How to Clean Brake Fluid: A Step-by-Step Guide

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To clean brake fluid, start by locating the brake fluid reservoir and removing the cap. Next, use a turkey baster or a syringe to extract the old brake fluid from the reservoir.

Dispose of the old fluid properly and refill the reservoir with fresh brake fluid. Finally, bleed the brakes to remove any air bubbles and test the brakes for proper functionality. Maintaining clean brake fluid is essential for the performance and safety of your vehicle’s braking system.

Over time, brake fluid can become contaminated with dirt, moisture, and other impurities, which can compromise the effectiveness of your brakes. Regularly cleaning the brake fluid helps ensure optimal braking performance and can extend the lifespan of your brake components. In this guide, we will walk you through the simple steps to clean brake fluid, enabling you to keep your brakes in top shape and ensure your safety on the road.

Importance Of Cleaning Brake Fluid

Why Cleaning Brake Fluid is Crucial for Vehicle Maintenance

When it comes to vehicle maintenance, it’s common for car owners to focus on regular oil changes, tire rotations, and other routine tasks. However, one crucial aspect that often gets overlooked is cleaning brake fluid. Ignoring this essential maintenance task can have severe consequences on both the vehicle’s performance and safety.

The Impact of Contaminated Brake Fluid on Braking Performance

The braking system is arguably one of the most critical components of any vehicle. It is responsible for ensuring your safety and the safety of others on the road. That’s why it’s crucial to understand the impact of contaminated brake fluid on the braking performance.

Contaminated brake fluid can cause several issues that directly affect how well your brakes function. Here are some examples:

<strong>1. Reduced Braking Efficiency</strong>

When brake fluid becomes contaminated, it can lead to a decrease in overall braking efficiency. This means that your brakes may not respond as quickly or effectively as they should. This can be especially dangerous in emergency situations or when you need to make sudden stops.

<strong>2. Increased Stopping Distance</strong>

Another consequence of neglecting brake fluid maintenance is an increase in stopping distance. Contaminated brake fluid can prevent the brake pads from properly gripping the rotors, resulting in longer stopping distances. This can significantly impact your ability to avoid collisions or accidents on the road.

<strong>3. Brake Fade</strong>

Brake fade refers to a reduction in braking power due to overheating of the braking system. Contaminated brake fluid has a lower boiling point, which means it is more prone to heat buildup. If the fluid reaches its boiling point, it can lead to brake fade, causing your brakes to become less responsive. This can be incredibly dangerous, especially when driving downhill or in heavy traffic.

<strong>4. Corrosion and Damage to Brake Components</strong>

Contaminated brake fluid can also lead to corrosion and damage to various brake components. Over time, moisture can seep into the braking system, causing rust and corrosion to develop on vital parts such as calipers, brake lines, and master cylinders. This corrosion can weaken the integrity of the components, leading to potential brake failure.


Regularly cleaning and maintaining brake fluid is essential for vehicle safety and performance. It ensures proper braking efficiency, reduces stopping distances, prevents brake fade, and protects against corrosion and component damage. Make sure to prioritize brake fluid maintenance as part of your routine vehicle care to keep you and your passengers safe on the road.

Understanding Brake Fluid Contamination

Causes of brake fluid contamination

Brake fluid is a vital component in your vehicle’s braking system, responsible for transferring the force from the brake pedal to the brake pads or shoes. It plays a critical role in ensuring the safety and effectiveness of your brakes. However, over time, brake fluid can become contaminated, compromising its performance and potentially leading to brake failure. Understanding the causes of brake fluid contamination is essential in maintaining your vehicle’s braking system.

There are several factors that can contribute to brake fluid contamination:

  1. Moisture: Brake fluid is hygroscopic, which means it can absorb moisture from the surrounding environment. This moisture can enter the brake system through various points, such as the master cylinder reservoir or during brake fluid replacements. Over time, the moisture accumulation can degrade the brake fluid’s performance.
  2. Extremes of temperature: Brake fluid operates in a wide range of temperatures, from hot conditions generated by heavy braking to frigid temperatures during winter seasons. These extreme temperature fluctuations can cause the brake fluid to break down and become contaminated.
  3. Dust and debris: Brake systems are exposed to dust, dirt, and debris on the road. Over time, these contaminants can find their way into the brake fluid, affecting its quality and potentially damaging the braking system.
  4. Old age: Like any other fluid in your vehicle, brake fluid deteriorates over time. As it ages, its performance degrades, increasing the risk of contamination.
  5. Brake system components: Faulty or aging brake system components, such as rubber hoses or seals, can deteriorate or leak. This can introduce contaminants into the brake fluid, compromising its integrity.

