(Updated on October 17, 2022)
Every vehicle braking system contains brake fluid. This is hydraulic fluid that is responsible for moving the components of your braking system, which is basically a hydraulic system.
Each time you step on the brake pedal to slow down or stop your vehicle, there is brake fluid rushing through your brake system. The fluid allows your braking to be a smooth experience without any delays or setbacks.
Unfortunately, brake fluid does not remain in optimal condition forever. Over time, it absorbs the moisture of its surroundings and becomes contaminated as a result. This impairs the fluid’s ability to flow through the braking system properly.
Once this happens, you won’t have as much braking power as you normally do. Then you will experience delays in your braking. This can increase your chances of having an accident, so you need to take it seriously.
Therefore, you need to change your brake fluid when it does get contaminated and has gone bad. The question is, how will you know when this time has arrived?
Simple, you will experience problems with your braking as you drive your vehicle. Whenever your brakes become less effective, you should immediately have them inspected by a mechanic.
Related: DOT 3 vs DOT 4 Brake Fluid
When to Replace Brake Fluid
There is no simple way to estimate how often you should change your brake fluid. It is not like changing the oil in your vehicle where it’s every 5,000 miles or so.
Some car manufacturers may recommend that you change your brake fluid every 4 to 5 years while others may not provide any recommendation. The make and model of your vehicle are what really determines the intervals in between brake fluid changes.
For instance, the average Chevrolet model has a brake fluid change recommendation of 45,000 miles. Then you have Honda which recommends every 3 years for the brake fluid change, no matter how much mileage has been added.
Luxurious vehicles like the Mercedes-Benz are supposed to have new brake fluid every 20,000 miles or 2 years, whichever comes first.
In most cases, you’ll be lucky if you even change your brake fluid once throughout the time you own your vehicle. The driving conditions are what normally play a major role in this.
For instance, if you use your brakes a lot in city traffic or travel short distances on a regular basis, then your brake fluid and brake components will all wear down quicker. But if you regularly drive on the highway or on roads with a consistent speed, then your brake fluid will last longer.
See Also: How Long do Brake Pads Last?
Signs to Look For
The best way to know when you need to change your brake fluid is to look for the warning signs. Every year or so, you should take it upon yourself to visually check the brake fluid for yourself.
Normal brake fluid should appear transparent. But if it has color to it, then you need to think about changing the brake fluid. The color will often be brown or a rusty color. This is often an indication that the brake fluid is old and contaminated.
Even though it may still function properly in the braking system, you shouldn’t take any chances. Replace the brake fluid ASAP when you see it turn dark brown.
Another sign to watch out for is a spongy brake pedal. Bad brake fluid will reduce the hydraulic pressure created by stepping on the brake pedal. This causes a spongy feeling when you step on the brake pedal.
If you need a reason to inspect the fluid to verify it is bad, let this be that reason.
See Also: Why Does My Brake Pedal Go to the Floor?
Cost to Replace Brake Fluid
Overall, you shouldn’t worry too much about brake fluid changes. Even if you do end up having to change the fluid, it will only cost you between $70 and $120 to flush and change the brake fluid.
This is cheap compared to other things that could go wrong with the braking system. If brake fluid is all you need to worry about, then you’ll be lucky.