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Brake Fluid 101 - Types & When To Change

Brake Fluid 101 - Types & When To Change | Crompton's Auto Care

Brake fluid is often overlooked but plays a critical role in your vehicle's braking system. Join us and take a closer look at the types of brake fluid available and when it's essential to change it to ensure optimal braking performance and safety on the road.

What Is Brake Fluid?

Brake fluid is a hydraulic fluid that plays a crucial role in your vehicle's braking system. It transfers the force applied to the brake pedal by the driver into hydraulic pressure, which then activates the brakes at each wheel. This pressure causes the brake pads or shoes to make contact with the brake rotors or drums, resulting in friction that slows down or stops the vehicle. 

Essentially, brake fluid enables the transmission of force from the brake pedal to the brakes, facilitating safe and efficient stopping of the vehicle.

Types of Brake Fluid

Brake fluids are classified into several types, each with unique properties and applications:


Commonly used in standard vehicles, DOT 3 brake fluid has a lower boiling point compared to higher-rated fluids. It's compatible with most brake systems but requires more frequent changes due to its lower heat resistance.


DOT 4 brake fluid offers improved performance and a higher boiling point than DOT 3 fluid. It's suitable for vehicles with higher braking demands, such as those equipped with ABS (anti-lock braking systems). DOT 4 fluid provides better resistance to moisture absorption and brake fade.


Unlike DOT 3 and DOT 4 fluids, DOT 5 is silicone-based, making it less susceptible to moisture absorption. It's primarily used in classic cars and high-performance vehicles due to its superior heat resistance and longevity. However, DOT 5 fluid is not compatible with most ABS systems and requires careful handling during installation.

DOT 5.1

DOT 5.1 brake fluid shares similarities with DOT 4 fluid but offers a higher boiling point, making it suitable for vehicles with demanding braking requirements. It's compatible with ABS systems and provides excellent performance under high-temperature conditions.

When to Change Brake Fluid

Changing brake fluid is essential for maintaining the effectiveness of your vehicle's braking system. Here are some indicators that it's time to change your brake fluid:

Brake Fluid Color

Over time, brake fluid can become contaminated with moisture and debris, leading to a darker color. If you notice that your brake fluid has turned dark brown or black, it's a sign that it's time for a change.

Soft or Spongy Brake Pedal

Air bubbles or moisture in the brake fluid can cause the brake pedal to feel soft or spongy when pressed. If you experience decreased brake pedal firmness or responsiveness, it may indicate the need for a brake fluid flush and replacement.

Brake Fluid Level

Regularly check your vehicle's brake fluid level to ensure it's within the recommended range. A sudden drop in brake fluid level may indicate a leak in the braking system, which requires immediate attention and fluid replacement.

Importance of Regular Brake Fluid Maintenance

Regular maintenance of brake fluid is crucial for preserving the integrity and performance of your vehicle's braking system. By changing brake fluid at recommended intervals and using the appropriate type for your vehicle, you can ensure optimal braking performance, minimize the risk of brake fade, and enhance overall safety on the road.

You Might Also Ask:

Why is brake fluid essential for my vehicle's braking system?

Answer: Brake fluid transmits force from the brake pedal to the brakes, enabling effective vehicle stopping by creating hydraulic pressure.

How does brake fluid differ from other fluids in my vehicle?

Answer: Brake fluid is specifically designed for hydraulic brake systems and differs from other fluids like engine oil or coolant in its composition and function.

What happens if I neglect to change my vehicle's brake fluid?

Answer: Neglecting to change brake fluid can lead to decreased braking performance, increased risk of brake fade, and potential damage to brake system components due to contamination and moisture buildup.

Can I use any type of brake fluid in my vehicle?

Answer: It's essential to use the type of brake fluid recommended by your vehicle manufacturer to ensure compatibility and optimal performance of your braking system.

How often should I check my vehicle's brake fluid level?

Answer: It's advisable to check your vehicle's brake fluid level regularly, typically during routine maintenance intervals, to ensure it remains within the recommended range and detect potential leaks or issues.

For expert brake services in Aldergrove, BC, contact Crompton's Auto Care - our team is more than ready to help! It's as simple as calling us, scheduling an appointment, and leaving the rest to us.

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