Basic Tips for Brake Fluid Maintenance

Aug 24, 2016 by Cedric (Driver Weekly)

When most people think about maintaining the brakes in their car, they picture the brake lines, rotors, or pads. While these components are all important, you don’t want to overlook the brake fluid. Experts agree that brake fluid should be changed at a regular interval, although there are different opinions about the timing and frequency. In addition to changing the fluid, you also need to do other maintenance, such as checking the levels of fluid and refilling it when necessary.

Checking Brake Fluid Levels

Almost every single vehicle available today will have a brake fluid reservoir that is clear or semi-transparent. This means that you can easily look into the reservoir to check the fluid level without having to remove the cap. You will find the brake fluid reservoir in the back of your engine bay closer to the driver’s side. It should be close to the top of the bay in an area that is easy to access. The brake fluid reservoir will have a series of markings on it to let you know the range of fluid that is acceptable. In most cases, the canister is labelled “MIN” and “MAX” for minimum and maximum, respectively. As expected, you want the brake fluid level to be between these lines, and having too much or too little can lead to safety concerns.

Adding Brake Fluid

It is incredibly easy to fill up the brake fluid reservoir in your vehicle, and you should be able to do it yourself. Wipe down the area with a rag before removing the cap to the reservoir. This may seem unnecessary, but it is essential since it prevents any foreign materials from entering the braking system. As the system is sensitive, any foreign materials can weaken or clog other components in your car. Once the area is clean, remove the cap and then slowly add brake fluid until it reaches the right level. (Whenever you are handling brake fluid, avoid shaking the bottle; when brake fluid is shaken, it can create little bubbles that lead to major issues.) Now you can put the cap back on. Pump your brake pedal a few times to remove any air at the top of your system, check the level, and refill if necessary. You should check the level again in a day or so to make sure the fluid is flowing properly.

Flushing the Brake Fluid

It used to be a given that you should change the brake fluid in your vehicle, but that is no longer the case. The official recommendations vary greatly between manufacturers, with Mercedes-Benz suggesting replacing it every 20,000 miles or two years and Chevrolet letting you wait ten years or 150,000 miles. Some, such as Toyota, Chrysler, and Ford, don’t even include a recommended time. Most experts will tell you that unless your manufacturer has other instructions, you can wait four to five years until you replace the brake fluid. The important thing is to use the fluid that your manufacturer suggests.

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