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Regarding vehicle maintenance, one important area that should never be taken for granted is your brakes. However, properly maintaining them is more than just replacing pads and rotors every so often. Check for any signs that your vehicle might be leaking brake fluid, because if it is, and nothing gets done to fix it, you run the risk of having them fail you at the worst possible time. How do you know if you have a brake fluid leak, and what causes it?

What to look for if you have a brake fluid leak

AutoZone brake fluid on a shelf in a store in Tiskilwa, Illinois
AutoZone brake fluid | Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

We often know there’s something wrong with our brakes when we start feeling them act mushy, vibrating, making a grinding noise, or pulling to one side when we apply the brake. What not many people realize is that when something goes wrong with one of your brake parts, it will start leaking fluid. 

You’ll notice a puddle forming on the ground underneath your vehicle. It can be difficult to determine if the fluid is coming from your brakes, though, because the liquid can be clear or it could be brown-colored, or in some cases, even yellowish. The biggest telltale signs that it is brake fluid are the thinness of the liquid (compared to thicker ones like engine oil) and its location near the tires.

When left unchecked, fluid loss will lead to a loss in brake pressure, which provides the stopping power to the brakes on all four wheels. With that pressure, your brakes will ultimately fail to stop when you need them the most. 

Common causes of brake fluid leaks

Brakes are essential for safety when driving your vehicle, so keeping them in good working order is a must. According to Access Auto Insurance, three causes could make them start leaking brake fluid. These include:

  • A problem arising in one of the major components. The master cylinder, wheel cylinders, rubber hoses, or calipers can crack or break, causing fluid to leak onto the ground. This could be from normal wear and tear or even a defect in the parts. 
  • Brake pads or shoes that are worn. Brake pads, shoes, rotors, and drums can wear down over time. This can make the calipers hyperextend, which would break the seal, causing the fluid to start leaking out, according to Repair Smith
  • Bleeder valves that are damaged or loose. The bleeder valve is what releases air from the brake system. If it gets broken or becomes loose, fluid will leak through. 

Maintaining your brakes is crucial so they don’t get too worn or damaged. If you just bought a used car, you might want to check the brakes because owners rarely replace the brakes when selling the vehicle. 

Leaks are a serious problem and should be dealt with immediately

The last thing you want to do is to drive a vehicle that’s losing brake fluid. You need your brakes to stop, and, if the car can’t brake, you run a serious risk of colliding with another vehicle or into an object like the guard rails. That’s dangerous, especially if you’re driving at higher speeds. If you notice that your car is leaking brake fluid, you will need to have it looked at immediately. 

However, you don’t want to drive it to the mechanic’s shop, because your brakes could fail on the way over. It’s best to get a tow truck and have it hauled over to the repair shop. They can look over the brakes, see what’s causing the leak, and repair it immediately before you get back behind the wheel.


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