How Often Should You Change Your Brake Fluid

A critical element in your car's braking system is the hydraulic fluid that's involved. But it's surprising to see that it is also one of the most neglected aspects of your car.

Having a good idea about how often to change brake fluid is essential, as this quite quickly could turn into a life-and-death situation.

Brake Fluid

But before that, it's necessary to understand why braking fluid possesses such great importance. Most modern cars use a hydraulic braking system; this, in other words, helps apply the brakes to each wheel at the same time and with the same force. Avoiding the car from skidding as one wheel locks out while the other keeps spinning.

To achieve that synchronized braking, the braking fluid comes to light. This fluid is the blood of the entire braking system; without it, the system would fail. As you apply the brakes, it pushes the fluid. The fluid, in turn, provides pressure to the braking pads that help bring the vehicle to a stop.

How Often to Change Brake Fluid

Why Is It Necessary to Change the Brake Fluid?

Brake fluid isn't like any other liquid; it combines glycol and several types of non-petroleum fluids. This means the fluid must pass a set of aspects before it can be used in your car. They must have high boiling points and high freezing rates, be oxidization resistant, and cannot damage rubber parts.

All these aspects must be present in your braking system to meet federal laws. However, as time passes, these fluids lose their potency. In addition, due to aging, braking fluids are subject to natural components such as air, moisture, and dirt.

This can be extremely harmful to your brakes as the compromised fluids have a lower boiling point, a rising freezing rate, and increased corrosiveness. All this could lead to a fatal event, so as they say, better safe than sorry.

Brakes Can Be Affected by Contaminated Brake Fluid

Contaminated brake fluid can have a major effect on how your brakes operate. When the additives in the brake fluid wear out over time or moisture finds its way into the hydraulic brake system, it can start to affect the chemistry of the brake fluid.

This can lead to squishy brakes when you step on the pedal or your vehicle not stopping as quickly when trying to make a hard stop. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to these signs and take action if they occur.

When Should It Be Replaced?

We've established that braking fluid can go bad, but it's necessary to be able to recognize when correctly replacing it would be appropriate. To understand this, there are a few factors that you must consider.

Manufacturer Recommendations

Like most, you probably throw that instruction book away before leaving the dealer parking lot. If this is you, you'll have to do some research to find the recommended time for replacing your brake oil.

Even though it's the same mechanism being used in most vehicles, the schedule to replace your brake oil tends to differ from manufacturer to manufacturer.

For example, Chevrolet asks for a change every 45000 miles, Honda and Volkswagen recommend a replacement every three years, whereas Mercedes Benz asks you to change it every 20,000 miles.

We recommend that you listen to your manufacturer, as they know the workings of your vehicle better than anyone. Their recommendations are based on extensive testing and research. However, on average, brake oil should be replaced every two years or 24,000 miles up to every 3years or 36,000 miles.

Soft, Spongy, or Bouncy Brake Pedal

When it comes to your vehicle's brakes, a soft, spongy, or bouncy brake pedal is a sign that something is wrong. If you press on the brake pedal and it feels like it's sinking all the way to the floor before slowing and stopping your vehicle, then you may need to have your brakes serviced.

Low brake fluid can cause air to fill the gaps in your brake line, leading to soft brakes. This can be both terrifying and dangerous if not addressed quickly.

 Air bubbles cause spongy brake pedals in the braking system, which prevent the brakes from working properly. The most common cause of this issue is low brake fluid levels due to leaks or worn-out parts. It's important to get your brakes serviced at the first sign of an issue so that you can avoid any further damage or potential accidents. A professional mechanic can diagnose and repair any issues with your braking system so that you can drive safely again.

ABS Dashboard Light

The ABS dashboard light is an important indicator of the health of your vehicle's anti-lock braking system. This system helps to prevent skidding and maintain traction when you brake by preventing your wheels from locking up. However, when the ABS dashboard light turns on, it means that there is an issue with this system that needs to be addressed.

Low brake fluid can also trigger the ABS dashboard light, which will automatically turn on the anti-lock braking system to help keep your vehicle stopping safely. If you notice that your ABS dashboard light has come on, it is important to check it out as soon as possible to ensure that your brakes are functioning properly and that you can drive safely.

