Low brake fluid symptoms

Low brake fluid symptoms: Between oil, gasoline, and coolant, it seems like your car requires endless amounts of fluid to keep running. Brake fluid is another vital fluid that you can add to the list. Without it, you may not be able to stop your vehicle! But why do cars need it? Can you drive without brake fluid? What would happen if your car ran out of it? Here are the answers to some of your biggest brake fluid questions!


You know it’s important and your car needs it, but what does brake fluid actually do? In short, it helps your brakes work. When you step on the brake pedal, the pressurized fluid increases in force and moves through the brake lines to the calipers.

The calipers then push the brake pads against the rotors, putting pressure and friction on the wheels causing them to stop. Without proper levels of brake fluid, your vehicle may not be able to complete this process efficiently.


When something is wrong with his car, he goes to ask for help. Low brake fluid levels are no exception. Some signs to look out for include:

  • Illuminated Brake Light On Dash – Your dash lights come on for a reason, so don’t ignore them! A brake light won’t always mean low fluid, but you should have any problems with your brakes inspected right away.
  • Pedal Problems – If your brake pedal is harder to press than normal, goes down with little or no effort, or hits the floor when you press it, you may have low fluid levels, contaminated fluid, or air in your system.
  • Fluid around one or more wheels: Large puddles of fluid around one or more wheels may indicate a brake fluid leak.

You don’t want to put yourself or others at risk. If you notice any symptoms of low brake fluid, or if your brakes just don’t seem to be working as well as they used to, turn to Firestone Complete Auto Care for brake service and inspection as soon as possible.


While brake fluid doesn’t need to be replaced as often as many other fluids in your vehicle, it can go bad or run out. However, one possible cause of low brake fluid is a leak. Your car is full of different fluids, so avoid jumping to conclusions if you see puddles under your vehicle. The appearance and location can help you better identify if it is brake fluid.

Brake fluid is usually clear to brown and slightly yellow in color. It also has a slippery viscosity similar to vegetable oil. If you have a brake fluid leak, you’ll likely find a puddle matching this description near one of your vehicle’s wheels.


While a leak is often the cause of low brake fluid, there are a few other possible culprits:

  • Leak in the brake booster. Sometimes brake fluid can leak internally into the brake booster. When this happens, not only will there be no visible signs of a leak, but your brake booster may also be damaged.
  • Worn brake pads. When the brake pads are worn, more fluid can be stored inside the calipers. This can lead to less brake fluid in the master cylinder.


Brake fluid plays a vital role in your brake system, yet it is often ignored or forgotten. What happens if you run out of brake fluid? You run the risk of your brakes failing completely, which is a huge safety issue. However, it is possible to stop safely when the brakes fail.

When the unexpected happens and your brakes stop working, you want to warn other drivers by stepping on the brake pedal a few times to activate your lights. You can also activate your hazards.

Then you want to gradually apply the parking brake to downshift the transmission to lower gears. Once you have reached a speed of 20 miles or less, try to pull safely off the road onto grass, dirt, or brush. These surfaces provide more friction to help bring your car to a complete stop.

Tip: If the parking brake does not apply, try putting your vehicle in a low gear and drive very carefully in a safe direction until the car comes to a complete stop.



Although often overlooked, the brake fluid in your vehicle is very important to the function of the brake system. The brake system is hydraulic, which means that brake fluid is used to create the pressure needed to slow or stop your vehicle. When you step on the brake pedal, brake fluid pressure builds up to put pressure on the brake pads which, in turn, prevents the wheels from turning. A leak or air in the brake fluid can severely decrease hydraulic power and make it difficult to stop or slow down when necessary.

If there is a problem with your brake fluid, you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:

  • The brake warning light has come on
  • Brake fluid appears low, discolored, or dirty
  • Brake pedal feels spongy
  • The car takes longer to brake than normal

As soon as you recognize a problem with your vehicle’s brake system, it’s important to take your car to the experts here at Haglin Automotive. Driving with any indication of faulty brakes can put your safety on the road at great risk. Our professionals will perform a complete inspection of your brake system to understand the problem and provide the necessary repairs so you can get back on the road with a safe vehicle.

There are many different causes of brake fluid problems, including the following:

  • A leak in the system
  • worn brake pads
  • damaged brake lines

One way you can help prevent problems with low brake fluid is with regular inspections of your vehicle’s brake system. It’s also important to follow your vehicle’s factory recommendations when it comes to rinsing your brake fluid. A brake fluid flush will replace the old brake fluid and replace it with new, clean fluid. Brake fluid tends to get dirty over time and can also become contaminated with air and moisture, which can affect the hydraulic power of the brakes.

