Can I Change My Own Brake Fluid? A Step-By-Step Diy Guide

Keeping fresh, clean brake fluid is crucial for safe braking, but is changing it yourself a good idea? With proper precautions, tools, and know-how, you can absolutely change your brake fluid at home. In this comprehensive DIY guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to change your brake fluid safely and effectively.

If you’re short on time, here’s the quick take: Changing your own brake fluid is totally doable if you have mechanical ability, follow each step carefully, and properly dispose of old fluid. But consider letting a pro tackle it if you’re unsure, since brakes are safety-critical.

Is Changing Your Own Brake Fluid Recommended?

Changing your own brake fluid can be a cost-effective and rewarding task for car enthusiasts. However, it is important to consider whether it is recommended for everyone. Here are some factors to consider before deciding to change your own brake fluid:

Manufacturers recommend fluid changes every 2 years or so

Brake fluid plays a crucial role in the proper functioning of your vehicle’s braking system. Over time, brake fluid can become contaminated with moisture, debris, and other contaminants, which can affect its performance.

Manufacturers typically recommend changing the brake fluid every 2 years or so to ensure optimal braking performance. If you are comfortable working on your car and have the necessary tools and knowledge, changing your own brake fluid can be a viable option.

Shops charge $100+, DIY can save money

One of the main advantages of changing your own brake fluid is the potential cost savings. Taking your car to a shop for a brake fluid change can cost upwards of $100 or more, depending on the make and model of your vehicle.

By doing it yourself, you can save money on labor costs and only have to pay for the cost of the brake fluid itself. This can be a significant saving, especially if you are on a tight budget or enjoy DIY projects.

Critical to do correctly – brakes are crucial safety systems

It is important to note that the braking system is one of the most critical safety systems in your vehicle. Any mistakes or improper procedures during a brake fluid change can have serious consequences, including compromised braking performance and potential accidents.

It is crucial to follow the correct procedures, use the right tools and equipment, and ensure that you have a good understanding of the process before attempting to change your own brake fluid. If you are unsure or lack the necessary knowledge and experience, it may be best to leave this task to a professional mechanic.

What Tools and Supplies You’ll Need

Turkey baster or brake bleeder tool

When changing your brake fluid, you will need a turkey baster or a brake bleeder tool. These tools are used to remove the old brake fluid from the master cylinder reservoir. The turkey baster is a more common household item that can be easily used for this purpose.

However, if you want a more efficient and specialized tool, a brake bleeder can be purchased from an auto parts store or online.

Wrenches to access bleed valves

Accessing the bleed valves on your brake system requires the use of wrenches. The size of the wrench needed will depend on the type of bleed valve on your vehicle. It is important to use the correct size wrench to avoid damaging the valve.

If you are unsure of the size, consult your vehicle’s manual or seek guidance from a trusted mechanic.

Clean brake fluid (DOT 3 or 4)

When changing your brake fluid, you will need to use clean brake fluid. It is recommended to use either DOT 3 or DOT 4 brake fluid, as these are the most common types used in vehicles. The choice between DOT 3 and DOT 4 will depend on the specifications of your vehicle.

It is important to use the correct type of brake fluid to ensure optimal performance and safety.

Container to collect old fluid

Having a container to collect the old brake fluid is essential during the process. It is important to properly dispose of the old brake fluid to avoid any environmental harm. You can use an old plastic bottle or a specialized brake fluid catch can to collect the fluid.

Ensure that the container is clean and properly sealed to prevent any spills or leaks.

Tire pressure gauge

While not directly related to changing brake fluid, having a tire pressure gauge on hand is always a good idea. It is important to regularly check and maintain proper tire pressure for optimal vehicle performance and safety.

This can be done while you are working on your brakes as a quick and easy task.

Step-by-Step DIY Brake Fluid Change Instructions

Check level first – top off if needed

Before starting the brake fluid change process, it’s important to check the current level of your brake fluid. Locate the brake fluid reservoir, usually located near the engine compartment. Remove the cap and visually inspect the fluid level.

If the level is below the “MIN” mark, you will need to top it off with the appropriate brake fluid. Remember to use the recommended brake fluid specified in your vehicle’s owner manual. Topping off the brake fluid will ensure that there is enough fluid to complete the bleeding process without introducing air into the system.

Open bleed valve, use tool to extract old fluid

Once you have checked and topped off the brake fluid, it’s time to begin the actual fluid change. Locate the brake bleed valve, usually found on the brake caliper or wheel cylinder. Place a drain pan underneath the valve to catch the old fluid.

Using a wrench or a specialized brake bleeding tool, such as a brake bleeder kit, open the valve and allow the old fluid to flow out. Be sure to have a friend assist you during this process by pressing and releasing the brake pedal to help push the old fluid out of the system.

Close valve, refill reservoir, repeat process

Once the old fluid has been completely drained, close the bleed valve securely. Move back to the brake fluid reservoir and refill it with fresh brake fluid up to the “MAX” mark. It’s important to use the same type of brake fluid that you used earlier. If you are unsure, refer to your vehicle’s owner manual or consult with a professional.

