How Can I Tell if My Brake Fluid Level Is Low?

You can tell if your brake fluid is low by looking at the fluid level in the reservoir, but this does not necessarily mean that you should add brake fluid to the reservoir, even if reads low. It’s more complicated than adding a quart of oil to your engine if it needs oil. Brake fluid levels change as the brake pads wear down, and low brake fluid levels are more of an indicator that you need your brakes serviced rather than more brake fluid. Advantage Auto Service explains this further below.

Low Brake Fluid Causes

To flesh this out further, your brake fluid will get low if your brake pads are worn out. This why we say low brake fluid could be a sign of a need for brake system maintenance rather than a leak or other problem. As your brake pads wear down, the caliper piston extends farther to press the calipers into the pads. This draws more brake fluid into the braking system and out of the reservoir, which makes it look as if you are low on brake fluid when you actually are not.

Mechanical causes of low brake fluid include leaks and damaged brake lines. Your brake system can leak from the brake lines, calipers, hoses, or the master cylinder. If you have a leak, you will see a low level of brake fluid in the reservoir, but you should also see brake fluid on your garage floor. Brake fluid is light brown to dark brown and very oily to the touch. Your brake lines are made of steel, and they can rust if exposed to excess moisture, which can damage them and cause leaks.

Signs of Brake Fluid Troubles

Your vehicle’s brake fluid has a lifespan just as the motor oil does. Generally, that lifespan is 20,000 miles or two years, whichever comes first. Check your owner’s manual to see when your vehicle’s manufacturer recommends brake service and stick to that schedule to avoid brake trouble. Signs you’ve got a problem with the brake fluid in your car, truck, or SUV include

  • Dirty and/or discolored brake fluid
  • Low brake fluid levels
  • Mushy or soft brake pedal
  • Brake light warning

If you notice any of these signs, or if you just checked your brake fluid level and it’s low in the reservoir, call Advantage Auto Service in Atlanta, GA. You don’t want to top off the brake fluid without understanding why it’s low; otherwise, excess fluid will overflow onto the engine. We’ll inspect the brakes and perform any necessary maintenance or repairs to fix your low brake fluid problem.