How to Add Brake Fluid to Your Car

How to add brake fluid

  1. Park the vehicle in a level area – Make sure the vehicle is stationary and on a level surface. Allowing the vehicle to move or having it at a steep pitch can make the fluid levels read incorrectly.

  2. Depress the brake pedal 20 to 30 times – Some manufacturers specify that this be done if the vehicle has anti-lock brakes (ABS).

    Tip: If your vehicle doesn’t have ABS, you can skip this step. If you’re not sure if you have ABS, do it anyway.

    Warning: The brake pedal may get hard when you do this with the engine off, which is a normal condition. The normal pedal feel will return when the engine is started again.

  3. Locate the brake fluid reservoir – The brake fluid reservoir is normally located under the hood, on the driver’s side of the vehicle, against the back of the engine compartment or near the base of the windshield.

    Tip: Some vehicles have the brake fluid reservoir under a plastic access panel.

    Tip: Some vehicles require significant disassembly of panels underneath the hood in order to access the brake fluid reservoir. If this is the case on your vehicle, it may be best to have a professional perform this service for you.

  4. Examine the brake fluid level – Most modern vehicles use a plastic reservoir that is transparent and has MAX and MIN marks on it. If yours is this type, you should be able to see if the brake fluid is between these marks.

  5. Inspect the color of the fluid – Brake fluid becomes contaminated with normal use. Clean fluid is a light golden yellow color, dirty fluid becomes dark amber in color. If yours is dark, you should contact a professional about having the brake fluid flushed. Some older vehicles have a metal reservoir with a metal cap that needs to be removed to see the level. If yours is this style, proceed to the next step. If your brake fluid level is between the marks and the fluid looks clean, then you are finished. Good job!

    Tip: Shining a flashlight into the reservoir will help you see the fluid level if the reservoir is dirty or otherwise difficult to see through.

  6. Open the fluid reservoir by removing the cap – If your fluid level is below the minimum mark, or you cannot see your brake fluid level with the cap on, you need to carefully remove the cap.

  7. Clean the reservoir – Take a clean rag and wipe all the dirt and grease away from the cap and the top of the reservoir. You may need to unplug the level sensor if there is one built into the cap.

  8. Remove the cap – Remove the cap by pulling it straight up, unscrewing it, or releasing the metal spring clip, whichever is applicable.

  9. Add brake fluid to the reservoir – Slowly add brake fluid to the reservoir until it’s at the desired level. Be sure to use the correct brake fluid for your car. Reference your owner’s manual or a professional to determine the correct fluid.

    Warning: Do not fill above the maximum line, the fluid needs extra room in the reservoir to expand as conditions change.

    Warning: Careful not to spill. If you do, clean it up quickly.

  10. Cap the reservoir – Re-install the fluid reservoir cap. Put the cap back on the same way it came off.

    Tip: Don’t forget to plug in the sensor if you had to unplug one.

Congratulations! You’ve done it! Your brake fluid is now at the correct level. If the fluid was low, there could be a problem in the system, such as worn brake components.

Video

How to Add Brake Fluid: A Beginners Guide

Are you a beginner in driving? Perhaps you still don’t know how to replace U joints, change a flat tire, or use a tire repair kit, but you have to start with something. So today, we are going to show you how to put brake fluid in a car.

Do You Have To Pump The Brakes After Adding Fluid

YES. You HAVE TO pump the brakes to push the fluid back through the system when you have finished. What you are doing is priming the brakes to be ready to stop the car by allowing them to pressurize. You should pump the brakes about 30 times to prime them properly. You should feel the pedal engage.

Why Does Brake Fluid Need To Be Replaced?

The braking system is sealed to maintain the pressure needed to keep the brakes working. It is also effective at preventing fluid leaks and keeping outside contaminants from disrupting the quality of the brake fluid. However, over time as the brakes become worn and used, the integrity of the seal can deteriorate. When this happens, water, mud, dust, dirt, and metal pieces can end up in the brake fluid making it less effective. Even without outside contaminants, brake fluid needs to be routinely replaced because it will eventually break down itself.

Pedal Issues

If you’re having a harder time than usual pushing down on your brake pedal, you might need to add more fluid to your car.

When To Schedule a Brake Fluid Flush

Like changing your oil and replacing your car’s air filters, when to schedule a complete brake fluid flush depends on your driving habits and your car’s year, make, and model. Most manufacturers recommend this service every 24 months or 30,000 miles, though this can vary. Again, consult your owners manual to be sure. Also, know that this is just a guideline. The only way to be sure is to check your car’s brake fluid quality is with a proper testing kit or visit a qualified mechanic.

Can You Just Add Brake Fluid to Your Car?

Simply said, yes. Although you can take your car to an experienced mechanic to do it for you, this is something you can do on your own without too much hassle. Whether you own some of the most expensive cars in the world or you just bought a used car, the process is quite the same and straightforward.

Next Step

Schedule Brakes, Steering and Suspension Inspection

The most popular service booked by readers of this article is Brakes, Steering and Suspension Inspection. Once the problem has been diagnosed, you will be provided with an upfront quote for the recommended fix and receive $20.00 off as a credit towards the repair. YourMechanic’s technicians bring the dealership to you by performing this job at your home or office 7-days a week between 7AM-9PM. We currently cover over 2,000 cities and have 100k+ 5-star reviews… LEARN MORESEE PRICING & SCHEDULING

Signs of Low Brake Fluid

Your vehicle shouldn’t lose brake fluid in normal operation. The level drops only slightly with wear of brakes. So, if the level is down, there’s a chance there’s a leak somewhere. Consult a service professional immediately to have it addressed and avoid possible dangerous reduction in brake performance. Also, your vehicle takes a specific type of brake fluid; typically (but not always), DOT3 or DOT4. In newer vehicles, it will often say right on the brake fluid reservoir cap. If not, consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual.

CAUTION: DO NOT USE BRAKE FLUID OTHER THAN THE SPECIFIC TYPE RECOMMENDED FOR YOUR VEHICLE.

Note: These instructions are intended as general guidelines. Please consult your owner’s or service manual for specific instructions on changing the oil and filter on your vehicle. Use extreme caution when lifting or jacking any vehicle.

Reader Success Stories

  • Leonard Blanton

Nov 1, 2016

    Leonard Blanton Nov 1, 2016

    “You covered the entire process, so it reinforced the little I already knew and added the rest that I needed.”

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