Fred Flintstone used to stop his car by putting his feet down on the ground. We put our feet down, and the car stops. It’s a little more complicated for us, though. There are a few things between us and the road: tires, brakes, and what we call “brake fluid.”
In order for the pressure you put on the brakes with your feet to get there, you’ll need to put brake fluid in your car. Fred is reaching down with his feet, but he can’t reach the road. That’s not a good feeling when you’re going down a steep hill.
This is a good thing because liquids aren’t very compressible by nature, so they make an ideal medium for transferring pressure from your foot to the brake without losing power. brake fluid is better than a strictly mechanical option because the driver doesn’t feel strong forces at work on their brake pads, where temperatures can reach 800 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a big advantage over a strictly mechanical option (426.7 degrees Celsius).
In a 19th-century stagecoach, there is a big lever on one side that people used to stop the carriage. This is what they did to stop the carriage. Think about how vibrations would shoot up your arm, especially if you had to stop quickly.
When it comes to your other car fluids, like coolant or motor oil, you still need to keep an eye on them. For most cars, it’s best to change your brake fluid every 1 to 2 years. The owner’s manual will have information that is specific to your car.
As long as you’re willing, you can change your own brake fluid if you’re willing to do it. This process isn’t as simple as changing your motor oil, especially because today’s cars are so small under the hood. In order to start, you need to bleed your brakes and then add new and clean brake fluid. If you’re willing to change your own brake fluid, you can save a lot of money. According to AutoMD, if you do it yourself, you can save about $100 on the average car. Just know that if your brakes fail, it could cost you more than that.
Locating the Brake Fluid Reservoir
In order to check your fluid level, you’ll need to let your car cool down if it’s been running, then open your hood. People open the hoods of different cars and trucks in different ways. Your owner’s manual can help you figure this out. There’s usually a lever or button inside the cabin that the driver can reach. It’s usually on the left side of the cabin. Make sure you find and press the button. Then, the hood should “pop” open.
It’s only the first step to be safe. Make your way to the front of the car. Feel under the center of the hood. To lift the rest of the hood, you’ll need to move a lever. Make sure the hood doesn’t fall back down. Newer cars sometimes have a built-in system, but some will need you to lift a brace to keep the hood up.
Next, find the brake fluid tank. The owner’s manual should give you the exact location for your car, but in most cars, you can find it on the driver’s side near the firewall (the wall between your engine and the cabin).
Small: The reservoir isn’t as big as other reservoirs, and it has a screw cap on the top. Brake fluid might not be written on the cap or the reservoir, but there should be a lot of other instructions on the cap or the reservoir. Clean off the cap before you open it, and then read the next set of instructions.
Before you open the cap, be sure to clean it off. This will keep the brake fluid clean and free of contaminants (like moisture), which can make your brakes work less efficiently and even corrode the inside of your brake system. It could even cause your anti-lock brake system to fail. Then, be safe: When you clean the cap, use a clean rag to remove any loose dirt.
Brake fluid connoisseurs are having a big debate about which type of fluid is best for their cars. We’ll learn more about this in the next section.
What Is DOT In Brake Fluid?
If you go far enough into any subject, you’ll find disagreements or disagreements about it. The main question about brake fluid is whether to use glycol- or silicone-based brake fluid. You need to know which one to use to make sure your brakes work well.
Before we learned that your brake fluid reservoir has instructions on what kind of fluid to use, we found out that your car has one. Brake fluid is called by its DOT number and comes in four different types. Most cars in the United States take either DOT 3 or DOT 4. U.S. Department of Transportation: The DOT part refers to the U.S. Department of Transportation, which sets rules for all motor vehicle brake fluids in the country. The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 116 lists three different types of glycol-based brake fluids, and one type of silicone-based brake fluid (SBBF). A lot of military vehicles now use DOT 5 instead of glycol, which isn’t good for the environment. Because glycol will eat the paint off of race cars and show cars, you’ll want to use this type.
What’s the big difference between the four groups? The answer is two-steps. There’s the point at which the water starts to boil. To make things boil faster, you need to get a bigger number on the DOT scale. Make sure you know that at the the temperature can reach up to 800 degrees Fahrenheit at any given time (426.7 degrees Celsius). When the wheels come into contact with the brake pad, they can get very hot. This is important to note, but some of that heat is being transferred into the brake fluid, which needs to be stable in order for it to work.
Part two of the answer talks about water. Glycol-based brake fluid is hygroscopic, which means it easily takes in moisture from the air. A good thing about this is that it’s not possible to keep moisture out, so it’s designed to absorb the small amounts that reach it and still do its job. However, this has some drawbacks. When there is more moisture in your brake fluid, the boiling point of that fluid goes down. Silicone-based fluid doesn’t soak up water. Instead, it separates out the denser water and lets it fall to the bottom of your master cylinder. This lets the pure brake fluid run and keep its boiling point high.
Next, let’s check the brake fluid under the hood to see how it’s going.
What Does the Brake Fluid Level Indicate?
The fun part is now. Use a clean, dry rag to wipe away any dirt or grime from the dipstick. Screw it back on, then turn it off, and look at the dipstick to see what it says. Find out where the line is between the bottom wet part and the dry part by looking at it. Between “add” and “full,” this line should be. As the brake pads wear down, the level of brake fluid will go down a little bit. This is normal, and it’s not something you should be concerned about at this point.
As long as your brake fluid isn’t below the “add” line by a long way, you probably have a leak. Get the brakes checked right away if this is what’s going on.
If the fluid is dark or clear, look at it to see if it’s dark or clear. Dark fluid means that there is a lot of dirt in the brake fluid, and you might want to get your brakes flushed or bled. You can also look at the color based on the type of DOT (see table on previous page).
If your brakes feel spongy when you push down on the pedal, you probably have a lot of air in them. Because air is more compressible than liquid, the force from your foot won’t get to the brake pad as quickly as you want it. For this alone, it is a good idea to have your brakes checked.
As long as the fluid is clear or near “add,” you should add some brake fluid to your brakes. It could damage your brake system or cause the reservoir to overflow if you fill it above the “full” mark, so don’t do that. This is bad because: Even if you don’t spill brake fluid on your car, it can eat the paint off. It can also make you blind or sick if it touches your skin. Pour just enough brake fluid into the reservoir so that it’s just below the “full” mark. Do this with a latex glove and a funnel that’s only for this.
1 to 2 years should pass before your brake fluid needs to be changed. You should check it once a month to make sure the level is right and that the fluid is clean, especially if you’re going on a long road trip or towing something.