When It Changes Color

It's essential you check your brake fluid from time to time to check for anything out of the ordinary. Brake fluid comes in a clear transparent color or a slightly amber look. If rust is present in the fluid, it will cause a reddish hue in the liquid. If this is true, then the brake oil should be replaced immediately.

Ineffective Braking Performance

Ineffective braking performance is a serious safety issue that should not be ignored. If your brakes are slow to respond or take too long to stop your vehicle, it could be a sign of an underlying problem. Therefore, having your brakes serviced as soon as possible is important if you experience any delays or difficulties while slowing or stopping your vehicle.

A brake fluid flush may be necessary if the brake system has been neglected for some time. Warped rotors, worn brake pads, and other components can also cause ineffective braking performance.

Additionally, tire tread wear, shocks, and struts can all contribute to poor braking performance. A professional mechanic can inspect your brakes and determine which service is needed to restore proper braking performance.

Strange Noises or Smells when Braking

If you notice strange noises when braking, it could be a sign of a brake system issue. Common sounds include scraping or grinding noises, which can indicate low brake fluid levels or other problems.

In addition, burning smells after hard braking could mean that the brake fluid has burnt out and needs to be replaced. In this case, it is important to pull over your vehicle into a safe place and give it time to cool down before continuing on your journey.

 It is also important to contact a local mechanic for insight and schedule a service visit as soon as possible. Driving with burnt brake fluid can create more serious issues including complete brake failure so it is essential to get the problem checked out by an experienced professional. By taking these steps, you can ensure that your brakes are in good working order and keep yourself safe on the roads.

Change in Pedal Feel

Muscle memory is crucial when it comes to driving; it helps you in situations where quick thinking isn't an option. However, this same muscle memory also helps to detect the slightest of disturbances.

When moisture enters your brake oil, it causes the boiling point to fall. This, in turn, might cause the fluid to expand, leading to a change in the brake pedal's feel. This can also increase the stopping time required. All these are indications to replace or flush out your brake fluid.


Even if it's difficult to understand whether your brake oil needs flushing out, you can perform a simple test on your brake oil periodically.

Tests can be conducted right from home using test strips or electronic brake fluid tester kits. This will let you know if the moisture level of the brake fluid should be changed.

Video on How to Change Your Brake Fluid

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can brake fluid last 10 years? 

No, brake fluid should not last 10 years. However, changing your brake fluid every two years or 24,000 miles is recommended, whichever comes first. This will ensure that your brakes are working properly and efficiently.

2. How long does brake fluid really last?

Brake fluid typically lasts between two and three years or 24,000 miles, whichever comes first. It is important to check your brake fluid regularly and replace it when necessary to ensure that your brakes are working properly and efficiently.

3. How much does a brake fluid flush cost?

The cost of a brake fluid flush can vary depending on the type of vehicle and the job's complexity. Generally, a brake fluid flush will cost between $50 and $150. Therefore, it is important to consult your local mechanic for an accurate estimate.

4. Can I do a brake fluid flush myself?

Yes, you can do a brake fluid flush yourself. However, ensuring you have the right tools and supplies for the job is important. Following all safety precautions when working on your vehicle is also important. If you are unsure how to properly perform a brake fluid flush, it is best to consult a professional mechanic for assistance.

5. Is it easy to refill brake fluid? 

Yes, it is relatively easy to refill brake fluid. You will need to locate the brake fluid reservoir and use a funnel to pour in the new brake fluid. It is important to ensure that you use the correct brake fluid for your vehicle. Additionally, you should always follow all safety precautions when working on your vehicle.


Brake fluid isn't similar to engine oil, where you have to change it regularly. This makes determining how often to change brake fluid an extra bit difficult. However, it's highly recommended that you follow the above-mentioned factors.

Replacing the fluid might require you to cough out about $100 to your repairmen. But that's better than spending several hundreds of dollars replacing the brake lines, calipers, and other components that might be damaged due to corrosion.

John D. Archer

John D. Archer is a mechanical engineer and writer based on the area of automotive accessories at, A resident expert and professional, John is passionate about all things automotive and loves to share his knowledge. He has good experience in all kind of automotive accessories. He has worked as a chief mechanical engineer in some reputed automotive garage firm.

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