House Grail is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

How Often Should You Change Brake Fluid? Signs, Facts & FAQs

Brake Fluid

If your car or truck takes longer than usual to come to a full stop, or if your brakes are making an unfamiliar squeaking sound, common sense tells you that the brakes need maintenance and attention. However, it is easy to forget that routinely changing brake fluid is required and many car owners are not aware of how often this needs to be done.

Most mechanics will recommend that you change brake fluid every two years, regardless of your car’s mileage. Some manufacturers have moved to 3 or 5-year intervals for newer models, so it is a good idea to confirm this when purchasing a new car. How often you change your brake fluid will also depend on the driving conditions.

car and road divider

What Is the Purpose of Brake Fluid?

Brake fluid is a hydraulic fluid that enables your car to stop by manipulating the vehicle’s brake system. Simply put, brake fluid plays a key role in stopping your car. It converts force into pressure to increase braking power. If the fluid levels are low, contaminated, or not flowing properly, this could weaken your braking power and impose serious safety risks.

a mechanic checking a worn out car
Image By: Qilin’s prance Filmmaker, Shutterstock

Why Does the Brake Fluid Need To Be Changed?

Brake fluid loses its effectiveness over time for several reasons. Problems with your brake fluid are usually a result of absorbing moisture, which leads to corrosion and other problems within the brake system.

How Do You Check Brake Fluid?

The brake fluid is located under the front hood of your car. It is usually relatively simple to check the level of your brake fluid without removing the cap on the reservoir, as the tank is often translucent. It is important to know that you should not open the cap unless you are adding or replacing the fluid; exposing the tank to air can allow moisture to seep into the hydraulics system.

How Do I Know if It Needs To Be Changed?

The brake fluid itself is usually light in color. If you are not seeing a transparent liquid inside of your reservoir, your fluid is dirty and needs changing. If your fluid line falls below the marked “full-line”, it is another sign that you either need to change the fluid or top it off.

Signs that your brake fluid is low or needs changing
  • The brake or ABS warning light is on. This is a general warning that there is something wrong with the braking system, which includes low brake fluid.
  • You have to push down harder on your brake pedal, or it feels different when you press down on it.
  • Strange noises when you press down on your brake pedal.
  • A burning smell occurs after repeated braking. This is a sign that your braking components may be overheating, which can be caused by low brake fluid.

car and road divider

Should Brake Fluid Be Changed by a Professional?

Car Mechanic Putting Car Oil
Image Credit: IamTimEre, Pixabay

DIY brake fluid testers are notoriously inaccurate but can be used as a rough guide. For that reason, it is a good idea to have a trained mechanic check your brake fluid for you.

Brake fluid is complicated and dangerous to work with, and there are many types with different specifications which cannot be mixed. Using the proper type for your vehicle is essential. It is also important to handle brake fluid with caution (as it is toxic and combustible).

How Much Does it Cost to Change Brake Fluid?

Changing your brake fluid will cost $100 or less for many vehicles. Replacing damaged brake lines and other brake parts can be much more expensive than this, so it pays to keep up with and road divider


Changing your brake fluid will improve braking overall. If you haven’t changed your brake fluid for a number of years, you are sure to notice an improvement in your brakes’ performance. To reiterate, changing the brake fluid is not a DIY project, but it is an easy and inexpensive procedure that is sure to give you peace of mind while out on the road.

Featured Image Credit: IgorShubin, Pixabay


Related posts

OUR categories

Project ideas

Hand & power tools