3 Indications You Need To Service Your Brake Fluid

Your braking system has three components that typically need routine service: brake pads, brake discs, and brake fluid.

You probably know that you need to replace the pads periodically, and you may know that your discs will eventually wear down, but did you know that your fluid also needs occasional flushes? Although brake fluid doesn't "wear out," it can become contaminated through normal wear or become burnt due to overuse.

Your brake fluid flows through many critical components in your braking system, and these components may be sensitive to moisture or particulate matter. Additionally, contaminated brake fluid may boil more quickly, resulting in reduced system pressure and poor braking performance. If you've been ignoring your car's brake fluid, check out these three indications that it may be time for a flush.

1. You've Never Done It Before

Manufacturer recommendations for brake fluid flushes vary significantly, and some manufacturers may not even make changes a part of their routine schedule. If your car is still under its manufacturer's warranty, you should stick to whatever maintenance recommendations you can find in your owner's manual. However, old vehicles and those out of warranty are another matter.

You're probably overdue if you drive a car well beyond its manufacturer warranty and you can't remember the last time you had your fluid flushed. If the fluid still seems okay (see the recommendations later in this article), you may be able to wait until your next routine brake service. If not, schedule a flush as soon as possible.

2. Your Brakes Feel Unresponsive or Spongy

One of the most dangerous situations you can experience in any vehicle is a spongy or unresponsiveness brake pedal. Your brake pedal should always feel firm since that firmness comes from the hydraulic fluid's resistance. In fact, modern cars use various components, such as vacuum boosters, to make your pedal easier to push because there's so much resistance from the brake fluid.

If your pedal feels weak or spongy, that's a sure sign that something is wrong with your hydraulic fluid. You may have worn-out fluid, but it's also possible that you have a slow leak causing the system pressure to fall. Whatever the case, it's crucial to have a professional investigate the problem to ensure your vehicle is safe to drive.

3. The Fluid Looks Bad

You can check your fluid by finding the reservoir under your hood and removing the cap. If you decide to check the fluid yourself, do not allow brake fluid to splash on any painted surfaces. It's also important not to allow debris or contaminants to fall into the reservoir, as these can create significant problems in your braking system.

If the fluid smells burnt or has noticeable amounts of particulate matter, that's a definite indication that it's time for a change. However, darker fluid may still be okay. If in doubt, a mechanic should be able to test the fluid's condition to determine if you need a fluid flush.

Visit a local auto repair shop to learn more about brake service.