LAST UPDATED: April 26, 2018

The Best Brake Fluid (Review) in 2020

Best Choice The Best Brake Fluid (Review) in 2020 Castrol Brake Fluid
Premium Pick CRP Automotive Pentosin Super Brake Fluid DOT4 CRP Automotive Pentosin Super Brake Fluid DOT4
Best Value Castrol 12509 Brake Fluid DOT4 Castrol 12509 Brake Fluid DOT4

If you’re serious about car maintenance, then you probably put a lot of effort into making sure that you’re using the best engine oil and gas to suit your driving needs and the mechanical needs of the vehicle.

But one vehicle fluid can be easily overlooked by even the most vigilant at-home mechanics, and that is brake fluid. Since the braking system is such an important component of both the performance and overall safety of the car, this is an area that you can not afford to ignore.

So, to help you find the brake fluid that works, we’ve scoured the market to present to you our guide to the best brake fluids available.

Best Rated Brake Fluid

If you’re looking for the right kind of lubricant to help put your car back in shape, cool it down, and provide great maintenance service, then Castrol SRF racing brake fluid is a great option.

With superior braking qualities, this fluid was designed for rallying and racing and is an exclusive European formula with an exceptional high boiling point. It offers a wet boiling point of 270 Celsius as well as 310 Celsius for a dry boiling point. The fact that this item has a wet boiling point means that it is superior to the dry boiling point of other high-performance brake fluids.

Key Features
  • Wet boiling point of 270 Celsius
  • Dry boiling point of 310 Celsius
  • Meets both the DOT3 and DOT4 specifications
  • Unique European formula to support all types of racing and rallying cars
Specification
  • Brand Castrol
  • Model SRF
  • Weight 1.3 pounds
PROS

Affordable lubricant for your car

Item has superior quality over competitors

Superior anti-vapor lock characteristics

CONS

Sold by the litre

Castrol was made specially for fast paced cars

To get the best out of this product it is usually bought with the motive brake fluid catch

This is a high quality Brake Fluid specifically designed to be used in ABS brake systems. To that end, it is specifically designed to have superior corrosion resistance.

In addition to that, it has built in resistance to retaining water. As we discussed above, that is an important feature to have for brake fluid that is going to last a while in the system without having to be drained and replaced.

DOT4 classification means that the fluid has a high boil point too, so it is suitable for use in a range of high performance formats.

Key Features
  • Corrosion Resistant
  • Resists Water Retention
  • Excellent in ABS Brake Systems
Specification
  • Brand CRP Automotive
  • Model 1204116
  • Weight 1 lb
PROS

There is protection against vapor lock

It has excellent resistance to water retention and absorption

Also corrosion resistant

CONS

Not compatible with other dot fluids

Warning against the presence of cancer causing substances

Shipping in the United States only

This is a decent fluid with a low, low price. DOT4 classification means that this product brings a high boiling point. Its other main selling point is that it has been designed to mix well with other fluids – either DOT3 or DOT4.

In that sense given the low price but also relatively small bottle size of just 12 ounces, this could be a great top up fluid. Keep it on hand and apply it when a braking system is starting to feel spongy or you’ve partially flushed the system.

Of course the low price for the 12-ounce bottle means you can also pick up a few at a time for complete system overhaul.

Key Features
  • Very Low Price for a DOT4
  • Mixes With Other Fluids
  • Good Boiling Point
Specification
  • Brand Castrol
  • Model 12509
  • Weight 7.2 oz
PROS

Very affordable

Great for racing cars

Protects against corrosion

CONS

Fluid can be hard to find due to identical brand name

Warning against cancer causing chemicals

Not recommended for everyday vehicles

ATE is a world-renowned manufacturer of vehicle fluids, lubricants and oils. Their great success is built on bringing products to market that have been well designed and thought out, and that is exactly what they have done here with their TYP 200.

