You shouldn’t commonly have to add brake fluid to your vehicle, and it’s not a standard maintenance task that you should be worried about. If you do have to add brake fluid to your vehicle, it’s likely that your pads are worn and should be replaced soon. If your fluid levels drop off suddenly, you likely have an issue with your brake system and should take it into a garage for diagnosis soon.
Topping Off vs. Replacement
It’s not common to have to replace your brake fluid, and it isn’t a task that you’ll want to complete on your own. During a fluid change, any air remaining in your brake lines will cause your brakes to perform improperly. Most of the time you will simply add a small amount of fluid if the levels are low. If your fluid reservoir goes dry, you have a brake issue that needs immediate attention, and the repair will require the "bleeding" of the brake lines.
Signs of Brake Problems
It’s important to recognize common symptoms of brake problems so they can be attended to, either by yourself or a brake professional.
A mushy brake pedal often means that you have air in your lines or that your pads are excessively worn. Again, you will most likely need to bleed the brakes to solve this issue. If you aren’t sure how to properly bleed the brakes, consider having a mechanic take care of it for you.
Pulsing brakes are usually a sign of unevenly worn brake rotors. To check for this issue, remove the tire from your vehicle and look at the disc behind the tire that the brake pads are mounted on. If there are chunks missing, deep grooves or irregular indentations in the rotors, the rotors will need replacement, along with the brake pads.
A screeching or scraping noise while braking is an indication that your brake pads are worn completely. To fix this issue, you can usually just swap in a new set of brake pads. In some instances, you’ll have to change the rotors as well if the worn pads have caused damage.
Adding Brake Fluid
To add brake fluid to your vehicle, pop the hood and look at the small plastic reservoir that says DOT 3, DOT 4 or DOT 5 on top of it. These designations indicate the type of brake fluid to use.
To add fluid, unscrew the cap of the reservoir and carefully pour the proper DOT brake fluid into your vehicle. The reservoir will be marked with lines indicating a minimum and maximum fill level. Make sure the addition is somewhere in between the lines. Be careful not to spill any fluid on any painted surfaces as damage to the finish is likely.
Caring for the brakes of your vehicle is a difficult task, and many vehicle owners decide to leave it up to a garage instead. If you aren’t sure about handling your brake problems, please take your vehicle in for some professional work. It’s vital that your brake system remains in good shape to avoid any issues with stopping while you are driving around.