If you’re like most people, the very mention of brake fluid conjures up images of an intense, technical process that’s best left to the pros. However, as a driver, it is important to know how to do some basic car repairs and maintenance. I’ll walk you through the process so that you know how to add brake fluid to your car like a pro.
It is a pretty straightforward process, you need to get the right liquid to pour into your car. Then park it on a flat surface, check the fluid levels, pour the right concoction, close it up, and go for a test drive. If everything is done correctly, the car will run without a hitch.
What Is Brake Fluid?
Before we get into how to put brake fluid in a car, let’s get a bit technical and talk about what exactly this liquid is. Basically, it is a type of hydraulic fluid that is used in automobiles to activate the brake system. It is typically glycol-based, which means it contains a large percentage of ethylene glycol.
For all of you who skipped chemistry in school, this means that the chemical is used because it has a high boiling point, which means it can withstand the extreme temperatures that are generated by braking.
What Types of Brake Fluid Are There?
Before you get under the hood of your car and start tinkering around, get a product that you’ll be pouring into it. However, before adding brake fluid, know that there are several factors to consider, including compatibility, boiling point, and moisture resistance. Let’s take a look at exactly what types of products are available:
- DOT 3 is the most common one and will work with most braking systems. It has a glycol base and is hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs moisture from the air. DOT 3 has a boiling point of 205 degrees Celsius (401 degrees Fahrenheit).
- DOT 4 is also a glycol-based fluid but has a higher boiling point than DOT 3, making it ideal for high-performance vehicles or ones that are frequently driven in hot weather conditions. It also has greater resistance to compressibility than DOT 3, meaning it won’t degrade as quickly under heavy braking. DOT 4 has a boiling point of 230 degrees Celsius (446 degrees Fahrenheit).
- DOT 5 is silicone-based rather than glycol-based. This gives it some advantages over other fluids; for example, it won’t damage paint if accidental spillage occurs. However, because it is not compatible with other fluids, you’ll need to flush your entire system and replace all components if you want to switch to DOT 5 from another type of fluid. It has a boiling point of 260 degrees Celsius (500 degrees Fahrenheit).
- DOT 5.1 is very similar to DOT 5 silicone-based product but with a slightly lower boiling point. It shares all the same advantages and disadvantages but may be preferable in very hot climates or for very high-performance vehicles. DOT 5.1 has a boiling point of 250 degrees Celsius (482 degrees Fahrenheit).
What Are the Benefits of Brake Fluid?
The first benefit is the fact that the fluid doesn’t let your brakes fail. Also, it increases safety levels. Without it, your car won’t be able to stop, which will put you and others in danger. The fluid also boosts efficiency. It will provide your four-wheeler with great stopping power.
Why Do You Need to Add Brake Fluid to Your Car?
Adding brake fluid to the vehicle is crucial for the efficient operation of your four-wheeler. The brakes won’t function properly if the fluid levels are too low, if the liquid is contaminated, or if there is too much water in it.
Simply put, leaving the liquid at a low level will affect brake pads, which will cause car problems. So, to avoid hurting yourself or somebody else while in traffic, monitor and add fluid whenever you deem necessary.
How Often Do You Need to Add Brake Fluid?
We all know that oil is considered the lifeblood of the engine. It is what keeps it going. However, brake fluid is as important because it guarantees that the car can stop. To ensure your car is able to do so, adding brake fluid is a must, and it should be done as often as the manufacturer recommends.
There are manufacturers that recommend replacing the fluid every two years, while others recommend doing it every 45,000 miles. Just to be sure you are doing it as often as you should, consult the manufacturer manual.
How Long Does Brake Fluid Last in a Car?
As I said before, the answer to this question will depend on a few factors. Like oil changes, there is no specific mileage or time frame after which you must change it. All of it will depend on the vehicle, the driving environment, and the manufacturer’s recommendations.
What Are the Signs of Low Brake Fluid?
A complete brake failure is a definite indicator that you need to change brake fluid. Thankfully, there are a few more obvious warning signals that can give you a hint:
- Pedal Issues – pedals could become more difficult to push when the fluid ages or leaks.
- Blinking ABS Lights – the car’s ABS light refers to the anti-lock braking system, and it alerts you to a problem when it glows.
- Poor Brake Pad Performance – the brake pads’ ability to perform will be impacted if the brake fluid ages or gets dirty. The car brakes could make a strange sound, such as squealing or grinding.