Again, we have a DOT4 classification, meaning a really high boiling point for this fluid. In addition, the product is designed with outstanding Water Locking ability. This means it is designed to keep water from seeping through the porous hoses of the braking system and diluting the fluid.

This also means that the braking system stays responsive for longer – in fact, ATE suggests this fluid could be good for changing intervals of up to three years which is, frankly, a phenomenal performance.

All of that, and you get a liter per container, making this a great deal for such a high-performance product.

Key Features
  • Excellent Water Locking Ability
  • Non-Foaming Fluid for Easy Filling/Draining of System
  • Super Long Life Span
Specification
  • Brand ATE
  • Model 796202
  • Weight 2.35 lbs
PROS

High safety tolerance against steam bubbles

Product also has a 3 year change interval

Provides protection against corrosion

CONS

This product has been discontinued by manufacturer

Not compatible with other DOT fluids

Brake Fluid can only be used for DOT 4 vehicles

Another quality product from a great manufacturer is the Bosch automotive.  This lubricant ships anywhere in the world. From a recognized brand, this is the next generation brake fluid that has excellent lubricity qualities, exceeds all DOT standards and can be used with DOT 3,DOT4 and DOT 5.1. It’s long lasting quality allows for it to simultaneously combine both high wet boiling point and low viscosity when in operation.

Key Features
  • Exceeds all DOT standards
  • Highly compatible with all DOT 3, DOT 4 and DOT 5. 1and can be used with or directly to replace them
  • Long lasting with an extended service interval
  • This product has a recommended change interval of 3 years, a year longer than the standard recommended change
Specification
  • Brand Bosch
  • Model ESI6-32N
  • Weight 2 pounds
PROS

Very affordable

Long lasting and very compatible

Readily available for all types of cars

CONS

Item is only compatible to DOT5. 1 not DOT5

This is not a brake fluid for racing cars

Product contains chemicals such as Ethylene oxide which is known to cause cancer and other birth defects.

If you fancy yourself as a bit of a Vin Diesel and like to chuck your car into 30 feet power slides as you rock up into the office parking lot, then this could be the fluid for you.

Or, in the real world, if you do have a high performance car, a sports car or take a route with frequent braking (such a twisting and turning country roads or stop start urban traffic) this is a premium brake fluid designed for you.

DOT4 classification means we have a lovely high boiling point of 312 centigrade (594 Fahrenheit) which means that this fluid is easily able to stand up to it’s Racing Brake Fluid tag. With just 500ml it is a relativity high price for not a huge amount of fluid. But the high spec nature of this product more than warrants the elevated price tag.

Key Features
  • Extreme Thermal Resistance
  • Very High Boiling Point
  • Non-Silicone Based
Specification
  • Brand Motul
  • Model 8069HC
  • Weight 1.3 lbs
PROS

This fluid has low volatility rate compared to others

It also has high shear stability for brake control

It serves as a friction modifier

CONS

Like all other products it may contain cancer causing substances

Motul fluid is best advised for race cars

Unfortunately it does not ship to Ghana to be precise

Our first DOT3, however this is still a pretty high performance fluid with a number of useful features. The main draw is the anti-vapor capability designed to stop dangerous gas vapors building up in the braking system tubing during high temperatures. 

As a DOT3, this fluid does have a lower boiling point than a DOT4 classified fluid. It does however have higher far higher boiling point than many other DOT3 fluids, and is well above the minimum boiling points set by the government.

In that sense then, it is kind of a middle of the road kind of product. It doesn’t give quite the performance of a DOT4, however it is far superior to a lot of the other DOT3s on the market. Price wise it’s also midrange, for a generous 32-ounce bottle.