Identifying signs of contaminated brake fluid

Spotting contaminated brake fluid early can help prevent potential brake failures and maintain the performance of your braking system. Look out for these signs:

  • Change in color: Brake fluid is typically clear or yellowish in color. If you notice a dark or murky appearance, it could indicate contamination.
  • Strange odor: Brake fluid should not have a strong odor. If you detect a foul or burnt smell, it may suggest contamination.
  • Spongy brake pedal: Contaminated brake fluid can lead to a loss of pedal firmness, making the brake pedal feel spongy or less responsive.
  • Reduced braking performance: If you experience a decrease in braking power or notice a longer stopping distance, contaminated brake fluid could be the culprit.
  • Brake system warning light: Some vehicles are equipped with a brake system warning light that illuminates when there is a problem with the braking system, including contaminated brake fluid.

Regularly inspecting your brake fluid and recognizing these signs of contamination can help you take prompt action to clean or replace the fluid, ensuring the optimal performance and safety of your vehicle’s braking system.

Preparing For Brake Fluid Cleaning

Gathering necessary tools and materials

Before proceeding with cleaning brake fluid, it’s important to gather all the necessary tools and materials. Having everything on hand will make the process smooth and efficient. Here are the items you will need:

  1. Brake fluid: Ensure you have the correct type and quantity of brake fluid specified for your vehicle. Refer to your car’s user manual for guidance.
  2. Wrench or socket set: This will be used to loosen the brake bleeder valve during the bleeding process.
  3. Bleeder wrench or fitting: It’s essential to have the right size tool to fit the bleeder valve and prevent damage while cleaning.
  4. Jar or container: To collect the old brake fluid as it is drained from the brake system.
  5. Rubber hose: This will be attached to the bleeder valve to channel the fluid into the jar or container.
  6. Clean rags or paper towels: For wiping off any spills or excess brake fluid during the cleaning process.
  7. Protective gloves and eyewear: Brake fluid is corrosive and can be harmful. Wearing gloves and eyewear will protect your skin and eyes.
  8. Jack and jack stands: These tools are required to lift the vehicle safely and secure it in position while cleaning.
  9. Personal protective equipment: Depending on your preference and level of comfort, you may also want to wear long sleeves and pants to minimize exposure to brake fluid.

Ensuring safety precautions are in place

Prioritizing safety is crucial when working with brake fluid. A few precautions can help keep you protected throughout the cleaning process. Here’s what you should do:

  • Choose a well-ventilated area: Brake fluid emits fumes that can be harmful when inhaled. Opening doors or windows in your workspace will facilitate airflow.
  • Wear proper protective gear: As mentioned earlier, protective gloves and eyewear are essential to shield your skin and eyes from potential harm.
  • Use a jack and jack stands: Lifting a vehicle without the proper equipment can be dangerous. Utilize a jack to raise the car and secure it with jack stands to ensure stability while cleaning.
  • Follow manufacturer guidelines: Always refer to your vehicle’s user manual for specific instructions and safety recommendations provided by the manufacturer.

By having all the necessary tools and materials ready, and by adhering to safety precautions, you can confidently move forward to clean your brake fluid and maintain your vehicle’s braking efficiency.

Step 1: Elevating The Vehicle

Importance of raising the vehicle for brake fluid cleaning

When it comes to cleaning brake fluid, one crucial step is to elevate the vehicle. This process is vital for accessing the brake system components easily, allowing you to clean and maintain them effectively. Elevating the vehicle not only ensures your safety but also makes the cleaning process more convenient and efficient. By following the proper steps to raise your vehicle, you can effectively inspect and clean the brake fluid system, providing you with a smoother and safer driving experience.

Choosing the right method for elevating the vehicle

Choosing the right method to elevate your vehicle is essential to ensure a safe and effective brake fluid cleaning process. There are various methods you can use to raise your vehicle, each with its advantages and limitations. It’s crucial to consider factors such as the type of vehicle, available equipment, and personal preference when selecting the method of elevation.

