What Color Is Brake Fluid? Identifying the Different Shades

Brake fluid is important in allowing you to stop your car when necessary. It is a key braking system component, allowing drivers to build up proper pressure for braking power throughout their cars. But did you know that brake fluid has a color that can tell you about its overall condition?

The color of the brake fluid can tell you whether it needs to be changed or not and is typically a light yellow, almost translucent color. If the brake fluid is dirty or contaminated, its hues will become darker with time until it turns an oil-like black color.

To ensure optimal performance of your brakes and keeping yourself safe on the road, checking your brake fluid often by its color is essential. The service experts at Dover Honda can help teach safe driving habits related to checking brake fluid so you can remain confident behind the wheel. In this article, we are wanna take a deep dive into this matter.

What is Brake Fluid Used For, and How Do These Colors Affect Your Safety?

Brake fluid is a hydraulic fluid used to transfer force within a vehicle’s braking system. Its primary purpose is to allow the driver to control their vehicle’s brakes with the press of a pedal, and it is essential for maintaining proper function and brake performance. Brake fluid comes in different colors, which is important in keeping drivers safe.

The color of the brake fluid is an indicator of its overall health. The most common brake fluid color is a light yellow, almost translucent. This is the normal shade for healthy, uncontaminated brake fluid. However, as time passes and the brake fluid begins to degrade due to age or contamination, the hues will become darker until it eventually turns an oil-like black color.

If the brake fluid in your car is a darker color, it is likely that the fluid has become contaminated and needs to be changed immediately. Contaminated brake fluid can cause several issues, including reduced braking performance and increased stopping distances. In some cases, it can even lead to total brake failure, so checking your brake fluid regularly is essential for ensuring your safety on the road.

What Color Is Brake Fluid?

Brake fluid is an essential part of a car’s braking system and plays an important role in keeping the brakes working properly. So, what color is brake fluid? Generally, brake fluid is clear to yellowish-brown in color. The exact shade may vary depending on the type of brake fluid you have and its age. This brake fluid color chart will give you a clear idea.

Brake Fluid TypeTypical ColorIndication
DOT 3Faint yellow, blue, red, or greenOld or contaminated fluid, may require flushing and replacement
DOT 4Mostly clear with a tinge of yellow or deep redNormal condition, but should be monitored for contamination or degradation
DOT 5PurpleThe normal condition for DOT 5.1 fluid
DOT 5.1Yellow, blue, or crystal clearOld or contaminated fluid may require flushing and replacement

Please note that if your brake fluid color appears dark, it is an indication of old or contaminated fluid. In such cases, it is recommended to have the fluid flushed and replaced with fresh fluid that is compatible with your vehicle.

How Can You Test the Color Of Brake Fluid?

Testing the color of brake fluid is important for a variety of reasons. Brake fluid plays an important role in slowing and stopping a vehicle, so it needs to be changed regularly to ensure that your brakes remain in optimal condition. The most reliable way to test the color of brake fluid is to use a hydrometer. This device measures different fluids’ specific gravity or density, including brake fluid.

A hydrometer is a simple device and easy to use. To test the color of the brake fluid, you will need to fill the hydrometer with the fluid and then read the results. The specific gravity should be 1.06 or higher if your brake fluid is in good condition. If it’s below that, your brake fluid needs to be changed as soon as possible.

How Do You Know When Brake Fluid Is Bad?

Brake fluid is an essential component of a car’s braking system. It transfers pressure from the brake pedal to the brakes, allowing them to stop the vehicle. As such, it must be kept in good condition to ensure your brakes work properly. Unfortunately, over time, brake fluid can become contaminated and can start to degrade. Knowing when your brake fluid is bad and needs to be changed can help you save time and money in the long run. If the color is not what color the brake fluid should be, then it’s time for a replacement.

The color of the brake fluid is one of the easiest ways to tell if it needs to be changed. If your brake fluid has darkened from its normal light yellow shade, this is an indicator that it has become contaminated with dirt or moisture and should be changed as soon as possible. Additionally, if your brake pedal feels spongy or unresponsive when you press it, this could be a sign that there is air in the brake lines and that the brake fluid needs to be replaced.

How to Check Brake Fluid?

