How To Check Brake Fluid

Your car, like your body, needs fluids in order to function smoothly. The most important fluid in your car is brake fluid, which the car’s brake master cylinder pumps to the brakes whenever you step on the brake pedal. Inadequate amount and improper condition of a car’s brake fluid can result in simultaneous failure of all brakes, especially under hard braking. This article explains the process of checking the amount and condition of your car’s brake fluid.

Open the hood of your car and locate the brake master cylinder. It is small and rectangular (about 6 inches by 2 inches) and can usually be found on the driver’s side of the car, somewhere near the back of the engine bay. The cylinder is made of metal with a plastic reservoir covered with a rubber cap usually embossed with brief instructions on the type of brake fluid to use. You may also want to read your car’s service manual, as it will contain a diagram of the car’s parts, including the brake master cylinder.

Examine the sides of the plastic reservoir. You should be able to see the fluid through the sides of the reservoir without having to open the rubber cap. The sides of the reservoir will bear markings indicating the current level of brake fluid. At the very least, it will have labels for full and for minimum brake fluid levels. You may need to wipe off some of the road grime that has accumulated on the reservoir’s side so that that you can see the labels more clearly. You should never let your brake fluid level go below minimum.

Older cars, especially those manufactured before 1980, don’t have translucent plastic reservoirs in the brake master cylinder. In this case, you need to uncover the reservoir cap so that you can check the fluid level inside. Using a screwdriver, pop off the metal clamp and open the cap. Be careful not to spill brake fluid on any painted surface or on your skin, as brake fluid is very corrosive. If the level is too low, refill the brake fluid using the grade appropriate for your car. Your car’s service manual usually has information about the right grade of brake fluid for your car.

Although cars do not consume brake fluid, the normal wear and tear of the car’s brakes will cause the car’s brake fluid to gradually decrease. You don’t have to always refill the brake fluid. Just make sure that the level stays either full or above the minimum mark. If you find your car constantly needing brake fluid refills, something must be wrong with your car and you must take it to an automotive mechanic immediately for check up. Dark or discolored brake fluid is also a warning sign for you to immediately replace the fluid.

Among the fluids that your car needs to function properly, brake fluid is the most critical. Very low levels of brake fluid will cause brake failure, which often leads to accidents resulting in a crashed car, physical injuries, or passenger death. Therefore, check your car’s brake fluids regularly.


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