Some common methods include:

  1. Using a hydraulic jack and jack stands: This method is popular among DIY enthusiasts and professionals alike. It involves lifting the vehicle with a hydraulic jack and then placing jack stands under the vehicle’s designated lifting points for added stability.
  2. Utilizing a car lift: If you have access to a car lift, it can be an efficient and convenient method for elevating your vehicle. Car lifts provide secure and stable support, allowing you to work on the brake fluid system with ease.
  3. Drive-on ramps: Drive-on ramps are an alternative to traditional jacks and jack stands. They provide a gradual incline that allows you to easily drive your vehicle onto the ramps, raising it off the ground. These ramps are convenient and safe to use, especially if you prefer not to work with hydraulic jacks.

Whichever method you choose, ensure it is suitable for your specific vehicle and that you follow proper safety precautions throughout the elevation process. By selecting the right method for elevating your vehicle, you can carry out the brake fluid cleaning process effectively and safely.

Step 2: Locating The Brake Fluid Reservoir

Identifying the brake fluid reservoir in different vehicle models

When it comes to cleaning brake fluid, the first step is to locate the brake fluid reservoir in your vehicle. Though the reservoir’s location can vary depending on the make and model of your vehicle, there are a few common areas where you can usually find it.

In most vehicles, the brake fluid reservoir is typically located near the master cylinder, which is usually mounted on the driver’s side of the engine bay. It is a transparent or semi-transparent container that allows you to monitor the level of brake fluid.

However, for a more precise understanding, here are some guidelines to help you identify the brake fluid reservoir in different vehicle models:

For Ford vehicles:

If you own a Ford vehicle, you will usually find the brake fluid reservoir attached to the master cylinder on the driver’s side of the engine compartment. It is often a plastic container with a cap.

For Toyota vehicles:

In Toyota vehicles, the brake fluid reservoir is typically located on the driver’s side of the engine compartment, near the firewall. It is a translucent container labeled as the brake fluid reservoir and has a cap for easy access.

For Chevrolet vehicles:

Chevrolet vehicles usually have the brake fluid reservoir placed on or near the passenger side of the engine compartment. The reservoir is transparent, allowing you to check the fluid level, and it is often marked with the words “brake fluid.”

For BMW vehicles:

In BMW vehicles, the brake fluid reservoir can usually be found on the driver’s side of the engine compartment. It is often a small, opaque container, typically made of metal or plastic, with a screw-on or snap-on cap.

For Honda vehicles:

Honda vehicles typically have the brake fluid reservoir mounted on the driver’s side of the engine compartment, near the windshield. It is a clear or translucent container labeled as the brake fluid reservoir, with a cap that can be easily removed.

Remember, these are just general guidelines, and the exact location of the brake fluid reservoir may vary depending on the specific model and year of your vehicle. If you are unsure, refer to your vehicle’s owner’s manual for more accurate information.

Understanding the components of the brake fluid reservoir

To ensure proper brake fluid maintenance, it’s essential to understand the components of the brake fluid reservoir. The reservoir consists of several key parts that play a crucial role in its functionality.

1. Reservoir cap: The cap is used to seal the brake fluid reservoir, preventing any dirt, debris, or moisture from contaminating the brake fluid. It is important to ensure that the cap is tightly closed to maintain the integrity of the system.

2. Fluid level sensor: Some modern vehicles are equipped with a fluid level sensor, which monitors the brake fluid level in the reservoir. If the fluid level drops below a certain point, the sensor will trigger a warning light on the dashboard, indicating the need for fluid replenishment.

3. Sight glass or level indicator: The brake fluid reservoir usually features a sight glass or a level indicator that allows you to visually determine the fluid level. It is essential to check this level regularly and ensure it falls within the manufacturer’s recommended range.

4. Inlet and outlet ports: The reservoir is equipped with inlet and outlet ports that facilitate the flow of brake fluid. The inlet port receives fresh brake fluid during brake bleeding or replenishment, while the outlet port releases fluid to the brake lines when the brakes are applied.

5. Filter screen: Some brake fluid reservoirs are equipped with a filter screen, which helps remove any contaminants present in the brake fluid. It is crucial to clean or replace the filter screen periodically to ensure the brake fluid remains clean and free of debris.

By understanding these components, you can ensure that the brake fluid reservoir is functioning correctly and take appropriate steps for cleaning and maintenance.

