Does Brake Fluid Go Bad?

brake fluid maintenance

Brake fluid is one of the maintenance items that drivers often miss, but this can lead to reduced performance and extra wear on your brakes. While it may not be on your regular car maintenance checklist, it’s crucial for your safety on the road. 

At Big Chief Tire, we’re here to answer the question: does brake fluid go bad? The answer is yes, and here’s what you need to know about why it happens and when you need to replace it:

Does Brake Fluid Go Bad?

Yes, your brake fluid can go bad. Your vehicle’s brake fluid is hygroscopic, which absorbs moisture from the air over time, similar to a sponge. This moisture can lower what is known as your brake fluid’s boiling point, a parameter tested to determine the quality of the liquid.

A lowered boiling point can lead to various issues with your car’s braking system. Moisture buildup can cause vapor lock, where your brakes do not work effectively due to vapor pockets in the brake lines. It can also cause corrosion, links, and, ultimately brake failure.

Consequences of Bad Brake Fluid

Ignoring your car’s brake fluid and failing to replace it regularly can lead to serious problems. You might notice reduced braking power, longer stopping distances, or the feeling of a “mushy” brake pedal. 

Moisture can damage brake components, leading to expensive repairs and safety risks. Additionally, failure to replace your brake fluid regularly can lead to reduced vehicle performance and extra wear and tear on your brakes. 

Since brake fluid is often an overlooked maintenance item, it’s essential for most makes and models to have it replaced once every 50,000 miles, or when a brake fluid test strip indicates high moisture content.

How to Tell If Your Brake Fluid Is Bad

Keeping an eye out for certain signs can help you determine the condition of your brake fluid and when it’s time for a replacement:


Fresh brake fluid is typically clear or slightly yellow. If your brake fluid appears dark or murky, it may be contaminated and need replacement.

Soft Brake Pedal

A soft or spongy-like brake pedal could indicate air or moisture in your brake lines, compromising braking performance. Have your brake fluid replaced as soon as possible to prevent damage.

Brake Warning Light

If your vehicle’s brake warning light appears on your dashboard, it’s important to have your brake system inspected quickly.

Strange Smells

In some cases, high moisture levels in your brake fluid can cause one of your vehicle’s brake calipers to lock. This causes your brake pads to engage even when you aren’t pressing the pedal, leading to overheating and potentially burning. This corrosion may result in a burning smell when braking.

Big Chief Tire Shop in Jacksonville, FL

At Big Chief Tire, our team is committed to prioritizing your safety on the road and ensuring the optimal performance of your vehicle. Don’t compromise on safety – stop by one of our five tire shops in Jacksonville, FL, today to schedule comprehensive brake check services and keep your vehicle running smoothly!

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