Ensuring that your brake fluid is checked regularly is crucial to caring for your car. Checking the brake fluid can help prevent major repairs and help you identify any potential problems before they become too extensive. Fortunately, checking the brake fluid only takes two steps.

First, locate the brake fluid reservoir; it’s typically found near the master cylinder beneath the hood, but you can always reference your owner’s manual if you’re not sure where to look. Additionally, be aware of the minimum and maximum lines printed on this reservoir; if the brake fluid is below the minimum line, it’s best to schedule service at your local auto shop.

In grave cases such as these, you may need to purchase new brake fluid from our parts department before refilling the reservoir. It is important to consider that opening up the reservoir can lead to brake fluids absorbing moisture and potentially expiring earlier than unopened reservoirs with intact seals. If opened reservoirs have gritty or oily brake oil, it must be changed completely with fresh oil instead of refilling it back into its container.

How Often Should You Check the Color of Your Brake Fluid?

It is important to check the color of your brake fluid regularly. The frequency you should do this depends on how often you use your car and the types of roads you drive on. If you’re driving in a lot of stop-and-go traffic, you will likely need to change your brake fluid more often than someone who only drives on highways.

It is also important to keep an eye on the color of the brake fluid when the weather changes. If there is a lot of rain, snow, or ice, then it’s likely that your brakes will be doing more work and thus need more frequent changes. It is recommended that you check the color of your brake fluid every 6 months or 10,000 miles, depending on your driving.

Reasons for a change in brake fluid color

If you notice a change in the color of your brake fluid, it could be a sign that something is wrong and it’s time for a brake fluid flush. Here are some reasons why the color of your brake fluid might have changed:

  1. You have not changed your brake fluid in a while, and it’s time to do so.
  2. The brake fluid in your vehicle is contaminated. This can happen if spills or a dirty floor mat has entered the system.
  3. Your brake fluid is contaminated with bacteria. Clean the reservoir if you notice a dark discoloration of the fluid inside.
  4. This is the dye used to indicate a low brake fluid level. The darker your brake fluid is, the lower the DOT 3 fluid level needs to be for your brakes to work properly. You can check if your brake fluid is dark by looking at the color of the fluid in direct sunlight.

What Color Is Brake Fluid: How, When, & Why

Frequently Asked Questions

What if my brake fluid is black?

If your brake fluid is black, it has probably been contaminated by moisture and needs to be replaced. The brake fluid transfers the force the driver applies to the brake pedal to the brake pads, which helps the vehicle stop. Water contamination of brake fluid may lead to brake system failure.

Should my brake fluid be brown?

If your brake fluid is brown, your brake pads are worn and need to be replaced. Brake fluid is usually clear or light blue. So if it’s brown, it means it’s contaminated with dirt and dust. If you do not replace your brake pads soon, you could damage your braking system and cause a serious accident.

What does bad brake fluid look like?

You should look for some important signs if you’re not sure whether it’s time to change your brake fluid. One of these signs is that the brake fluid looks cloudy or discolored. This is usually a sign that the fluid is starting to break down and that it’s time for a change. Another sign is if your brake pedal feels spongy or sinks to the floor at low pressure. You may be experiencing brake system damage if any of these symptoms develop.

What happens if I mix DOT 3 and DOT 4 brake fluid?

When Dot 3 and Dot 4 brake fluids are mixed, the brake fluid becomes ineffective and damages the brake system. Dot 3 brake fluid is suitable for many braking systems, while Dot 4 is specifically designed for high-performance vehicles. When the two types of brake fluid are mixed, the Dot 4 fluid dilutes the Dot 3 fluid, making it less effective. Also, the two types of brake fluid can react and form sludge that can damage your brake system.

How much does it cost to repair a brake fluid leak?

Repairing a brake fluid leak can cost anywhere from $50 to $200, depending on the severity of the leak and the type of brake system. Leaks in the hydraulic brake system are usually more expensive to fix than leaks in the vacuum brake system.


Brake fluid should always be a light yellow or gold color. If it is any other color, such as black or brown, it means that the fluid has been contaminated and needs to be replaced. It is important to keep an eye on the color of your brake fluid to ensure that your brakes are working properly and safely at all times.

John D. Archer

John D. Archer is a mechanical engineer and writer based on the area of automotive accessories at brakeshub.com, 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.