5 Signs You Should Change Your Brake Fluid


Brake fluid can become an “out of sight, out of mind” vehicle component, often we don’t think about it until something goes wrong. However, your brake fluid works hard every day to keep you safe on the road. Over time, it can burn out, wear out, or become contaminated, which will prevent the brakes from working properly. Look out for these 5 signs that you need to flush your brake fluid.

Soft, bouncy or spongy brake pedal

When you press the brake pedal, does it feel soft, spongy, loose, or even bouncy? Do you have to fully depress the brake pedal before it will slow down and stop your vehicle? This is a sign that you need a brake fluid change.

Low brake fluid will cause air to fill the gaps in the brake line, causing the brakes to soften. Spongy brake pedals can be both scary and dangerous, especially if you don’t fix them at the first sign of a problem.

ABS Dashboard Light

HeABS dashboard light indicates a problem with your anti-lock braking system. This system prevents the wheels from locking up during braking to prevent skidding and maintain traction. Low brake fluid automatically turns on the ABS system to help bring your vehicle to a stop safely.

ineffective braking performance

Your brakes need to be quick and responsive to help keep you safe in an emergency.Any delay or difficulty in slowing or stopping your vehicle is a sign that your brakes need service. Such problems could be the sign that you need a brake fluid flush.

Other possible culprits includedeformedrreaders,worn brake pads, or a problem with another component of the brake system. Ineffective braking can also be caused by aunderlying problem, such asworn tread, shock absorbers or struts. A professional can check your brake system and tell you what service you need to restore brake performance.

Strange noises or smells when braking

If you notice strange sounds when you are braking, this could be due to a low brake fluid level or another problem with the brake system. Common sounds include scraping or grinding noises.

Burning odors after hard braking may mean you have burned brake fluid. In this case, you should stop your vehicle in a safe place and give it time to cool down. You should also contact a local mechanic for information and to schedule a service visit. Driving with burnt brake fluid could create more serious problems, including brake failure.

Routine Maintenance for Brake Fluid Flush

When all else fails, you can turn to your recommended maintenance schedule to replace your brake fluid. On average, you will need abrake fluid drain every 2 years or 30,000 miles.

Routine maintenance also largely depends on your driving patterns. For example, if you tend to drive shorter routes with frequent braking, you may need more frequent brake fluid flushes. You can refer to your owner’s manual for brake fluid information specific to your vehicle.

How to add brake fluid

When you step on the brake pedal, it’s the brake fluid that helps activate the brakes to slow you down. Therefore, brake fluid is important.

But like any fluid in your vehicle, brake fluid should be checked regularly and changed occasionally.

Taking a look at the brake reservoir every month will tell you if the level is okay or if you need to add fluid.

If your brake fluid is looking a little low, here’s how to top it up.

  1. With the engine off, raise the hood and find the brake master cylinder. It is usually located at the rear of the engine compartment, on the driver’s side.

  2. Cover the fender before opening the brake master cylinder, and be careful when opening a container of brake fluid, as it can damage your vehicle’s paint.

  3. Use a cloth or towel to clean the master cylinder reservoir and cap to prevent dirt or water from getting inside while servicing. Also clean fluid lines, if needed.

  4. Look at the fluid level on the side of the master cylinder reservoir. If your brake fluid is at or above the “MIN” line, your brake fluid level is fine and you don’t need to add anything.

  5. If your fluid is below the “MIN” line, carefully remove the reservoir cap, then add brake fluid until the level is just below the “MAX” line. Don’t overfill.

  6. Using a completely clean towel or lint-free cloth, wipe down the inside of the reservoir cap: it may have brake fluid, dirt/debris, or both on it and should be cleaned before reinstalling.

  7. Carefully place the reservoir cap on the reservoir and press down on all four corners until it snaps into place.

  8. Visit your local Ford Dealer to have your brakes inspected as soon as possible, especially if the fluid level continues to drop or if the fluid is dark. You may need to have your brake system repaired.

quick tip

There are three main types of brake fluid: DOT 3, DOT 4, and DOT 5.


DOT 3 and 4 are glycol-based brake fluids, and the main difference between them is boiling point: DOT 4 boils at a higher temperature, which can be beneficial if your brakes get a lot of use or you participate in sports motor. Of course, you should first check your owner’s manual to make sure DOT 4 can be used on your vehicle.


DOT 5 fluid is silicone based: it does not absorb moisture like DOT 3 and 4 fluids do, and it has a higher boiling point. However, DOT 5 fluidshould never be added to vehicles that specify DOT 3 or 4 fluid, as damage to the brake system may occur.

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