Key Features
  • Low Vapor
  • Good Boiling Point for DOT3
  • Large Volume, Low Price
Specification
  • Brand Prestone
  • Model AS401
  • Weight 2.2 lbs
PROS

When using the product it does not create a dangerous vapor

Liquid is excellent for ABS, disc and drum base systems

Both wet and dry boiling points of the product exceeds the required minimum standard

CONS

This item is not eligible for international shipping

It provides low protection against corrosion

Cancer causing and birth defects substances may be present in product

This next product has been made from the best quality to meet the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard(FMVSS) No. 116 and SAE J1703 specifications. If you are looking for a high quality Dot 3 brake fluid for both disc, drum brake system and clutch system, then Lucas oil is recommended. It is compatible with all brake systems and made with quality additives to prevent seal hardening or softening and is a great lubricant with chemicals such as polyethylene glycol ethers that prevents corrosion and rusting.

Key Features
  • Protects against corrosion and rust
  • High quality component of polyethylene glycol ethers and other additives
  • This product prevents seal hardening or softening
  • Highly compatible with all rubber brake system components and other brake fluids
Specification
  • Brand Lucas Oil
  • Model 10826
  • Weight 2 pounds
PROS

Serves as an excellent lubricant

Very affordable and accessible

It's compatible nature makes it easy to use

CONS

Brake fluid from Lucas oil is limited to DOT 3 users

Like most chemicals this product has warning about cancer and degenerative disease causing substances

Not recommended for street racing and rallying cars

If you have an upgraded brake system such as those used for heavy braking like on a race track, then this is your go to synthetic oil. This excellent lubricant offers high performance brake fluid that is perfect for track use. The RL-600 is designed to maintain lubricity, viscosity and compressibility in extreme temperatures.

Key Features
  • Formulated to prevent corrosion
  • This fluid is resistant to moisture retention and absorption
  • Item can be blended with DOT 3, DOT 4 and DOT5.1fluids
  • Made with quality raw materials to safeguard against brake fade and vapor lock
Specification
  • Brand Red Line
  • Model 90402
  • Weight 12.8 ounces
PROS

Great for passenger vehicles, race cars and even motorcycles

Delivers a solid pedal for less

Serves as a corrosion inhibitor

CONS

Contains substances known to cause cancer and other birth defects

More information about your vehicle is needed to check product compatibility

Manufacturer's products are identical so you will have to look carefully to pick the right one

MAG 1 are quite well regarded as a lubricants manufacturer, and this product, whilst being extremely basic, is still a decent choice if you need the bells and whistles of higher priced, premium products.

With a rating to DOT3, it has a lower boiling point than many of the fluids on this list. At 32 ounces, however, it also has the best price tag on the list! So if you’re looking for a product that will just quietly do its job without brakeing the bank, this could be the one for you.

You won’t get high performance, and you absolutely must not use this in your system if the vehicle manufacturer specifies that DOT4 must be employed. But for a smaller, lower performance vehicle this is a great fluid with a good price tag.

Key Features
  • Bargain Price
  • DOT3 Rated Fluid
Specification
  • Brand Mag 1
  • Model 120
  • Weight 2.25 lbs
PROS

Recommended for everyday vehicle use

Very affordable for use

Provides extra margin of safety to meet FMVSS standards

CONS

Available for shipping in the United States

Not recommended for rallying and racing cars

Synthetic oil may contain cancer causing additives

Another product that seems relatively cheap (under 10 dollars) until you see the bottle size (12 ounces). So you’re probably going to need 3 or 4 of these to completely refill a drained system on even a smaller sized car. Still, like the Castrol product above, this fluid does play well with others, so once again it’s ok to look at it as a top up fluid too.

It brings a range of features to the table too – a number of which are frankly missing from the similarly priced Castrol – such as the very handy ability to minimize moisture absorption. Again, this is going to potentially lengthen the time between fluid changes, as well as help to prevent the dreaded vapor lock.

It’s slightly strange that it is as advertised as DOT3 ad DOT4 classified, as this only really refers to the boiling points of the product – so technically, every DOT4 product is also DOT3 classified, because of the that higher boiling point it has.

