Brake is arguably the most important part of your vehicle. It keeps you and others safe when driving that’s why each part must be properly maintained. While the repair of brake pads, rotor and caliper might seem obvious, many people stop at inspecting and changing the brake fluid. In this article we are going to give you a DIY guide on how to change brake fluid in your vehicle:
What You Need
- Jack and jack stand– to lift and support the vehicle.
- Wheel removal tools– to remove the wheels.
- Bleeder wrench– to loosen the bleeder screw.
- Bleeder caps– In case old caps is degraded or lost.
- Brake Cleaner– to clean
- Turkey baster – to remove and add the brake fluid
- Fresh Brake Fluid– to flush out and replace the old fluid.
- Plastic tube – to remove the old brake fluid
- Empty container-to put the old fluid
- Rubber hose
Prepare The Vehicle
Pack your car on a level hard ground. Wear safety goggles and a pair of gloves. Jack up your vehicle and remove the wheel to easily access the bleeder screw. You can raise and remove one wheel at a time or all four using a set of jack stands.
Safety Tip: Brake fluid is highly corrosive and it should be handled with care. Make sure you have your safety gear while handling it.
How To Change Brake Fluid: Step-By-Step Guide
- Clean the master cylinder
Locate the master cylinder and remove the cap. Use brake spray cleaner to clean the master cylinder. It’s a good idea to clean the surrounding area to prevent dust and dirt from entering the reservoir.
- Remove the old brake fluid
Use the turkey baster to extract the old brake fluid. Just open the cap grab the baster and squeeze and dump the old fluid in the empty container. If you don’t have a turkey baster you can use a siphon to remove the fluid.
Note: Do not empty everything from the reservoir otherwise you’ll need to start over to remove the air from the master cylinder.
- Pour in the fresh brake fluid
Refill the reservoir with the new brake fluid. Make sure you put brake fluid from a sealed container (since brake fluid can easily absorb moisture, using opened brake fluid will risk putting contaminated fluid in the system). Pour the fresh fluid until it reaches to the full level. After that replace the cap for bleeding.
- Start the bleeding process
Start bleeding from the back right wheel of your vehicle. This is the furthest side of the master cylinder. You should go with the following pattern: start with the right rear (RR) wheel then the (LR) left rear following the right front (RF) and lastly the left front (LF).
Here is how you should go about it:
Locate the bleed screw, remove the rubber cap and set the bleeding wrench to loosen. Insert the air hose on the bleeding nozzle and make sure it’s tight enough and place the other end on an empty container. If the hose is loose try to use a smaller diameter one.
After everything is in place start the bleeding process. On this, you need to have someone to pump the brake pedal. Loosen the bleeding screw while the other person is pumping the brakes for a couple of time until fresh brake fluid starts to flow.
After that tighten the bleeding screw, remove the hose and replace the bleeder caps.
- Refill the reservoir after the bleeding
After bleeding one wheel it’s always good to check the fluid level in the reservoir. It’s always necessary to refill after the bleed and make sure it does not run dry. Pour fresh fluid, replace the cap and continue bleeding on the other wheels.
- Check the brake fluid level
When you have bled all the wheels, check the fluid once more, refill it if necessary and tighten the cap.
After that, fix the wheels and jack the car and clean everything. Give your vehicle a test drive to check how the brake feels.
Technical Notes While Changing Brake Fluid
Always use high-quality brake fluid from a reputable manufacturer: On the market, you’ll find different types of brake fluid varying from D.O.T 3, D.O.T 4, to D.O.T 5. All these have different boiling points with dot 5 having a high boiling point than dot 3 or 4. You should check on the reservoir cap markings or the user manual to get the recommended brake fluid for your vehicle.
Is it necessary to flush brake fluid?
Yes, brake fluid gets older and worn out. Moisture gets into the system which causes rust and bits get into the fluid. All these decrease the break effectiveness and can only be solved by flushing the brake fluid.
How often do you need to change brake fluid?
The timing depends on the type of car, driving conditions, and the manufacturer’s recommendations. A good rule though, you should flush your brake fluid every 2-3 years or 36000 miles.
What happens if the brake fluid is not changed?
Brake fluid absorbs moisture and contaminants from brake parts. When the brake fluid is not changed, increased contaminants and moisture reduce its boiling points. This leads to poor brake performance.
Can changing brake fluid improve braking?
Yes! After the brake fluid change, the brake feels less spongy and certain. However, you might need to check on other parts of the brakes to improve their performance.
Why is my brake fluid black?
Brake fluid runs through different parts of your vehicle’s braking system. In the process, it picks up contaminants and moisture that ends up damaging the metal parts through corrosion. You need to change the fluid often when this starts to happen.
Changing your brake fluid is not particularly difficult. However, it can be messy and time-consuming. The tools to perform the process can be costly even if the fluid is cheap. Even with that, if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, you can save a lot by doing the job yourself. If you feel like it might take too much of your time, just visit your local mechanic and they will do the job properly.