How to Check Your Brake Fluid

Written by Lee Wyatt (last updated March 30, 2012)


Just as you periodically check the oil, transmission, or window washer fluid in your vehicle, you should also check the brake fluid. Unfortunately, most people simply overlook this little task, and let it wait. The most common reason for this is that the brake fluid was checked the last time it was in for a tune up, or an oil change. This is simply too dangerous of a practice to continue though. Luckily, learning how to check your brake fluid isn't all that difficult.

Materials needed:

  • Old clean rags
  • Appropriate brake fluid
  • Owner's manual
  • Good anti-grease hand soap


  1. Check your manual. The first step in checking your brake fluid is to examine your owner's manual. This handy little book will give you some helpful information from the manufacturer on how to do everything from checking the brake fluid, to what type of fluid it requires, to where the master cylinder is located at. Makes sure that once you have found out what type of brake fluid you will need that you have some on hand incase you need to add it.
  2. Locate the master cylinder. On most vehicles, the brake master cylinder can be found on the driver's side of the engine, near the rear. Simply put, it should be roughly in the area that your brake pedal is, but on top of the engine. These cylinders are usually smaller, typically no larger than six inches by two inches, rectangular in shape, and have a plastic reservoir covered by a rubberized cap.
  3. Inspect the level. Once you have found the master cylinder, double check with the owners manual to ensure that you have the right item (though the cap should have "Use only DOT 3 or 4 brake fluid" printed on it). Many newer vehicles have a see through reservoir that should have a "full line" on it. Ensure that the fluid is at this line. If you have an older vehicle, you will need to remove the cap to check. In these older vehicles, the fill line is marked on the inside of the reservoir.
  4. Make necessary changes. The most common type of change that you will need to make is to add a little bit of fluid to the system If that is the case, simply pour some into the reservoir (both parts of it if necessary) to the fill line. In the rare event that you have too much brake fluid, take it to a mechanic to help you remove some of the excess.
  5. Clean up. Wipe up any spilled brake fluid from your engine using an old clean rag. Properly dispose of any empty brake fluid bottles (as mandated by your local ordinances) and then wash your hands to get rid of the brake fluid, grease, dirt, and oil that are probably covering it right now.

Author Bio

Lee Wyatt

Contributor of numerous Tips.Net articles, Lee Wyatt is quickly becoming a regular "Jack of all trades." He is currently an independent contractor specializing in writing and editing. Contact him today for all of your writing and editing needs! Click here to contact. ...


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What is four minus 4?

2017-11-23 13:08:18

Paul Brown

Brake fluid should be changed, not just checked and topped up. It absorbs water from the atmosphere & turns brown. Then that water can corrode (rust) steel brake lines from the inside. And mess with your antilock braking gizmos. Every few years is plenty.