We also have no idea what is so Xtreme about it (note to Throttle Muscle, that’s not how that word is spelt) but crazy labeling decisions aside this is a high performance fluid with a number of useful features.

Key Features
  • Low Price
  • Works in Disc, Drum & ABS Systems
  • Protects Against Moisture Absorption
Specification
  • Brand Throttle Muscle
  • Model TM7877
  • Weight 13 oz

Best Brake Fluid Guide & FAQ

That then represents to us the best, general-purpose brake fluids on the market right now. If you’re looking for super high-end fluid suitable for the high temperatures generated on, say Formula 1 racing cars, then first of all thank you for choosing Car Bible, that means a lot to us.

The second thing is this list is not for you, sorry.

If you’re looking for a great fluid that’s well suited to the everyday needs of a normal car though, then that fluid is definitely in the list above. To help you find it, we’ve put together this short guide and FAQ all about brake fluid.

(Honestly, it’s more interesting than it sounds, and there really is some information in here that could help you out!)

brake fluid

Brake Fluid Types

As you will have seen when reading the product guide above, we referred to DOT3 and DOT4 over and over again. Both of these fluids are actually quite similar in many respects, both of them being Polyethylene Glycol based fluids. DOT, by the way, is an acronym that stands for Department of Transport. They are the department who sets the minimum boiling temperatures that the fluids must meet in order to be classified as DOT3 or Dot4.

We sometimes get asked if DOT5 also exists, and the answer is yes – although we   haven’t discussed them in this list, or highlighted any DOT5 products.

That is because they are fundamentally different from DOT3 & DOT4, as DOT5 is a silicone-based fluid. That makes it suitable for use in, amongst other things, very low temperatures and high stress environments. It is for example found in a variety of US military vehicles designed for stationing around the world.

So unless you’re planning on a military excursion, you’ll be just fine with the DOT3 or DOT4.

Features to Evaluate When Purchasing Brake Fluid

It is a relatively simple product, with less features than you will find on a premium lubricating oil for example. That being said, there are few features to keep an eye out for, and they are by no means standard across the range of products. As with almost anything, the more features you want, the more you’re going to have to pay, so it’s important to decide which, if any, of the features you really want and need.

DOT Level – Probably the most important feature that you must evaluate is the DOT level of the fluid. Frankly, this isn’t really something you can change. If the manufacturers of your vehicle state that DOT4 must be used, then you must comply! DOT3, as we discussed, has a lower boiling point. That makes it unsafe at higher temperatures. A car manufacturer who specifies DOT4 does so because the brakes are designed to operate at a temperature too high for DOT3 fluids.

Water Absorption – Or rather the ability to resist water absorption. The pipes and tubes of a braking system are usually made of rubber, which is a porous surface. This means that over time the system will allow water – usually rain water – to infiltrate the system. This essentially waters down brake fluid, replacing it with water. Water has far lower boiling point than brake fluid, meaning it will quickly turn to steam. Too much of this makes the brake pedal feel spongy, the brake system becomes less responsive and you can even experience the dreaded vapor lock.

Product Size – Just like it sounds, evaluate the product size! Some of the bottles on our list are frankly tiny – 12 ounces is a very small amount of fluid. Hey – don’t blame us, we can only show you what the manufacturer makes. Just bear in mind how much you are getting for your money before you order.

Mixes Well – Just like motor oil, it’s possible for most brands to mix well with others. This means you can top up the system without having to fully drain it, which is useful if the brakes are just starting to become a little unresponsive.

Color – Some of the products have a slight color tint added – usually amber but sometimes blue or pink. This can help you when draining the system, as you can actually see the liquid that little bit better.

Non-Corrosive – Fluid that is non-corrosive is especially suitable for ABS systems, and older cars that may have rubberized seals. They are also not going to damage the paintwork if you spill any when topping up the system.