Repeat the process of opening the bleed valve and extracting the old fluid until the fluid coming out is clear and free from any contaminants.

Ensure no air bubbles are present

After multiple rounds of bleeding and refilling, it’s crucial to ensure that there are no air bubbles trapped in the brake system. Air bubbles can compromise the effectiveness of your brakes and lead to potential safety hazards.

To check for air bubbles, observe the fluid flowing out of the bleed valve. If you notice any bubbles, continue the bleeding process until the fluid is bubble-free. This step is vital for maintaining optimal brake performance.

Test brakes thoroughly before driving

Once you are confident that there are no air bubbles in the system, it’s time to test your brakes before hitting the road. Start the engine and apply the brakes multiple times to ensure they are functioning properly.

Pay attention to any unusual noises or vibrations, as these could indicate an issue with the brake system. If everything feels and sounds normal, you are good to go! Enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’ve successfully changed your brake fluid.

For more detailed information on changing brake fluid, you can visit reputable automotive websites such as Car Bibles or Popular Mechanics.

Signs Your Brake Fluid Needs Changing

Brake fluid looks dark or muddy

One of the key indicators that your brake fluid needs changing is if it appears dark or muddy. Over time, brake fluid can become contaminated with dirt, debris, and moisture. This can cause the fluid to lose its effectiveness and potentially lead to brake failure.

If you notice that your brake fluid has a dark or muddy appearance, it’s a good idea to have it changed as soon as possible.

Brake pedal feels soft or spongy

If you find that your brake pedal feels soft or spongy when you apply pressure, it could be a sign that your brake fluid needs changing. This is often caused by air bubbles or moisture in the brake lines, which can affect the hydraulic pressure needed to engage the brakes properly.

Changing the brake fluid can help restore the firmness and responsiveness of your brake pedal, ensuring your safety on the road.

Leaking or corrosion around calipers/lines

Another indication that your brake fluid needs changing is if you notice any leaking or corrosion around the calipers or brake lines. Leaks can lead to a loss of brake fluid, which can compromise the performance of your brakes.

Corrosion, on the other hand, can weaken the integrity of the brake lines, increasing the risk of failure. If you notice any signs of leakage or corrosion, it’s important to have your brake fluid checked and changed if necessary.

Long time since last brake fluid change

It is generally recommended to have your brake fluid changed every 2-3 years or as per the manufacturer’s guidelines. If it has been a long time since your last brake fluid change, it’s a good idea to have it checked.

Over time, brake fluid can absorb moisture from the air, which can degrade its performance. Regularly changing the brake fluid helps maintain the optimum performance of your braking system and ensures your safety on the road.

Remember, maintaining the health of your brake fluid is crucial for the overall safety and performance of your vehicle. If you notice any of these signs indicating the need for a brake fluid change, it’s important to take action promptly.

If you’re unsure or uncomfortable with changing your brake fluid yourself, it’s always best to consult a professional mechanic who can ensure the job is done properly.

Next Steps After Changing Your Brake Fluid

Now that you have successfully changed your brake fluid, there are a few important next steps to take to ensure the continued safety and performance of your vehicle.

Properly dispose of old brake fluid

Old brake fluid can be hazardous to the environment if not disposed of properly. It is important to follow your local regulations for the disposal of automotive fluids. One option is to take your old brake fluid to a local recycling center or a designated collection point.

They will have the necessary facilities to handle and dispose of it safely.

Check for any leaks or issues

After changing your brake fluid, it is a good idea to inspect the brake system for any leaks or issues. Look for any signs of fluid dripping or pooling around the brake lines, calipers, or master cylinder.

If you notice any leaks or suspect a problem, it is best to have a professional mechanic inspect and repair the issue to avoid any potential brake failure.

Watch the fluid level – may need to top off over the next few days

It is normal for the brake fluid level to go down slightly after changing it. This is because the new fluid can displace any remaining air bubbles in the system. Keep an eye on the fluid level over the next few days and top it off if necessary.

Be sure to use the recommended brake fluid specified in your vehicle’s owner’s manual.

Schedule your next fluid change in 2 years or 24,000 miles

Brake fluid should be changed periodically to ensure optimal brake performance. As a general guideline, it is recommended to change your brake fluid every 2 years or 24,000 miles, whichever comes first.

This interval may vary depending on your driving habits and the specific recommendations of your vehicle manufacturer. Mark your calendar or set a reminder to schedule your next brake fluid change to keep your brakes in top shape.

Remember, proper maintenance and care of your vehicle’s brake system is crucial for your safety on the road. If you have any doubts or concerns about changing your brake fluid or any other aspect of your vehicle’s maintenance, it is always best to consult a professional mechanic.


Changing your own brake fluid is an advanced DIY job, but can certainly be done with care and proper tools. Just be sure to follow all steps exactly, properly bleed the system, and thoroughly test brakes before driving again. Or have a professional mechanic tackle it if you’re unsure.

But completing this routine maintenance yourself can save money with the right know-how.

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