Step 3: Draining The Old Brake Fluid

Using the Appropriate Tools to Drain the Old Brake Fluid

When it comes to draining the old brake fluid from your vehicle, using the right tools is crucial. This ensures that the process is efficient and minimizes the risk of any spillage or damage. Here are the essential tools you’ll need:
  1. Drain Pan: Start by placing a drain pan underneath the brake fluid reservoir to catch the old fluid as it drains out. This will prevent any mess and make the process easier to manage.
  2. Wrench: You’ll need a wrench, preferably a line wrench or a flare nut wrench, to loosen the brake bleeder valve. This valve allows the old fluid to flow out of the system.
  3. Tubing: To direct the old fluid into the drain pan, attach a small section of tubing to the brake bleeder valve. Make sure the tubing is long enough to reach the pan and secure it tightly to avoid any leaks.

Proper Disposal of the Old Brake Fluid

Once you have successfully drained the old brake fluid, it’s essential to dispose of it properly. Brake fluid is considered hazardous waste and needs to be handled with care. Here’s how to dispose of it responsibly:
  1. Seal the Container: Transfer the old brake fluid from the drain pan into a sealable container, such as a sturdy plastic bottle or an old brake fluid container. Make sure the container is tightly sealed to prevent any leakage during transportation.
  2. Label the Container: Clearly label the container with “Used Brake Fluid” or a similar warning to avoid any accidental misuse. This will ensure that others are aware of its contents and handle it appropriately.
  3. Take It to a Local Hazardous Waste Facility: To properly dispose of the old brake fluid, contact your local government or waste management services to find the nearest hazardous waste facility. They will have specific guidelines and procedures for safely disposing of hazardous materials, including brake fluid.
By following these steps and being responsible with the tools and disposal process, you can effectively drain the old brake fluid from your vehicle without causing harm to yourself, the environment, or your vehicle’s braking system.

Step 4: Cleaning The Brake Fluid Reservoir

Step 4: Removing debris and contaminants from the reservoir

Cleaning the brake fluid reservoir is an essential step in maintaining the effectiveness of your braking system. Over time, debris and contaminants can accumulate in the reservoir, compromising the quality of your brake fluid and potentially leading to brake failure. By regularly cleaning the reservoir, you can ensure optimal brake performance and extend the lifespan of your braking system.

Before you begin, make sure you have the necessary tools and equipment, including a clean cloth or towel, brake cleaner solution, and a small brush or toothbrush. Take caution to avoid getting any brake fluid or cleaning agents on your skin, as they can cause irritation.

Step 4: Using cleaning agents to thoroughly clean the reservoir

To effectively clean the brake fluid reservoir, follow these steps:

  1. Remove the reservoir cap by carefully unscrewing it. Set it aside in a safe place to prevent any contamination.
  2. Inspect the inside of the reservoir for any visible debris, such as dirt or sediment. Use a clean cloth or towel to wipe away any loose particles.
  3. For stubborn debris or contaminants, dip a small brush or toothbrush into brake cleaner solution. Gently scrub the inside walls of the reservoir, focusing on areas where buildup is evident.
  4. After thoroughly scrubbing the reservoir, dispose of the brake cleaner solution responsibly, following local regulations. Avoid pouring it down the drain or directly onto the ground.
  5. Rinse the reservoir with clean water to remove any remaining cleaning agents. Ensure all traces of brake cleaner solution are completely gone.
  6. Wipe the reservoir dry with a clean cloth or towel.
  7. Lastly, reattach the reservoir cap by screwing it on securely.

By following these steps, you can effectively remove debris and contaminants from the brake fluid reservoir, ensuring the integrity of your braking system. Regular maintenance and cleaning of the reservoir will help to prevent potential issues down the road and promote safe driving.

Step 5: Refilling With New Brake Fluid

Once you have successfully drained out the old brake fluid and thoroughly cleaned the brake fluid reservoir, it is time to refill it with fresh brake fluid. This step is crucial for maintaining the overall performance and safety of your vehicle’s braking system. Follow these simple steps to safely refill the brake fluid reservoir with new brake fluid.

Choosing the correct type of brake fluid for your vehicle

Before refilling the brake fluid reservoir, it is important to choose the correct type of brake fluid for your specific vehicle. Not all brake fluids are created equal, and using the wrong type can lead to braking system malfunctions. Refer to your vehicle’s owner’s manual or consult a professional mechanic to determine the appropriate brake fluid specification. There are different types of brake fluids such as DOT 3, DOT 4, and DOT 5, each with its own unique properties and compatibility with different vehicle systems.

