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5 Symptoms of a Brake Fluid Leak (and Repair Cost)

There is no doubt that there are few components more critical to your vehicle than brakes. That’s why you may be surprised to learn that you can’t always rely on your vehicle to tell you if there is a problem with the brake system.

This is especially true if your brake system is leaking. Even worse, the scary thing about leaks is that a small leak can turn into a full-blown explosion with the push of a pedal.

But how do you know if your brake system is leaking and how do you fix the problem? We’ll break down everything you need to know here.

5 symptoms of brake fluid leak

The most common symptom of a brake fluid leak is a soft or leaky brake pedal. If you notice this, it is very important that you fix it immediately!

The main symptoms of a brake fluid leak include:

  • Spongy brake pedal
  • No pressure on the brake pedal
  • Poor braking performance
  • Visible liquid leak
  • Brake light

Although these are the most common signs, they are not all! Below is a more detailed list of the most common symptoms of a brake fluid leak:

Spongy brake pedal

Brake pedal

Any time there is air in the system, you will have a spongy feeling brake pedal. When you have a brake fluid leak, you not only lose brake fluid every time you hit the brakes, but you also suck in air every time you release the pedal.

If you hit the brakes and it doesn’t feel right, don’t ignore it and hope it goes away. Determine what is happening and make any necessary repairs immediately.

No pressure on the brake pedal

Push the brake pedal

When you step on the brake pedal, you should feel something: if it hits the ground directly, you have a problem. While several conditions can cause this, if it ran fine the last time you got into your vehicle, you likely have a massive brake fluid leak.

Whatever you do, do not drive your vehicle. If you don’t feel any pressure when you step on the brake pedal, you currently have no brakes, which means you won’t be able to stop while driving.

Poor braking performance

Longer braking distance

This might be the first thing you notice if you have a brake fluid leak. When you hit the brakes, you expect to stop after a certain distance. But when your brake system leaks, you don’t get maximum braking pressure; some of that pressure escapes through the leak.

Additionally, air and moisture enter the system, which also negatively affects braking performance. Add it all up and you have a dangerous condition where your vehicle cannot stop as expected.

Visible liquid leak

car fluid leak

If your vehicle is leaking, that means the fluid is going somewhere, right? If you have a brake fluid leak, you have a visible leak somewhere. The problem of brake fluid leaks is incredibly difficult to find. The fluid itself is mostly clear, and there isn’t much brake fluid in the system to begin with.

It’s not like the oil or coolant leaks you’ll likely notice just by looking under your vehicle. Typically you should look for brake fluid leaks, but if you find one, you have a big problem that needs to be addressed immediately.

Brake light

Brake light

While you can expect the brake light to come on at any time, you have a brake fluid leak and the sad truth is that it doesn’t always work that way.

The brake warning light comes on when the level in the brake fluid reservoir is too low. Remember, not all car models have this feature, and if you have a large leak, you will have problems before the fluid drops.

But even small brake fluid leaks mean big trouble, so you can’t rely on your brake light alone to keep you safe.

How to diagnose a brake fluid leak

Brake fluid reservoir

The best way to diagnose a brake fluid leak is to perform a visual inspection. You should start with the tank before inspecting the remaining components.

Even though the brake fluid system is sealed, that doesn’t mean that every time you see the fluid level in the reservoir drop, you have a problem. This is because as the brake caliper pistons expand, the overall brake fluid level also drops.

But this drop should be gradual, and you should always have brake fluid there. For this reason, checking the brake fluid level is one of the best ways to make sure your vehicle doesn’t leak. If you know how fast the brake fluid should drop, you’ll have a better idea of ​​what an abnormal drop looks like.

From there, the best thing you can do is perform a visual inspection of all brake components. That means everything from the master cylinder to the calipers on each wheel. You may have to lift your vehicle to trace all the brake lines, but it’s worth it.

If you have a brake leak, you will see it. Just be sure to check that your vehicle is dry and pump the brakes a few times before you start.

Drain brake fluid

Repair costs to fix a brake fluid leak

The average cost to repair a brake fluid leak ranges from $150 to $1,000. Although this is a wide range, it is because there is a wide range of causes for a brake fluid leak.

For example, the cost of replacing a brake line ranges between $150 and $200, while the cost of replacing a brake booster can cost you between $600 and $800.

To further complicate the problem, there is no one cause that is significantly more common than the others. If you dive into an area with a lot of road salt or near the coast with a lot of salt in the air, you may experience rusty brake lines more often, but other riders may find they need to replace the master cylinder more frequently. frequently.

Finally, because some jobs are easier to complete than others, you may or may not be able to exclude labor costs. For example, if you need to replace a brake line and can’t find the OEM replacement, the repair shop may have to do it. You probably don’t have the tools for this, even if you have the necessary experience.


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