There’s one important part of your vehicle you may rarely check. Many people forget it even exists until it’s too late!
This part of your vehicle is your hydraulic braking system. The fluid in your hydraulic brakes needs checking and periodic maintenance. One question many people ask is, how often do you need to change your brake fluid?
Checking and maintaining your hydraulic brakes will ensure your car runs and brakes safely. A brake system in need of a brake fluid change can result in a failing brake system and increase your risk of an accident. Here’s what you need to about checking and changing your car’s brake fluid!
What You Need to Know About Brake Fluid
Most brakes are hydraulic, meaning they use a liquid known as brake fluid to work. Hydraulic fluid works by transforming a force, like pressing the brake pedal, into pressure. The brake fluid works as a medium for the pressure to engage a vehicle’s front and rear brakes.
Unlike air and some solids, liquids are not compressible. It can’t condense, which makes it a great option for brakes.
You can find brake fluid in nearly every motor vehicle, including cars, trucks, motorcycles, and ATVs. Even some pedal bicycles are adopting hydraulic brakes due to their efficiency and enhanced safety.
Low or dirty brake fluid can cause a brake failure in any type of vehicle. Brake fluid is specifically designed to last for a long time but not forever. At some point, you will need to change your brake fluid.
Signs You Need to Change Your Brake Fluid
A clear sign you need to change your brake fluid is a complete brake failure. Fortunately, there are several safer signs that your vehicle needs new brake fluid. If you experience any of these signs.
Issues With Your Pedals
When the brake fluid ages or leaks, your brake pedal may become harder to press. This is a sign your brake lines may need more fluid. When the brake pedal becomes unusually soft, your brake fluid needs changing. Ignoring either of these signs can lead to a brake failure or make braking incredibly difficult.
The Illuminated ABS Light
The ABS light in your vehicles stands for Anti-lock Braking System. When it illuminates, it’s notifying you that something is wrong with your braking system. The most common reason for this light is you need to replace your brake fluid or top it off. There are, of course, other reasons that could cause your brake light to turn on. Always have a professional check your brakes to make sure there isn’t a more serious underlying issue.
Your Brake Pads Aren’t Working Well
As your brake fluid ages or becomes dirty, it will affect how well your brake pads function. You may hear a squealing, grinding, or another odd sound coming from your brakes. Another telltale sign is your brakes take slightly longer to bring you to a complete stop.
A Burning Smell
Overheated brakes can produce a harsh chemical smell, similar to the scent of burnt rubber or metal. If you notice this scent on your vehicle, pull over immediately and let your brakes cool before they damage your wheel or braking system.
How to Check Your Brake Fluid
You’ll need to check your brake fluid first. The quality and level of your brake fluid can clue you in on any other potential vehicle issues.
To check your brake fluid, you’ll need to unlatch and open the hood of your vehicle. Most vehicles store the brake fluid in a translucent reservoir that allows you to view the liquid level without opening the container. This reservoir is typically found near the rear of the engine compartment in front of the brake pedal. Brake fluid is usually a light, clear color. If it’s not clean or transparent, then your brake fluid is dirty and needs changing.
The reservoir should have a label that says, “full line.” If the brake liquid falls below that line, it’s a sign you need to change your brake fluid or top it off. Low brake fluid can also indicate your brake pads are wearing down and need maintenance. You should avoid opening this container unless you’re planning to add or change your brake fluid. Opening the reservoir exposes it to air, causing moisture to enter the hydraulic system. This can impact your braking performance or force you to change your brake fluid early.
There are many easy do-it-yourself car maintenance activities you can perform yourself. This leads some to believe that changing brake fluid must be just as easy, right?
If your vehicle needs new brake fluid, you should have a professional change it for you. Brake fluid is a complicated and dangerous substance. Those working with brake fluid need the proper PPE gear and training due to the combustible and toxic properties of brake fluid.
Brake fluid comes in a variety of ratings and specifications depending on the type of car you drive. These fluids can’t mix, and the old brake fluid needs to be completely drained before adding the new liquid.
How Often Should You Change Your Brake Fluid?
The answer depends. There isn’t a set number of miles or years requiring you to change your brake fluid like oil changes. The need to change your brake fluid varies between vehicles, driving conditions, and the manufacturer’s recommendations.
A good rule to follow is to have your mechanic check your brakes and brake fluid during every oil change. They’ll be able to give you the best feedback on how your brakes are working and if they need new fluid. Most drivers find they need to change their brake fluid every four to five years.
Have Your Friends at Hubbell Auto Repair Help You With Your Braking Needs!
Knowing when to change your brake fluid is a must-have skill to ensure your vehicle stays dependable! If you notice your brakes are acting weird or your brake fluid is low, have a professional mechanic check our brakes for you!
Do you need your vehicle serviced? Schedule a service today, and we’ll help keep your vehicle running at its best.