Brake fluid, a specialized hydraulic fluid used in clutch systems and hydraulic brakes, supports the vehicle to slow down and stop smoothly and efficiently. Experts suggest changing the brake fluid regularly before it becomes severely contaminated to ensure safety.
But is this maintenance task expensive? We will discuss the brake fluid change cost and everything else you need to know.
In this article:
How Much Does It Cost to Change Brake Fluid?
The cost for a brake fluid flush can fall between $173 and $205, depending on the service provider. The make and model of your car and the type of brake fluid you use also contribute to the final cost.
Auto Mechanic: More Expensive
A brake flush at a professional auto shop is often costly. But there are several advantages to keep in mind.
For one, the procedure is quite quick, only about 1 to 2 hours at best – great news for busy clients. Secondly, while you can choose to bleed the brakes yourself, performing a complete flush can be extremely difficult without using the specialized OBD2 scan tools available at most shops.
For these reasons, relying on automotive services is considered a more practical choice for most vehicle owners.
DIY: More Affordable Prices
On the other hand, choosing a do-it-yourself (DIY) brake fluid flush is generally more cost-effective, especially if you already have some automotive maintenance experience. For track day enthusiasts, a quick DIY brake fluid bleed by yourself between racing events minimizes the detrimental effects of overheating fluid.
However, note that the task requires intermediate-level expertise and the use of essential tools like brake fluid, a jack, jack stands, wrenches, and clear tubing. If you lack the necessary skills and equipment, it is much better to seek professional assistance instead.
The complex designs of luxury vehicles or recently updated brake systems require more labor time, resulting in a higher cost to change brake fluid than standard brake fluid changes. Not to mention, labor costs can differ in each region or auto shop.
Vehicle Make and Model (Fluid Type)
Different vehicles call for different brake fluid types, such as DOT 3, DOT 4, DOT 5, and DOT 5.1, as defined by the U.S. Department of Transportation. These specifications dictate fluid boiling points, viscosity, stability at high temperatures, and other properties.
It’s crucial to use the correct brake fluid for your specific vehicle model.
For instance, unless you’re driving a high-performance car with strict requirements, there’s no need to opt for advanced fluids like DOT 5. Mixing DOT 5 brake fluid with DOT 3, 4, or 5.1 is also not recommended, as DOT 5 is silicone-based, while others are glycol-based.
Does Expensive Brake Fluid Make A Difference?
Although many believe cheap brake fluid is on par with more expensive ones, that is far from the truth. There are notable differences between inexpensive and premium brake fluids that you should acknowledge:
- Cheap brake fluids often use lower-grade components that diminish their boiling point, viscosity, and lubricating properties.
- Economical brake fluids deteriorate rapidly and need to be replaced much earlier. On the other hand, despite the higher initial cost, high-quality brake fluids have a longer lifespan and are more cost-effective in the long run.
So, for high-performance vehicles, always opt for top-tier brake fluids. But if you mostly drive low-performance vehicles in undemanding daily situations, then mid-range fluids are fine.
When Should You Change The Fluid? 7 Common Signs
Change your brake fluid immediately when you notice at least one of the following symptoms:
- Soft or Spongy Brake Pedal: Does your brake pedal feel soft, spongy, or need to be pressed hard to make the car respond? Then, that indicates low or contaminated brake fluid caused by excessive air in the brake lines.
- ABS Dashboard Light: An illuminated ABS dashboard light signals an issue with your anti-lock braking system. Most of the time, it’s the bad brake fluid that triggers the ABS to help your car with a smoother stop.
- Ineffective Braking Performance: Delays or difficulties in slowing or stopping your vehicle indicate your brake fluid needs maintenance. However, other brake system components like worn brake pads or warped brake rotors might also contribute to this issue. A professional inspection can help pinpoint the source of the problem.
- Smelly or Noisy Brakes While Braking: Unusual sounds like grinding or scraping when braking might result from bad brake fluid. Likewise, a burning odor after hard braking means your brake fluid has been burnt out or overheated.
- Vibrating Brake Pads: Vibrating brakes often hint at worn brake pads or degraded brake fluid; to confirm which one, schedule a visit to an auto mechanic as soon as you can.
- Changes in Fluid Colors: Moisture or contaminants might infiltrate the fresh brake fluid and affect its boiling point, resulting in a discolored or darker shade.
- Car Pulling to The Side: Does your vehicle keep pulling to the left or right during braking? There is a good chance of contaminated brake fluid, which should be addressed promptly.
How Long Can You Drive on Low Brake Fluid?
It’s not recommended to drive on low fluid levels.
As discussed, the braking system relies on a sufficient brake fluid supply to function properly. Ignoring the issue means brake failures and accidents will be inevitable. Instead, you should have it flushed by a qualified mechanic immediately.
The cost of a brake fluid change at auto repair shops can be a bit expensive, but you can do it yourself at home to save some bucks if you have both prior experience and free time.
Most importantly, always monitor the common warning signs of low/degrading fluid to address the issue as early as possible. If you are still confused about anything, write to our support team.