The brakes of your car are one of the most important parts you should never neglect. Any slight problem with the brakes means you cannot stop in good time and it could also lead to accidents.
In case you were wondering if you can drive your car without brake fluid, make sure that you do not do that. It is not safe to drive without brake fluid considering how it is important to have the fluid for the best braking.
The brakes of your car work based on the hydraulic principle, which means without the fluid, it becomes hard for the brakes to work. Low or no brake fluid means there will be not enough compression that would make the brake pads hold against the rotating brake rotor.
Here is a video of how the braking system works
Dangers of Driving with No or Low Brake Fluid
Driving with low brake fluid is not ideal. As you can already imagine, it will be quite dangerous and risky for your family and the other road users.
As much as having no brake fluid would not mean the brakes won’t work, but they will be less effective. The worst part is when they jam and won’t work at all.
Whenever you have low brake fluid, it is a sign you have a leaky or faulty brake system. Before it gets to a point there is no brake fluid, you should get a brake warning light on the dashboard. Make sure that you get it addressed as soon as possible when this light shows.
Driving without the brake fluid definitely leads to brake failure and soon after accidents. You might still find it is possible to brake at low speeds, but high speeds would not work great.
If this happens in an older car with no safety features, then you might end up dead for something you could have repaired to be safe.
Also, systems such as cruise control and anti-collision rely on the brake fluid for proper braking. If the fluid is low or non-existent, then such systems would not work until you fix the errors.
Causes of Low Brake Fluid
Understanding what causes the low or no brake fluid situation can help in remedying it. Here are reasons why you have no brake fluid.
- The brake cylinder reservoir may be damaged. This is where the brake fluid is stored, so if it is damaged, you find that the fluid leaks out of the braking system. In such a case, it is best to get a new reservoir.
- There is a leak in the main brake lines or hose. As much as the brake lines are made of metal, they can get loose or generally worn after some time. When this happens, you can lose a lot of brake fluid as leaks. Rusting can also be a big deal for brake lines.
- Piston seal failure could also be another reason for the leaks. The brake calipers have tiny pistons with seals around them. In case the seals are broken, you would end up with fluid leaks. This potentially makes the brake calipers remain stuck, which of course leads to more wear and tear on the brake pads.
- A bleeder valve is key in ensuring the brakes work properly and there are air gaps. However, the valve can get worn over time, and thus fluid leaks. The last thing someone needs is to lose all the brake fluid, so make sure you have them replaced.
There might be other reasons why the brake fluid is low, but these would be the main ones. So, make sure to check the mentioned areas above and address any leaks to have a good working braking system.
Signs Brake Fluid is Low
Sometimes you do not need to wait for too long to notice that the braking system has a problem. You should learn more about the signs of low brake fluid so that you can act on it fast. Here are a few signs to consider.
- There is a brake warning light on the dashboard
You may want to focus more on the meanings of different lights on the dashboard. Many cars will have brake sensors that help communicate if there is a problem with the brake system.
In case you see the warning light, ensure you have the brake system checked. You can check the fluid levels yourself, but at times a good mechanic can help do a proper overhaul of the brake system.
- Low, dirty, or discolored fluid
Visually inspect the level of your brake fluid. You may find that the brake fluid is below the recommended level. For such a case, you are supposed to top up and monitor. If the level drops rapidly, then you have a leak that needs plugging.
Also, what is the color of the brake fluid? Does it have dirt suspended in it?
If the brake fluid has a darker color with dirt visibly in it, then it means there is a leak somewhere that is allowing more dirt to get into the system.
- The brake feels mushy or it is harder to stop than usual
Have you ever tried braking, but it feels spongy? Like there is no brake there? Well, that would be because you have a low fluid level in the car. This would largely happen because there is a build-up of moisture in your braking system.
Having an air gap in the braking system is the worst as the brakes can fail to work at any time and that is not good. You may notice that you have to pump the brakes several times before they work.
- Recent brake replacement
Sometimes how the brake replacement is done can affect how well it works. In case the hydraulic fluid ended up with air in it, then it could have an air gap or there is contamination too. This could lead to brake failure.
It is best to have the brake repair done by a professional so that you do not end up with a faulty brake system.
Here are more signs you have low brake fluid
Which is the best brake fluid to use?
Using the Dot 3 or Dot 4 high-quality brake fluid should work for most cars. Some might need Dot 5 oil, so make sure you check with your car manual to be sure.
Can you check the brake fluid level on your own?
Yes. It is a simple process you can do even at home. First, locate the reservoir for your brake fluid and check the level. If the fluid is below the recommended level, top it off to keep the brakes working properly.
Can you drive with low brake fluid?
Yes, but it is not recommended. You are putting yourself at risk and other road users too when using such a car. Have it repaired first before using it on the road again.