Why You Shouldn’t Drive with a Brake Fluid Leak

Leaky oil? Alright, noted. A drip or two of coolant? Ok, it happens, carry on. A leak from your brake … Continued

Leaky oil? Alright, noted. A drip or two of coolant? Ok, it happens, carry on. A leak from your brake lines? Nah, son, you need to pull over and get that fixed ASAP. A brake fluid leak is one of the most dangerous fluid leaks that can befall your ride and requires immediate remediation.

To understand why a brake fluid leak is so dangerous and requires prompt action, Car Bibles’ worry-wart editors will take you by the hand and walk you through what brake fluid is, how it works, why a leak is bad, and what you may encounter if you have one. Hint, hint, you may encounter that spruce over there. Let’s get into it!

What Is Brake Fluid?

Brake fluid is a hydraulic liquid pushed through your car’s braking system designed to actuate the brake calipers. It comes in a few different types meant to handle different situations, i.e. high heat, low heat, and pressure differentiation.

How Does Brake Fluid Work?

When the driver presses the brake pedal, the hydraulic pressure of the brake fluid actuates the car’s brake calipers, which press the brake pad into the brake rotor. The resulting friction between the rotor and the pad stops the car. Drum brakes also use fluid dispersal but press the brake shoe into the drum.

What Is a Brake Fluid Leak?

It’s what it sounds like, a fluid leak somewhere in the braking system.

Brake Fluid Leak Symptoms and Causes

Let’s talk turkey, such as the causes and symptoms of a brake fluid leak.

Causes

Brake fluid leaks can be caused by a number of things, including old or damaged brake lines, loose fittings and clamps, a broken brake master cylinder, or a broken caliper.

Symptoms

If you have a brake fluid leak, you may experience partial or total loss of braking pressure, intermittent braking pressure, or driveway/garage leaks. You also might notice a soft brake pedal that goes all the way to the floor and does not come back up.

Car Bible’s Brake System Glossary

Welcome to Bible School!

Disc Brakes

Disc brakes are a type of braking system used on almost all new cars. They use calipers, rotors, and brake pads to halt the momentum of your car.

Drum Brakes

Drum brakes are a type of braking system that has fallen out of favor in the automotive world due to their complexity and performance. Older cars, as well as a small handful of more affordable rides, still use drum brakes, though they’re becoming scarcer. Rather than rotors and pads, they use drums and shoes.

Brake Pads

Brake pads are parts with the friction surface a caliper presses into a brake rotor.

Brake Shoes

The shoe is what presses the lining friction surface into a drum brake.

Brake Rotors

A brake rotor is what a caliper presses a brake pad into to halt the momentum of the car.

Brake Calipers

Brake calipers press brake pads into the rotor to halt the momentum of a car.

Your Questions, Our Answers on Brake Fluid Leak

Car Bibles answers all your burning questions!

Q. How Much Does It Cost To Fix a Brake Fluid Leak?

A. In general, a brake fluid leak will cost you between $100-$300. The price will vary due to what’s causing the leak and how much labor is required to fixing it.

Q. Can You Drive With a Brake Fluid Leak?

A. No. A brake fluid leak means that you’ll have a reduction or total loss of braking pressure, which means the Prius or tree in front of you may get to know your grille intimately.

Q. Why Are My Brakes Soft After Bleeding?

A. You may not have bled all the air out of your brake lines or you may have forgotten to retighten the brake reservoir cap. You’ll likely need to bleed them again.

Q. How Often Do I Need to Bleed My Brakes?

A. You only have to bleed your brakes when you feel that they’ve become somewhat spongey or after refilling the system with new fluid. That means there’s air in there, and that can affect your stopping power, something you definitely need.

Video on Brake Fluid Leak

Car Bibles’ editors understand that not everyone is a text-based learner. For those kinesthetic people out there, we have your back with a video showing you exactly what a brake fluid leak looks like. We pulled it from one of our favorite, and most trusted, sources and it’s a great additional resource.

Car Bible’s Favorite Brake Fluid Leak Related Products

You can buy tools for Drum Brake at almost every auto parts and home improvement store. As well as online stores like Amazon. You have a sea of options to select from. To aid in your search, here’s a resource for Replacement Brake Pads and Car Jacks to get your ride up in the air.

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Jonathon Klein

Jonathon KleinJonathon has jumped Aston Martins for Automobile Magazine, clocked 200 mph in a McLaren 720S for Playboy, and sampled his best life behind the wheel of a Ferrari Dino Evo for Road & Track. He’s hopelessly addicted to the strongest coffee he can brew. Please send him more. Contact the author here.