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How Often Should I Refill My Brake Fluid? All You Need to Know

How Often Should I Refill My Brake Fluid

If you're wondering, “how often should I refill my brake fluid” you'll need to change it once every two to five years. However, you also need to keep an eye on any symptoms indicating that you should refill it before then.

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Your vehicle’s braking system is one of the most important systems in your vehicle because it must do directly with your safety. Imagine if there is a problem with the brakes and you try to slow down and stop your vehicle, but you couldn't? What could happen?!

Therefore, if you would like to drive your car safely and don't want to cause any safety issues, you should maintain the braking system all the time. Since the braking system relies on some hydraulic power, it is as important to focus on the brake fluid as one of the essential components in this system.

Over time of use, some people think that the brake fluid might not break down. However, it does, and there will be a point where you ask yourself, “how often should I refill my brake forward?”

This article walks you through all the details about the brake fluid and its importance. Also, we will answer the question and help you determine how often you should refill the brake fluid.

How To Check The Brake Fluid

What is the brake fluid, and what does it do?

The brake fluid is a core element in your braking system. The braking system operates by hydraulic power, and every time you hit the brake pedal, some fluid is squeezed, causing the pressure to be transferred and slow down your vehicle and get it to stop when needed.

This fluid must be in a certain condition, and it must be precise. Any problem with the fluid pressure or condition leads to issues in the functionality of your braking system operation.

Therefore, minor problems in the brake fluids might lead to difficult catastrophic situations that you never want to get involved in. Thus, you must maintain this fluid and check your system by following what your vehicle’s owner’s manual recommends.

How often should I refill my brake fluid?

Typically, most drivers need to refill the brake fluid once every four or five years. However, your owner’s manual should have some detailed guidance about how often you refill the brake fluid. For example, some vehicles might need a brake fluid flush after two years only, depending on the vehicle's type and driving frequency.

It's important to note that over time abuse, the brake fluid collects a lot of contaminants and degrees as it runs in the brake system. Therefore, the main characteristics that allow it to provide the necessary hydraulic power might be lost. Thus, you'll start noticing some weird behaviors of your braking system that might get to a point where you can't control the car or get it to stop.

Thus, you must have your mechanic change it immediately whenever you get close to the five or four years of your brake fluid lifetime.

DOT 5 Brake Fluid

What are the common symptoms indicating that I need a brake fluid refill?

While there is a threshold for changing the brake fluid, sometimes other symptoms might show up before that. In other words, you shouldn't wait up to four years to check on the brake fluid if you start noticing one of the following symptoms:

1.    Spongy brake pedal

A spongy brake pedal is one of the first and most common symptoms indicating that your vehicle is due for a brake fluid refill or brake fluid flush. But have you ever tried pressing on the brake pedal and realized that it's softer than before? Of course, that is what we're talking about!

Whenever you get to this point, you must understand you're in a very critical situation, and delaying the problem longer leads to catastrophic outcomes where you can't stop your car.

Sometimes it can be hard whether your brake pedal is spongy or not, especially if you just got to write a used vehicle. That's why monitoring your vehicle's overall behavior helps you notice when things are not normal. And that's why it's important for you before purchasing a used car to have a mechanic look at it and confirm that everything is working just fine.

2.    ABS warning light

Your vehicle relies on warning lights to bring your attention to internal problems. One of these warning lights is the ABS. This light turns on only when there is a chance of skidding to protect your car and get it to stop on time.

This system treats a low or a bad brake fluid as a dangerous situation, and that's why it will stay turned on all the time until you resolve the problem. It is a smart way for your vehicle to protect and keep you safe. Still, it can be extremely annoying, especially if you're driving in certain slippery areas where this forced stop might lead to even more hazardous situations.

3.     Reduction in your braking performance

Another common symptom indicating that you might have issues with the brake fluid is when you don't feel that the brakes are responsive. Sometimes it might take you more pressure to press on the brake pedal to stop your car, and that's what you should be worried about.


Anything that has to do with how you control your car or stop it should be a serious situation. Therefore, you must have your mechanic inspect the car and confirm that the issue is coming from a bad or contaminated brake fluid.