- Burning Scent – If you smell burnt rubber or metal, it might be a bad sign. If you detect this smell while driving, stop right away to allow the brakes to cool so that they don’t harm the wheels.
How to Add Brake Fluid to a Car – Step-By-Step Guide
Learning how to fill brake fluid or refill it is something you don’t just know. But it is not a complicated thing to learn, it is as complicated as learning how to change a tail light or even how to change a flat tire. So, let’s get into it. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to add brake fluid to your car.
Step One - Get the Correct Refiling Liquid
As I mentioned before, there are a few different types of brake fluid you can pour into your vehicle. However, you should look on the lid to see which one is recommended for the type of four-wheeler you are driving.
Step Two - Park Your Vehicle on a Flat Terrain
To be able to tell the levels of fluid in your vehicle correctly, it should be parked on a flat surface. If it is parked on steep terrain, the liquid will be higher on the tilted side. Don’t forget that if the vehicle has anti-lock braking systems, you need to depress the pedal before looking into the levels of liquid.
Step Three - Pop the Hood and Find Master Cylinder
Turn off the parked car and pop the hood, and look for the master cylinder. It will probably be on the driver’s side of the car in the back of the engine bay. Depending on the model of the vehicle, there might be a plastic panel covering it.
Step Four - Open the Tank
When you locate it, clean the cap and carefully open the tank. My advice would be to wear some gloves because the liquid can strip the paint from the metal, so imagine what it can do to your skin.
Inspect the liquid levels by checking the tank’s MAX and MIN marks. Then you need to inspect the color of the fluid. Conduct a dip test and check if some debriefs are floating around, if they are, you should call the mechanic to drain the system.
Step Five - It's Refill Time
After you checked the levels of liquid in the tank and the color was good, and there were no debriefs floating around, it is time to refill. Get the brake fluid and fill the tank just a bit under the MAX mark. Ensure that the tank is not overfilled because it can spill and then cause damage.
After you are done, whip the cap clean (from inside and outside just to be safe), and then put it back on. Press it just to be sure it falls into place the right way.
Step Six - Take Your Car for a Test Spin
It’s time for a test drive to make sure everything is still functioning properly after all that hard work. There’s no need to drive recklessly on the open road. Instead, take a drive around the neighborhood. When you go back, check the tank one more to make sure nothing is leaking, and that’s it, you are done.
What Is the Best Brake Fluid for Your Car?
All of us want the best of the best for our four-wheelers (for example, we want squeaky clean seat belts or efficiently working U-joints). This can be applied to the brake fluid as well. There are many different products available on the market that you can use. However, if you want to get the best performance, choose one from the table below.
|Motul Dot-4 100 Percent Synthetic Racing Brake Fluid||This synthetic non-silicone fluid is designed for hydraulic brake systems. The ideal combination of value and outstanding performance for all kinds of cars can be found in the product, which also enhances pedal sensation.||Gives more protection against water and increases the car’s performance. It also doesn’t have an expiration date.||The design of the bottle can cause spillage, it is also a bit pricier and needs to be changed often due to its characteristics.|
|Prestone DOT 3 Synthetic Brake Fluid||The ABS, disc, and drum braking systems all use the product. It offers additional safety because both its wet and dry boiling temperatures are higher than the minimum set by the government.||The product is long-lasting and can withstand heat.||When ordering online, it might come without a lid.|
|Lucas Oil Brake Fluid||It is one of the top racing brands. Additionally, it lasts longer than comparable rival brands.||This product surpasses DOT3 and DOT4 requirements.||The product is a bit pricier, and it requires more frequent replacement, meaning it is not very practical for the average driver.|
Keep in mind that these are highly rated products but that they don’t have to be the right ones for your four-wheeler. Before buying any, make sure they are compatible with your car.
Why It Is Important to Keep Up With the Maintenance of Your Vehicle?
As a car owner, you know that having a four-wheeler is a big investment, one that should be taken care of. This means more than just remembering to clean a steering wheel when it gets dirty. There’s also routine maintenance and small repairs to make it run smoothly. Neglecting things like bad spark plugs or low levels of brake fluid can result in hefty repair bills down the road.
I hope that this step-by-step guide helped you see that the whole thing is not as complicated or scary as one might think. Keep your brakes checked, and your car will run smoothly and safely no matter what.