Brake fluid is an essential part of your car’s braking system, which enables your car to come to a stop. The brake pedal does not magically stop the car; rather, it uses this fluid to power the brakes hydraulically, and if the fluid level gets too low it could compromise your car’s ability to stop safely, which is dangerous for you and other drivers.
Checking and adding brake fluid is an important part of routine maintenance that is both vital to your car’s health and easy to do.
Checking Your Car’s Brake Fluid
Step 1: Allow the vehicle to cool. If you have recently been driving the car, then let it sit for a while before proceeding to do any work on it.
Hot engine components under the hood could cause burns, and besides, if it is a hot summer day, having a blazing-hot engine a few feet from where you are working is only going to make the heat worse.
Step 2: Open up the hood. Prop the hood up carefully.
Step 3: Locate the brake fluid reservoir. Generally, the reservoir can be found towards the back of the engine compartment on the driver’s side.
The exact location of this will depend on your vehicle, and if you are having trouble finding it, consult your owner’s manual or search online for your make and model. The reservoir will have a cap on it and it may be labeled in some way.
Step 4: Check the fluid level. The first thing to look for is the level of fluid in the tank.
You should see lines on the side of the tank that say “max” and “min,” and if the fluid level is somewhere in the area between these two lines, your fluid level is fine.
Step 5: Check the condition of your brake fluid. Even if the level is fine, there could still be problems with the condition of the brake fluid inside the tank.
The easiest condition check to perform at home concerns the color of the fluid. The color is best described as brown and it should not be black, which could be an indication that you have an issue.
Other checks require special tools to determine the water content and exposure to corrosive chemicals, and it may be best to have a professional mechanic do this for you.
Adding Brake Fluid to Your Car
If you have determined that you do in fact need to add brake fluid, then you should follow these next two steps.
Step 1: Purchase the proper sort of fluid. Each vehicle requires a different sort of fluid, so consult your owner’s manual to learn what type of brake fluid your car needs.
This is not simply a matter of generic vs. brand-name fluid, but the actual specification of brake fluid itself. DOT 3, DOT 4, and DOT 5 are the different types of brake fluid, and cars are made to receive one of them and not the others. So don’t skimp or take the easy route, or else you could end up causing damage.
Step 2: Pour fluid into the reservoir. Once you’ve acquired the proper fluid, pour it into the reservoir until it returns to the range between “max” and “min.” Don’t go past the “max” line.
If you are constantly having to add brake fluid, you may have a lingering brake issue that a professional needs to check out.