It's important to note that when your brakes are not responsive, the problem might also be related to other components like the rotor or the brake pedal itself. Therefore, before going ahead and flushing the brake fluid, you should have your mechanic look at the other components and see if the problem is happening because of another culprit.

4.    Weird braking noises

In general, whenever your vehicle makes weird noises, you should take the issue seriously because it's linked to an internal problem, pure like any other car problem. For example, because of bad brake fluid, the brakes might make weird noises every time you hit the pedal.

In this situation, you'll have to consult the mechanic and have him confirm that the problem is coming from the brake fluid, not from something else because it might also be related to other stuff.

5.    Strange smells

Another common symptom of bad brake fluid is when you start noticing weird smells as you engage the braking system. So, again, the smells are another important element to focus on when taking care of your car.

Although these smells are good or bad, they should be taken seriously because they might be linked to internal issues. Many people think that's only bad smells refer to internal problems. However, sometimes you might notice very nice smells like Maple syrup, which is linked to something serious in the vehicle. Therefore, whatever the smell is should be taken seriously.

6.    Missing routine maintenance

Sometimes you might not notice any of the mentioned symptoms, but if you look back in your vehicle's owner’s manual, you'll see that you missed important maintenance to check on the brake fluid. That's when it should be an important sign for you to immediately go ahead and change the brake fluid without waiting for the severe symptoms to happen.

Unfortunately, cars problems do not choose the time to happen, and they might happen in very inconvenient situations where there is no help nearby.

Brake Fluid Leak

Can I drive if I need to refill my brake fluid?

If your vehicle's brake fluid is due for a change, it's never a good idea to continue and to drive your car. When the fluid is dirty or does not do the job it should, you won't be able to fully control your car and get it to slow down and stop on time. Thus, in very severe scenarios, you might not even be able to stop the vehicle at all!

Therefore, you have to do so immediately when you confirm that your vehicle is due for brake fluid change. You should never wait for any reason if you don't want to deal with hazardous catastrophe situations.

How much does it cost to refill the brake fluid?

The good news is that refilling the brake fluid is not expensive, and it should cost you somewhere between $80 and $120. If you think about the potential long-term consequences that you will deal with when ignoring refilling the brake fluid, you will not think twice about this, and you will immediately get it refilled.

Can I only top off the brake fluid?

Not all the time. Sometimes the brake fluid level might be below the minimum point, and that's why your mechanic needs to top it off. However, what's more, important is to determine why these fluids went below the minimum level in the first place.

It's unlikely for the brake fluid to drop over time unless there is an internal or external leak. That is a serious problem and more serious than flushing the brake fluid. Therefore, before your mechanic goes ahead and tops off the grid fluid, he should confirm that there are no leakage issues.

However, if your vehicle is due for brake fluid flush, topping it off is not a good idea because it makes the problem worse instead of fixing it. Think about it this way, your brake fluid is already dirty, and it might have foreign elements like debris or contaminants that are causing more pressure in the system. So by topping off the brake fluid, you're adding more pressure and overwhelming the system rather than fixing the problem.

Therefore, you should have the mechanic determine what's needs to be done to fix your braking system issues because you're dealing with a sensitive system that impacts her safety.

Change Your Brake Fluid

Final thoughts

The brake fluid is a critical component in your vehicle that determines how safely you drive your car. Unfortunately, this fluid might break down over time and not do the job it should do. Therefore, some people still ask themselves, “how often should I refill my brake fluid?”

As indicated in this article, changing the brake fluid should happen once every four or five years. However, if you experienced any of the symptoms we highlighted before indicating that your brake fluid is due for a refill, you should do so immediately before even reaching the four or five others.

It's important to note that refilling or dealing with the brake fluid might not be your top priority if your vehicle has major mechanical problems. In other words, if your car has significant issues in the engine or probably in the transmission, you should evaluate the overall situation before focusing on any single item. For example, if you confirm that fixing the engine plus fixing the transmission and refilling the brake fluid will cost you more than 75% of the value of your vehicle, it should be your why is this decision to sell the car instead of wasting your time and money. Of course, you have to be clear with new buyers about your car's condition.

Unfortunately, selling a car in such a condition might be challenging; however, cash cars buyer is always here to buy your car no matter what!

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