How to Check and Change Brake Fluid

The brake system on a vehicle is one of your car’s most important hydraulic systems. When you press the brake pedal, fluid is pushed through to cause friction and stop the car. In order for your car to be able to stop properly, you must keep the fluid at a proper level. Here is how to check and change your brake fluid.



Park Car

Park your car on a level surface. Turn the car off and wait until the engine is completely cool. Open the hood, and use a rod to hold it open.


Locate Master Cylinder

Look inside the car for the master cylinder. It is a cylindrical reservoir, and it is normally transparent. On most cars, it is located at the back, on the driver’s side.


Check Fluid Levels

On newer cars, the cylinder is transparent; on others it may be metal. On transparent ones, you can see the fluid line and tell if it needs to be filled. With a metal cylinder, you may have to open it. The fluid should be somewhere between the minimum and maximum lines.


Check Fluid Color

Brake fluid should be brownish in color. Black or dark brown fluid should be tested with a chemical strip. Most of the time, darker fluid indicates that it needs to be replaced with new fluid.


Select Proper Fluid

Make sure you select the proper fluid for your car. Your owner’s manual can tell you what kind to use. The different kinds are; DOT 3, DOT 4, and DOT 5.


Pour Fluid

Open the lid on the cylinder reservoir. The lids on some cars unscrew, while others must be pried with a screw driver. Pour your brake fluid in until it is right below the maximum level.


Wipe Away Drips

Use a cloth to carefully wipe away drips or spills. Brake fluid is toxic and corrosive. Wash your hands carefully.


Shut the Hood

Screw the cap to the cylinder back on tightly. Remove the rod, and shut the hood. Your car is now ready to go.

Knowing how to check and change brake fluid can save you money and a trip to the auto shop. Changing brake fluid should be a routine task that you get used to doing. Brake fluid should be checked and changed at least once a year for best performance. Failure to do so could result in damage to the gears and decreased performance.