid absorbs moisture inside your system. Additionally, if you make the fluid contact with open air, it’ll absorb more moisture and become inefficient.

The moisture will lower the boiling point of the brake fluid and create vapor pockets from within, making your brakes useless.

Debris buildup

Your brake fluid will also be contaminated with debris particles over time. If you use moisture-laden brake fluid, the metal components will rust/corrode over time and rust particles will end up as debris, including tiny rubber pieces falling from the seals throughout the system.

Over time, this debris will clog the passageways and make your brakes ineffective. This can also cause the Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) system to fail completely.

Poor braking performance

You must be familiar with the term “Spongy brake.” If you’re not, it is when you flatten your brake pads and nothing happens.

This occurs if you get air pockets forming somewhere in the system. If you notice your pedals acting “spongy,” the most probable culprit is the brake fluid.

In the worst-case scenario, your brakes may fail completely, and you may need to pump the brakes to build enough pressure to be able to safely stop the vehicle. That’s not all. If your brake fluid reaches its boiling point when driving, the whole brake system may fail.

How to Check the Brake Fluid Level?

How to Check the Brake Fluid Level

Step 1

Park your vehicle over level ground. Switch the parking brakes on.

Step 2

Open the hood and locate the brake fluid reservoir. The reservoir should be located under the steering wheel. It’s a small, semi-transparent, plastic box with measurements engraved on its surface usually located alongside the master cylinder.

If you have trouble finding it, check your user manual. Here’s a video if you need visual instructions:

Step 3

Now check the level and color of the fluid left in the reservoir. You can simply use a flashlight to see the fluid level. If the fluid is below the minimum level, consult a technician and if it’s above the maximum level, pump some fluid out.

Step 4

The last thing to check is the color of the fluid. If you see your brake fluid turning darker in color, it’s time to change the fluid as soon as you can. Don’t ignore your mechanic’s recommendation since that can become a recipe for eventual disasters.

FAQs

1. What color is brake fluid?

Ans: New brake fluid has a light golden brown tint, but is almost transparent, kind of like vegetable oils. Over time, the color tends to get darker.

2. How much does a brake fluid replacement cost?

Ans: Around $50-$150. Replacing the fluid is one of the easiest maintenance routines you can perform anywhere. It’s better to see a mechanic if you feel there is something wrong with the brake or the color of the brake fluid changes.

3. How long does a brake fluid change take?

Ans: Less than 30 minutes. You can do it in your garage or yard. It is highly recommended that you go through the user manual before opening the hood.

About the author

Nick Steiner

Nick has been a car nut for his whole life as far as he can remember. His father was a car dealer who used to change and repair his cars himself. As a result, Nick had the opportunity to get around all sorts of cars and learned to get his hands dirty repairing vehicles from an early age.

Nick is a great fan of Japanese quality and German preciosity. His deep passion lies in older models that he believes have a flair that takes him back to his childhood. He also loves their durability and reliability when compared to the modern models.

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