What Color Is Brake Fluid and Why Does It Matter? 

Did you know that brake fluid is really important for your car’s brakes to work properly? And get this – its color can actually give you a clue about the condition of the whole system! If you want to learn all about brake fluid colors and what they tell you about your vehicle’s brakes, then keep reading!

Fresh Brake Fluid

When it comes to fresh brake fluid, it usually appears almost clear with a yellowish tint. It may also have a slight yellow coloring. It’s essential to check this when inspecting or filling up brake fluid levels. New brake fluid should be golden or light amber, and any deviation from this color could be a sign of impurities or contaminants.

Used Brake Fluid

As brake fluid ages, it can become darker, indicating a need for replacement. Dark brown or almost black brake fluid is an adverse sign that your braking system needs immediate attention to function correctly. Old fluid can cause buildup in the system, leading to performance issues, and even failures in the worst-case scenario.

Different Types Of Brake Fluid

Different types of brake fluids come in different colors, so it’s essential to know which one your car requires. DOT 3 (Department of Transportation) fluid usually appears as a faint yellow, blue, red, or green shade. DOT 4 is predominantly clear but could have a tinge of yellow or deep red color. DOT 5 fluid often comes in a purple or pink color. Note that DOT 5 is silicone-based and not compatible with the other types of brake fluid. Therefore, it’s crucial to verify which type of brake fluid your car requires to ensure it functions correctly.

What Causes Brake Fluid To Change Color Over Time

Brake fluid is crucial for your vehicle’s braking system, ensuring your safety while driving. Its changing color over time can affect your brakes, here are the reasons and implications.

1. Contamination

One of the main culprits behind discolored brake fluid is contamination. Dirt and debris can accumulate in your vehicle’s braking system over time, causing your once clear and amber-colored brake fluid to turn murky and darker. This decrease in effectiveness can cause damage to key components that rely on the lubrication and protection provided by the brake fluid.

2. Moisture

Another thing that can cause brake fluid to change color is moisture absorption. Since brake fluid is hygroscopic, it can absorb water from the air leading to cloudier fluid that has changed color. Too much water content may also bring down the boiling point of the brake fluid leading to hazards such as brake fade or boiling of the fluid.

3. Normal Aging

Just like anything else, normal aging is a natural cause of discoloration in brake fluid. As contaminants gather up in the fluid over time, it gets darkened, reducing its effectiveness which directly affects critical components responsible for braking performance.

4. Heat

When your caliper or other braking components come into contact with your brake fluid continually, they heat up the fluids causing it to change color too.

How Often Should Brake Fluid Be Replaced

Routine brake fluid flushes are typically recommended every two years or 30,000 miles. However, keep in mind that this is just an average and can vary depending on several factors, particularly your driving patterns. A vehicle that endures frequent use could require more frequent flushes.

Other factors can also affect the need for brake fluid replacement. It’s important to note that brake fluid is hygroscopic, meaning it attracts water molecules over time, as it ages. This moisture can lead to corrosion and cause damage to your car’s brake system.

If you live in a humid area or frequently drive in steep mountainous terrain where you have to use your brakes frequently, moisture contamination could be more significant, resulting in the need for more frequent brake fluid changes.

Here are a few warning signs that will indicate when your brake fluid needs to be changed:

  • Low brake fluid level
  • Increased stopping distance
  • Spongy or soft brake pedal
  • 4. Warning lights on the dashboard

How To Check Brake Fluid For Contamination And Moisture

Contaminated or moisture-filled brake fluid can cause brake failure, which can be dangerous for you and other drivers on the road. 

Here’s a breakdown of how to check brake fluid for contamination and moisture:

Step 1: Locate your brake master cylinder and remove the cover.

The first step is to find your vehicle’s brake master cylinder, which should be located under your hood. Once you’ve found it, remove the cover by unscrewing or pulling it off.

Step 2: Dip a test strip or white paper into the brake fluid.

Next, take either a brake test strip or a piece of white paper and dip it into the brake fluid. Make sure you do this slowly so that the fluid doesn’t splash out. Allow it to sit in the fluid for a few seconds.

Step 3: Compare the results.

Compare your test strip or paper color against the chart included inside your brake test strip package. The color change on the strip will indicate whether there are contaminants present in the brake fluid. This chart offers different colors based on different levels of contamination and moisture in the fluid. 

Step 4: Check for murkiness.

Another way to tell if your brake fluid is contaminated is by checking its color. Brake fluid that isn’t contaminated should be clear or light yellow in color. If it appears dark, murky, or cloudy, this could mean contaminants like dirt or debris have gotten into it, and you’ll need to flush out the old fluid and replace it with new.

Step 5: Look at moisture content.

Excess moisture in your brake fluid can lead to corrosion within your braking system causing unsafe wearing of brakes while driving. The maximum allowable moisture content is typically 3%, with any more than that, making it unsafe for you as a driver. Use a multimeter to measure the brake fluid for the presence of moisture. The reading will help you to determine whether the fluid is safe for driving or requires replacement.

What Are The Consequences Of Using Old Or Contaminated Brake Fluid

The use of old or contaminated brake fluid can lead to several negative consequences that can affect the safety and performance of your vehicle.

Here are the potential consequences of using old or contaminated brake fluid:

1. Reduced Effectiveness

One of the significant effects of old or contaminated brake fluid is reduced effectiveness. As the brake fluid ages, it loses its ability to perform its function effectively. In addition, brake fluids can absorb moisture over time, which can cause corrosion in the hydraulics system. These issues ultimately result in reduced braking power, which could cause accidents in emergency situations.

2. Soft or Spongy Brakes

Low brake fluid levels can cause air to move into gaps in the brake line, leading to soft or spongy brakes. The brakes may feel less responsive, and this could be dangerous if not addressed immediately. This issue typically requires a mechanic’s attention and cannot be fixed by simply adding more brake fluid.

3. Corrosion

Using contaminated brake fluid could cause corrosion in the braking system over time due to pollutants and impurities. As rust corrodes brake parts and surfaces, it leads to uneven wear on essential components like brake pads and rotors. Eventually, this could lead to grinding or even squealing noises when using the brakes.

4. Reduced Lubrication

In addition to hydraulic function, brake fluid lubricates the moving metal parts of your vehicle’s braking system. Over time, old or contaminated brake fluid means less effective lubrication that could lead to rotor issues or other mechanical problems within the braking system.

5. Brake Failure

If left ignored without immediate maintenance, using old or contaminated brake fluids could eventually cause serious issues such as a complete failure of your brakes – which is dangerous and life-threatening.


1. Is brake fluid red or clear?

Brake fluid is available in either red or clear form, with its color having no impact on its functionality. Nevertheless, certain automakers adopt varying brake fluid colors to signify the kind of brake fluid utilized in their cars. Specifically, red brake fluid may be used by some manufacturers for disc brakes while clear brake fluid may be utilized for drum brakes.


In conclusion, brake fluid is a vital component of your vehicle’s braking system that needs attention. The color of your brake fluid can give you insights into its condition and the general health of your braking system. Fresh brake fluid should have a golden or light amber color, while any deviation could indicate impurities or contaminants.

Used brake fluid usually darkens over time, and brake fluids come in different colors, such as yellow, blue, pink, green. Knowing which type your car requires is essential to ensure optimal performance. Brake fluid changes color due to contamination, moisture absorption, normal aging, and heat. Regular inspection of your brake fluid will help keep you safe on the road.


What Color is Brake Fluid When It’s New?

Brake Fluid Color Guide

How Often To Change Brake Fluid

How to Check Brake Fluid

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