Steps to safely refill the brake fluid reservoir

Now that you have the appropriate brake fluid for your vehicle, it’s time to proceed with refilling the brake fluid reservoir. Follow these steps to ensure a safe and effective refill:

  1. Locate the brake fluid reservoir. It is usually a transparent plastic container near the brake master cylinder, typically marked with “MAX” and “MIN” indicators.
  2. Remove the cap of the brake fluid reservoir, taking care not to introduce any dirt or debris into the system.
  3. Carefully pour the new brake fluid into the reservoir, maintaining a steady hand to avoid spills or overflowing.
  4. Be cautious not to mix different types of brake fluid as this can lead to chemical reactions and compromise the effectiveness of the braking system.
  5. Fill the reservoir up to the “MAX” indicator, but do not overfill. If necessary, use a clean cloth to wipe away any excess brake fluid.
  6. Screw the cap back onto the reservoir, ensuring it is tight to prevent any leakage.
  7. Once the brake fluid reservoir is refilled, it is advisable to perform a brake bleeding procedure to remove any air bubbles from the system and ensure optimal braking performance.
  8. Inspect the reservoir periodically and top up as needed to maintain the recommended fluid level.

By following these steps, you can effectively refill the brake fluid reservoir with new brake fluid, promoting a safe and reliable braking system for your vehicle. Remember to exercise caution and precision throughout the process to avoid any mishaps or system damage. Regular brake fluid maintenance is essential for the longevity and performance of your vehicle’s braking system.

Final Checks And Testing

Once you have completed the process of cleaning your brake fluid, it is crucial to perform a series of final checks and testing to ensure the optimal functionality of your brake system. These last steps will help to guarantee your safety on the road and minimize the risk of brake failure. Below are the important final checks that you should follow:

1. Performing a visual inspection of the brake system

A visual inspection of your brake system is necessary to identify any visible issues that may affect its performance. Look for any signs of leaks, damage to the brake lines or hoses, worn brake pads or shoes, and loose or missing components. In case you notice any of these problems, it is important to address them before testing the brakes.

2. Testing the brakes for proper functionality

Testing the brakes after cleaning the brake fluid is the most important step of all. It ensures that your brakes are functioning correctly, providing the stopping power you need when you hit the brake pedal. To test the brakes, follow these simple steps:

  1. Start by driving the vehicle at a safe speed in an empty and open area.
  2. Gradually apply the brakes and pay attention to any unusual sensations such as squeaking, grinding, or vibrations. These can indicate problems with the brake system.
  3. Make sure the brakes are responsive and don’t require excessive force when applying pressure to the pedal.
  4. Perform several stops from different speeds to verify the consistent and reliable performance of the brakes.

Keep in mind that if you still experience any issues with your brakes after performing these tests, it is advisable to consult a professional mechanic for further inspection and necessary repairs.

By performing a visual inspection of your brake system and testing the brakes for proper functionality, you can ensure the safe operation of your vehicle on the road. It is always better to be proactive and address any potential brake problems before they escalate and compromise your safety.

How to Clean Brake Fluid: A Step-by-Step Guide


Frequently Asked Questions Of How To Clean Brake Fluid

Will Water Wash Away Brake Fluid?

Water will not wash away brake fluid. Brake fluid is not soluble in water, so using water to clean it will not be effective. It is best to use brake cleaner specifically designed for this purpose.

Does Rubbing Alcohol Clean Brake Fluid?

Rubbing alcohol is not effective in cleaning brake fluid. Brake fluid is a hydraulic fluid and requires specialized cleaning products to ensure proper maintenance.

What Dissolves Dried Brake Fluid?

Brake fluid can be dissolved with isopropyl alcohol or acetone.

How Often Should I Clean My Brake Fluid?

It is recommended to clean your brake fluid every two years or 24,000 miles. Regular maintenance ensures optimal brake performance and prevents brake fluid contamination, which can lead to brake failure. Consult your vehicle’s manual for specific guidelines.


Maintaining clean brake fluid is essential for the smooth and safe operation of your vehicle. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can effectively clean your brake fluid and ensure optimal braking performance. Remember to regularly check for any signs of contamination and replace the fluid as necessary.

Taking care of your brake system will not only prolong its lifespan but also contribute to your overall driving safety. Keep your brakes clean and your rides secure!

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