Why is Brake Fluid Important

The non compressible liquid contained within the brake lines is a brake fluid. It is crucial to the safe operation of your vehicle. It is used to transfer force into pressure and also when amplify braking force. This force, when applied to each of the rotors effectively applies pressure which causes the wheels to slow or stop the vehicles movement.

Moreover, brake fluid serves as a lubricant to all the movable parts in a vehicle. This is essential because most movable parts are metal and the lubricant aids to prevent corrosion and rust. During braking, heat is generated and to prevent parts from overheating, the liquid must have a high boiling point instead of water – as water turns into vapour at boiling point which is not good for a working vehicle.

How Do I Change My Brake Fluid?

Use for eg: a turkey baster to remove old, dirty oil from reservoir.

  • Wipe out the reservoir with a lint-free cloth if only you can get in there.
  • You can fill the tank with the new brake fluid by pouring it to reach the “full” line and replace the cap.

The new fluid pushes out the old as you bleed the brakes. Continue to do so till you see clean, clear fluid exiting the bleeder screw. For more information on changing brake fluid, here is a youtube video to assist you.

Best Brake Fluid FAQ:

If you have any questions about brake fluid, you’ll hopefully find the answers below.

Q: How does brake fluid work?

A: To understand how brake fluid works, then you really need to understand how the brake system itself works, which you can do with this cool guide.

The very basic explanation is that the fluid provides the connection between your foot and the actual brakes. It is part of the hydraulic system that transfers the pressure from the brake pedal being depressed into the brakes activating. The brakes themselves work by converting kinetic energy into heat – hence why the brake fluid has to have a high boiling point.

Q: Why change brake fluid?

A: Brake fluid has but one natural enemy, with whom it has been locked in constant battle for dominion over the pipes and tubes of braking systems the world over since time immemorial.

The dreaded water!

As we explained above, the tubing and piping in your braking system is made of porous material – it has to be so that it can have the required flexibility. This allows water to encroach into the system and displace the brake fluid – which is bad news for your brake system.

As a rule of thumb, most mechanics will recommend a full fluid change every two years or 20,000 miles. However, as we’ve seen with some products above, they can claim to have far longer life spans. At the end of the day, you will know your car better than anyone, and you will notice when the brakes start to become unresponsive and spongy.

Q: What is the difference between DOT3 and DOT4 brake Fluid?

A: In a word, temperature – or, to be precise, the temperature that it boils at.

So we are looking at:

DOT3:

  • Dry Boiling Point – 205 Celsius (401 Fahrenheit)
  • Wet Boiling Point – 140 Celsius (284 Fahrenheit)

DOT4:

  • Dry Boiling Point – 230 Celsius (446 Fahrenheit)
  • Wet Boiling Point – 155 Celsius (311 Fahrenheit)

Hold on, we know what you’re going to say – what the heck is a Dry Boiling point? Well, the Dry Boiling Point is the boiling point of the fluid when it 100% pure. The Wet Boiling Point is when water has worked its way into the system. As you can see, the boiling temperature goes well down at this point, which is why it is important to change out the fluid periodically because as the water content increases, so the boiling point drops.

Q: How do I check brake fluid ?

  • Carefully clean the top of your reservoir. This is to prevent dirt from entering which can cause the brakes to fail completely.
  • At this point the brake fluid reservoir can be opened.
  • You can check the brake fluid level to make sure it is within half an inch of the cap.
  • Take a look at the color of brake fluid. See a mechanic to have it replaced when it’s dark in color.

Q: How often do I change my brake fluid?

A: Generally, your brake fluid should be changed every oil change. Your coolant level should be checked twice a year preferably once in the summer and winter respectively. Brake fluid should be changed at least once a year.

brake fluid 2

Also, you can clearly see here the difference between the two strengths of fluid. That is why if your car specifies DOT4 you must use it – DOT3 simply cannot handle those higher temperatures.

Sources:

  1. How Brakes Work – Explain That Stuff
  2. How Often Do You Need to Change Your Brake Fluid – Cars
  3. How to Change Fluid – YouTube