When it comes to the safety of your vehicle, there are very few components as crucial as the breaks. That’s why checking breaks and repairing them when they are squeaking is an important part of any routine car maintenance. However, many drivers overlook the fact that their brake fluid also needs to be checked from time to time. If your brake fluid is low, it may not only cause your breaks to fail but it can also affect the overall health of your braking system.
Most manufacturers recommend checking your brake fluid every two years or 30,000 miles. While this is a good general rule of thumb, it doesn’t take into account how often you drive your car or the environment in which you live. In addition, brake fluid is hygroscopic which means it will absorb moisture over time, lowering its boiling point and making it less effective.
The easiest way to check your brake fluid is to look at the reservoir. Most vehicles have a clear plastic reservoir which makes it easy to see the level of the fluid without opening the cap. If the fluid is low, simply add more to bring it up to the maximum fill line. However, it’s a good idea to get the fluid changed before the reservoir is empty if possible.
While you’re checking your brake fluid, it’s a good idea to also take note of its color. Brake fluid should be clear with a slight yellowish tint, but it can become darker over time as it becomes contaminated. Dark brake fluid should be replaced immediately as it can compromise the braking performance of your vehicle.
If you’re unsure of the color of your brake fluid, it’s a great idea to visit a professional mechanic who can use a specialized meter to test its hydroscopic properties and determine if it is still able to perform at its best. Additionally, a professional can help you determine the best time to change your brake fluid.
How to Check Your Brake Fluid
Most newer cars have a translucent fluid reservoir that can easily be inspected by looking at it. Older vehicles typically have a metal reservoir with a clamp on the lid that must be removed in order to inspect it. Before removing the lid, it’s a good idea to thoroughly clean the area around the reservoir to prevent debris from falling in. Once the cap is removed, you’ll need to take a look at the fluid level and compare it to the max/min indicators on the side of the reservoir.