5 Symptoms of a Brake Fluid Leak (and Repair Cost)

A vehicle will not be driveable without properly functioning brakes. If your braking system were to ever malfunction, it may very well be attributed to a brake fluid leak.

There are four places in the braking system where a leak could take place. There could be one in the brake master cylinder, the front brake caliper, the brake line, or the rear brake caliper.

Regardless of where the leak is coming from, the symptoms of the brake fluid leak should allow you to easily recognize the problem.

Common Brake Fluid Leak Symptoms

1) Warning Light

The first symptom that you should notice is the brake warning light on your dashboard turning on. You may not even feel any serious brake problems at this point.

But if you see the warning light on, this is an early indication that something is wrong with your brakes and that you should pull over and have them looked at right away.

2) Strange Brake Pedal Feel

The brake lines should only have brake fluid inside of them. If there is a brake fluid leak and air gets mixed with the fluid in the brake lines, then the fluid will not be able to flow correctly.

As a result, when you press your foot down on the brake pedal, it will feel squishy or spongy. In other words, the brake pedal will feel very soft.

3) Brake Pedal Goes Too Far Down

This problem relates to number 2 on this list. If air continues to get inside your brake lines while there is a leak, then it will bring airborne contaminants into the braking system. Furthermore, condensation will begin to form which will eventually cause the brake pedal to move all the way down when you press on it.

After you fix the leak, you need to “bleed the brakes” to remove any air from the brake lines and replace all the old braking fluid with new fluid.

4) Visible Fluid Coming Out

If you see fluid leaking from underneath your vehicle (especially around your wheels) and you’ve experienced one of the first three symptoms already, then you definitely have a brake fluid leak.

You should immediately pull over and check your brake fluid level and either (depending on the severity of the leak) drive immediately to a mechanic or have it towed there. The more fluid that comes out, the less fluid you’ll have in your braking system and the more dangerous it will be.

5) Car Does Not Stop

The worst possible symptom will surely be noticeable. You should not get to this point without experiencing the previous symptoms first. But if you have ignored those symptoms, then expect your brakes to eventually fail altogether.

Then, you will end up driving your car without the ability to stop. This, of course, will result in a car accident which could leave you with vehicle damage and possibly severe injuries or worse.

Brake Fluid Leak Repair Cost

The cost to repair a brake fluid leak will depend on where the leak is coming from. As previously mentioned, there are four main locations in the braking system where fluid could be leaking from.

Most of the time, you can repair these locations without having to actually replace the part altogether. If replacement is required, then you are looking at parts and labor costs.

With just a repair job, the cost of labor and parts are pretty evenly matched out. In total, you should expect to pay between $100 and $300 for a brake fluid leak repair job.

If there is a leak in the brake master cylinder, then you can expect to pay an average of around $100 to $200 for the parts and $100 for the labor. If there is a leak in the brake line or the front brake caliper (one side), it is also between $100 and $200 for the parts and $100 for the labor.

The cheapest repair job is if there’s a leak in the rear drum cylinder or rear brake caliper. This will be around $80 in labor and $20 in parts, totaling $100.

Categories Brakes

5 thoughts on “5 Symptoms of a Brake Fluid Leak (and Repair Cost)”

  1. I have a brake line leak up by front drivers side ,double line the repair man said that the seal that separates the flow of brake fluid was leaking ,he said it was a 400 hundred part ,but found a used one for 20 bucks ,something dont sound right ,I have a 04 Pontiac grand prix ,any answers.

    • Compared to a brand new OEM part, a good find at a salvage yard can be an order of magnitude cheaper. Some parts can be reused worry free, but critical wear items should usually not be salvaged (brakes, timing belts, thermostats, etc.). Without knowing the exact part he picked up, it’s hard to say. I’d get a second opinion if you are concerned.

  2. I like that you said I should immediately pull over and check my car if the brake warning light on my car’s dashboards turns on. I agree that you must pay extra attention if your brakes are functioning well to avoid getting to a point where you can’t stop your car, which can severely injure or even kill you. If I ever notice any brake fluid leaks or if the brake pedal feels squishy, I’ll immediately take my car to a car shop that does brake service.

  3. With the stay at home order I haven’t used my vehicle much in the last 2 months. Today, I drove it about 50 miles round trip, no problem…but a mile from home, I went to stop at a red light, and I heard a loud “pop” sound, I mashed the brake pedal almost to the floor and the vehicle barely stopped, and I saw smoke coming from the engine area. I was able to get the car home safely (where I also noticed the brake warning light was on) but I was able park it. I popped the hood, and I noticed the brake fluid reservoir is almost empty and I saw fluid leaking (which I’m guessing is brake fluid). Any ideas? Does this sound like the master cylinder went out, or something else…and how much could I expect to pay if I take it to the dealership? The vehicle is a 2009 Hyundai Sante Fe…with about 73K miles.

    • The brake master cylinder is a good guess. If you can determine where the fluid is coming from, it should help you determine what part failed and maybe even why. Expect to pay $400-500 at a dealership. An independent shop will probably be cheaper.


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