Basic Brake Maintenance: 3 Simple Steps to Check Brake Fluid

  • Apr 24,2017
Checking brake fluid level in car Checking brake fluid level in car

Dehydration can make you feel sluggish and irritable, limiting your ability to think and move. Turns out, your car can suffer from dehydration too. Like your body, your car needs fluids to run at its best, fluids like motor oil, windshield wiper fluid, and brake fluid. But while you likely check your oil and wiper fluid every few months, how often do you check your brake fluid? If you're like most drivers, not all that often.

Checking brake fluid is easier than you think and far more important than you could ever imagine. There’s a lot riding on maintaining optimal brake fluid levels, including your safety, your car's responsiveness, and its overall lifespan. Without brake fluid, your car or truck won't stop when you push the brake pedal. Talk about a serious hazard!

How to Check Brake Fluid

Visit your nearest Firestone Complete Auto Care location for a quick brake fluid check, or read on for three simple steps to checking your brake fluid at home. Please keep in mind that these instructions are general guidelines. Consult your owner's manual for specific information about your vehicle.

  • LOCATE the brake fluid reservoir on your vehicle’s master cylinder, under the hood. Refer to the owner’s manual if you need help.
  • CHECK the brake fluid level against the “maximum” and “minimum” lines on the exterior of the reservoir. They might also be listed as “max” and “min” or similar terms, or represented by depth lines. If you see that the brake fluid is at or near the “minimum” line, it’s likely time for a brake service.
  • EXAMINE the color and clarity of your brake fluid. Old brake fluid tends to be muddy brown/black and looks like used motor oil. Like motor oil, brake fluid gets darker the more grime and debris it picks up. The dirtier it gets, the less effective it becomes. Dark brake fluid is a good sign you should consider a brake fluid flush. However, the only surefire way to know that you need a brake fluid exchange is by testing for copper levels in the fluid, a service that our friendly auto technicians can perform for you.
  • If checking your brake fluid level isn't a DIY activity you're comfortable with, no worries. Feel free to stop by your local Firestone Complete Auto Care and let our technicians take a look. It's our job to make sure your brakes are doing theirs!

    What if my brake fluid is low?

    If you suspect your brake fluid level is low, it's time to visit a professional, especially if the dashboard brake light has come on too! There could be a leak or your brake pads may need replacing. Either way, leaving it up to chance could mean a scary reduction in brake performance.

    Can I change my own brake fluid?

    Are you considering changing your brake fluid at home? While checking your brake fluid level can be simple, changing your brake fluid isn't. Consider leaving a brake fluid refill, change, or flush to the professionals since doing so:

    • Can require a dozen or more tools, some of which are unique to the process.
    • Exposes you to a fluid that can be extremely toxic.
    • Threatens your vehicle’s paint job, since brake fluid can eat away at it.

    Stop by Firestone Complete Auto Care

    About 84 percent of vehicles in use need service or parts, says the Car Care Council.

    Don’t let a low brake fluid level or dirty, ineffective brake fluid push your car or truck into that category. Find your nearest Firestone Complete Auto Care and stop by for a brake fluid service that will keep your car running—and stopping—smoother, longer!

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