How to Safely Add Brake Fluid (A Detailed Guide + 5 FAQs)
If you own a car, you know how important the braking system is for your safety. The brake system consists of different parts, like the brake pedal, disc or drum brakes, and most importantly, the brake fluid, which acts like the system’s blood.
It’s crucial to regularly check the brake fluid level to ensure your brakes work properly. In this article, we’ll show you how to add brake fluid safely, tell you how to spot low brake fluid, and answer some frequently asked questions.
This Article Covers:
- How to Add Brake Fluid (5 Easy Steps)
- Signs of Low Brake Fluid
- 5 FAQs About Brake Fluid
Let’s get started.
How to Add Brake Fluid (5 Easy Steps)
You should check and add brake fluid every month, even if the brake warning or ABS lights are not on. Follow these steps to do it correctly:
Step 1: Park Your Car Safely
Park your car on a flat surface and engage the parking brake to keep it from rolling. If you have a manual transmission, put the car in first gear before applying the parking brake. For vehicles with ABS brakes, press the brake pedal 30 times to remove any remaining fluid from the ABS channels. Wait for the engine to cool down before opening the hood.
Step 2: Check the Brake Fluid Level
Locate the brake fluid reservoir in the engine compartment, usually on the driver’s side. If you can’t find it, check the car’s owner’s manual. The reservoir is often transparent with “Maximum” and “Minimum” lines marked on the outside. Check the fluid level without opening the cap. If it’s close to the “Minimum” line, you’ll need to add more fluid.
Step 3: Get the Right Brake Fluid
Make sure you have the correct type of brake fluid for your vehicle, as stated in the owner’s manual. Using the wrong type can damage the brake system.
Step 4: Add the Brake Fluid
Use a funnel to pour the new brake fluid into the reservoir, filling it just below the “Maximum” line or around 2/3 to 3/4 full. Be cautious when handling brake fluid, as it can be corrosive and harmful to your skin. Wash the funnel with soap and water after use and avoid reusing it for other purposes.
Step 5: Close the Reservoir Cap and Pump the Brakes
Screw the reservoir cap back tightly to prevent moisture and air from entering. Then, pump the brake pedal about 30 times to create hydraulic pressure and distribute the new fluid through the brake lines. Stop pumping when you feel the pedal engaging.
Now you know how to add brake fluid properly. But how can you tell if your brake fluid is running low without opening the hood? Let’s find out.
Signs of Low Brake Fluid
Watch out for these signs of low brake fluid while driving:
- Illuminated brake light and/or ABS light
- Unresponsive, spongy, or soft brake pedal
- Strange noises when braking
- Burning smell while braking
- Longer stopping distance and time
- Uneven brake pad wear
If you experience any of these signs, pull over safely and check your brake fluid. It’s also a good idea to have a trusted mechanic inspect it.
Now, let’s answer some frequently asked questions about brake fluid.
5 FAQs About Brake Fluid
- Can I Drive With Low Brake Fluid?
Driving with low brake fluid isn’t recommended, but you can still drive short distances to the nearest workshop if the fluid isn’t fully depleted. However, running out of brake fluid due to a massive leak can lead to complete brake failure and serious safety risks.
- How Does the Brake System Work?
The brake system uses brake lines to connect the brake pedal to brake components like pads and calipers. When you press the brake pedal, hydraulic pressure is created in the brake lines, causing the brake pads to squeeze against the moving rotor, slowing down and stopping the vehicle.
- Can Brake Fluid Expire?
Yes, brake fluid can expire because it absorbs moisture over time, which affects its performance and can cause damage to brake parts. Avoid leaving a bottle of brake fluid open for too long.
- Is Brake Bleeding Necessary After Adding Brake Fluid?
No, brake bleeding is not required when simply inspecting and refilling the reservoir. Brake bleeding is only necessary when you’re replacing all the old fluid with new fluid.
- When Should I Replace My Brake Fluid?
Refer to your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommended brake fluid replacement schedule. As a general rule, consider replacing the brake fluid every two years or every 30,000 miles to maintain the brake system’s effectiveness.
Taking care of your brake system is essential for your safety. Remember to check and refill the brake fluid regularly by following our guide.