If you’re driving and your brakes suddenly go out, you’re in big trouble. Not only is it a safety hazard, but it can also be very expensive to fix. This is why you need to be on the lookout for brake fluid leaks.
Brake fluid leaks happen when there is a problem with seals, caliper pistons, or brake hoses. Signs of a leak include a soft and spongy feel to the brake pedals, a puddle of fluid under the car, brake failure, squeaking when braking, and brake pedals that offer no resistance when you apply pressure.
This article will look at what causes brake fluid leaks, how to identify the problem, and how to fix it. We’ll also give you some tips on preventing leaks from happening in the first place.
Causes of Brake Fluid Leaks
Here’s a roundup of the most common causes of brake fluid leaks:
- Bad seals: Seals are designed to keep the fluid in and the dirt out. They can become worn or damaged, allowing the fluid to leak out.
- Caliper pistons: Caliper pistons are responsible for pressing the brake pads against the rotor. Damage to the piston seal can cause the fluid to leak.
- Brake hoses: Brake hoses can become brittle and crack under pressure. This can also lead to a leak.
- Accident damage: If you get into a car accident, it can damage the seals, pistons, or hoses and cause a leak.
- General wear and tear: Over time, your brakes will go through a lot of wear and tear. This can damage the seals, pistons, or hoses and cause a leak.
- Pitting: This is a type of corrosion that can form on the caliper pistons. It causes pits or holes, which allows the fluid to leak out.
Brake Fluid Leak Symptoms
The good thing about leaking breaks is that they usually give you subtle warning signs before they completely fail. Here are some of the things you might notice if your car has a brake fluid leak:
- Your brake pedal feels soft or spongy. This is the most common symptom of a brake fluid leak. It happens because the fluid does not exert the required pressure to engage the brakes.
- Your brakes take longer to stop the car. If your brake fluid is low, it will take longer for your brakes to engage. This can be extremely dangerous, so paying attention to this symptom is important.
- Your brake pedal sinks to the floor. This is a sign of a significant leak, and you should stop driving immediately and call a tow truck.
- There is a puddle of fluid under your car. This is the most obvious sign of a brake fluid leak. If you see this, do not drive your vehicle. Call a tow truck.
- Your brakes make squeaking or grinding noises. This can be caused by low brake fluid and other issues such as rust build-up in the brake motor, worn-out brake pads, and braking hard in emergency situations. If you notice this issue, have your car checked by a mechanic as soon as possible.
Read: Brake Fluid Change Cost
Brake Fluid Leak Fix
A brake fluid leak is not something you should ignore. If you think you have a leak, the best thing is to take your car to a mechanic and have it checked out. They will be able to tell for sure if you have a brake fluid leak and recommend an appropriate fix.
However, you can do a few things to try to fix a leak yourself:
- Clean the seals with brake fluid. To do this, put some brake fluid on a clean cloth and wipe down the seals. This will allow you to see the leaking part and take appropriate action.
- Replace the caliper piston. You will need to remove the brake pads and rotor to do this. Once you have access to the piston, remove it, then attach a new one.
- Replace the brake hoses. This is more difficult than replacing the caliper piston, but it is still doable. You will need to remove the old hoses and attach new ones.
- Bleed the brakes. You will need someone to help you with this. First, have your helper step on the brake pedal while opening the bleeder valve. Then, close the valve and have your helper release the pedal. Repeat this process until the fluid is clear.
- Add a sealant to the system. There are a few different types of sealant, but the general idea is to add it to the system 一it will seal any leaks.
Preventing Brake Fluid Leaks
The best way to deal with a brake fluid leak is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Here are a few things you can do to reduce the chances of a leak:
- Check your fluid level regularly and top it off if it gets low. I do this about once a month.
- Check your brakes for signs of wear and tear. If you see anything that looks damaged, have it replaced as soon as possible. This includes things like cracked hoses, worn seals, and damaged pistons.
- If you will be storing your car for an extended period, drain the brake fluid and replace it with fresh juice. This will help to prevent the seals from drying out and cracking.
- Bleed your brakes regularly. I do this about once a year.
- If you live in an area with a lot of dust, clean your brakes often. Dust can cause the seals to wear out prematurely.
I have managed to have my brakes last for over 100,000 miles (160,934 kilometers) without any major problems by following these tips. You need a bleed kit, hand tools, and brake fluid to do everything on this list. Just make sure to look up a few Youtube videos and follow the instructions carefully.
Does Brake Fluid Leak When The Car Is Off?
Brake fluid can leak when the car is off, but that doesn’t often happen because the seals are not under much pressure when the brake pedal is not engaged. Most commonly, brake fluid leaks with the vehicle off happen if there’s a huge hole in the brake system.
My Ford Focus had a brake fluid leak at one point, and I was lucky I paid attention. I noticed a small puddle of brake fluid on the garage floor after arriving home. The next day, I topped off the reservoir and went about my business. This continued for a while.
Eventually, my wife called me out. I took it to one of my mechanic friends, and they told me that the seals were damaged and needed to be replaced. I did the work myself, and it was not too difficult. However, I recommend having the mechanic do the work if you are new to DIY car repair.
After I fixed the leak, the only issue was that my brake pedal would feel a bit spongy. This is because air got into the system when I was bleeding the brakes. I simply bled the brakes again, and the problem was fixed.
Brake Fluid Leak Repair Cost
The cost of repairing a brake fluid leak will vary depending on the severity of the leak. If it is a small one, you may be able to get away with just topping off the fluid. If the leak is more severe, you may need to replace seals or hoses. The cost of these repairs can range from $150-$750.
I recommend taking your car to a mechanic if you think you have a brake fluid leak. They will be able to diagnose the problem and give you an estimate of the repairs. But I have been able to fix minor leaks myself with just a few dollars worth of brake fluid, so it is something you can do yourself if you feel brave.
Other Leaks That May Be Confused With Brake Leaks
Brake fluid leaks are not the only type of leak in your car. A few other fluids can also leak, and they can be just as damaging:
- Coolant leaks: Coolant leaks can be very dangerous because they can lead to engine overheating. If you see a green or orange liquid under your car, it is likely coolant.
- Transmission fluid leaks: Transmission fluid leaks are not as common as other leaks, but they can still happen. If you see red fluid under your car, it is most likely transmission fluid.
- Oil leaks: Engine oil leaks are the most common type. It is most likely oil if you see dark brown or black fluid under your car.
Brake fluid leaks are not something to be taken lightly. They are dangerous and can lead to costly repairs. But if you take your car to a mechanic as soon as you see a leak, they’ll fix it before it gets too bad.
I have had experience with brake fluid leaks, and I was able to fix the problem myself. But, I would only recommend doing this if you are experienced with car repairs. Otherwise, it is best to leave it to the professionals.