What Color is Brake Fluid? The Full Brake Fluid Color Guide

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Last Updated on April 20, 2021 by John Patterson

What Color is Brake Fluid? The Full Brake Fluid Color Guide

As a driver or vehicle user, we should know the Brake Fluid color.

Brake fluid is used in the advanced hydraulic brake system of modern motor vehicles and bicycles. Without it, your vehicle wouldn’t come to a halt or slow down.

These fluids are tasked with operating the components of your braking system in a way to stop your vehicle right on its tracks. When you put pressure on the brake, the fluid is pushed toward the brakes, creating a force on the rotors attached to the wheels.

The pressure forced on the rotors, in turn, pressurizes the wheels. This causes the wheels to slow down or stop depending on the applied pressure. As you can see, brake fluid is quite vital, and it’s equally important to know the brake fluid colors.

And today, we are gonna answer many more brake fluid-related questions.

What Color is Brake Fluid Supposed to Be?

Just like anything in the world, brake fluid is no stranger to decaying. Depending on how it is used and how it’s maintained, it can go bad over time. You don’t want bad brake fluid in your system since having a working brake system is an absolute necessity.

Although differentiating between decent brake fluid and a crummy one might seem like a task more fit for professionals, it isn’t. Just about anyone can do it by paying attention to the color tones of brake fluids. That’s right, brake fluids can have various color tones, and each color represents the state of the brake fluid.

The color of brake fluid heavily depends on the type of brake fluid. Brake fluids come in three different types, each with its characteristics.

Dot 3 Brake Fluid Color:

DOT 3 Brake Fluid

A new bottle of DOT 3 brake fluid should have a clear bluish hue. DOT 3, however, lost most of its use over the years due to the introduction of more advanced fluids like the DOT 4 and DOT 5.

Colored dot 4 Brake Fluid:

DOT 4 Brake Fluid

It is currently the most popular brake fluid pick, which should look almost clear with a little bit of yellowness to it.

Dot 5 Brake Fluid Color:

DOT 5 Brake Fluid

The color of the DOT 5 brake fluid, on the other hand, should be clear purplish.

Over time, the color of brake fluid deteriorates, and its color gets darker. When the color reaches dark brown or black, that’s the time to let go of the fluids and bring new ones.

Instead of DOT 3 Or DOT 4, Can We Use DOT 5?

Before using any of the brake fluids, it is highly advised to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.

You might end up being a victim of vehicular damage if you decide to go against the instruction of your manufacturer. Before stepping into whether DOT 5 can be used instead of DOT 3 or DOT 4, we must understand their characteristics.

DOT 3 is the standard type glycol-based brake fluid, much like its counterpart DOT 4, which is dubbed more heavy-duty. And DOT 5 is silicone-based, unlike the other two.

Now, if your vehicle fashions Anti-lock brakes (ABL), you must stay away from DOT 5 because they are not compatible at all. DOT 4 is your usual safe pick as it is more favorable than the DOT 3 and goes well with the vehicle ABL system. However, DOT 5 does not absorb moisture because of its silicone base.

Therefore, it is free from getting polluted because of moisture over time like DOT 3 and DOT 4 do. One of the greatest advantages of DOT 5 is that it is free from toxicity, and it doesn’t damage vehicle paints. It also boils at a higher temperature.

Moreover, it doesn’t require to be changed as often as other fluids. It is more suitable for preserving antique automobiles. So, you are free to use DOT 5 as long as it doesn’t conflict with your manufacturer’s instructions or if you have antique brakes to hold onto. But be advised, it is way more expensive.

When Do You Need to Replace or Bleed the Brake Fluid?

Your brake fluid isn’t permanent. It deteriorates over time. As it worsens, its ability to pressurize the rotors also decreases. The braking system would gradually reach a point where it won’t work anymore unless you bleed out the old brake fluids away and replace them with brand new ones.

I wouldn’t advise waiting until your braking system completely stops working because the faulty system can also lead to accidents. You must keep an eye on the fluids, monitor them regularly to make sure you get the chance to change them before they cause trouble.

After setting up the break fluids for the first time, you are more or less safe for 4 to 5 years usually. The duration varies on how you are maintaining everything. From its bright clear color, the brake fluid will slowly keep going darker and darker. It’d appear dirty and rusty over time.

That’s the point where the contaminated fluid starts damaging your components instead of operating them.

Brake fluids usually get contaminated by exposure to dust, mud, and stuff that doesn’t mix well with the fluids. The rusty dark, the black color of brake fluid is your cue to bleed the old brake fluid and replace it with newer and better ones.

 What to Do if Your Brake Fluid Color is Dark?

What to Do if Your Brake Fluid Color is Dark

The dark color of your brake fluid is an indication of your fluid’s deterioration. The darker it is, the more contaminated and moisturizing it will be.

As mentioned above, brake fluid loses its clear color as it absorbs contaminated stuff over time and reaches a point where it cannot function anymore. Instead, it contributes to the damaging of your brake components.

You cannot expect your brakes to work properly in their darkest state. And you most obviously want your brakes to work. So, what to do now? It’s quite simple. All you have to do is find out which type of brake fluid is suitable for your vehicle. Once you find out, go out to the market and buy a new one.

Usually, DOT 4 is the safest one. Once you’ve got the new brake fluid, bleed out the old one, clean your braking system up, and pour the new one into it. This will restore your brakes to their old glory.

Thinking about taking your vehicle out for a ride even though you’ve noticed the fluids changing into pitch-black color?

If you are, don’t. Now, you might be too lazy to change the fluids thinking it’d be okay for this one time. I highly advise you to think again and keep thinking until you decide to change them to avoid fatal accidents.

Brake Fluid Color Chart

brake fluid color chart

Frequently Asked Questions

Here we have some of the most commonly asked queries regarding the colored brake fluid:

#1. Is break fluid color brown when it leaks?

Answer: Leaking brake fluid can be easily distinguished due to its unique color that it shares with no other fluids in the car. Leaking brake fluid would appear mineral clear with bits of yellowness to light brown. It usually looks a lot like vegetable oil.

#2. What color is DOT 3 brake fluid?

Answer: This brake fluid is the oldest one in the bunch. In its freshest condition, it should appear clear with a bluish hue of the sky or the ocean. It will go darker over time as it deteriorates.

#3. What color is DOT 4 brake fluid?

Answer: DOT 4 brake fluid should appear amber in color with clearness. It can resemble vegetable oil or American beer.

#4. What color is DOT 5 brake fluid?

Answer: DOT 5 brake fluid should also appear as clear as a mineral with a little bit of purpleness to it. The purple color comes from the dye used in the production of this brake fluid type.

#5. What color is silicone brake fluid?

Answer: Silicone brake fluid has a purple tint with the usual clearness in color.

#6. Can I change my own brake fluid?

Answer: Of course, you can change your own brake fluid. And why shouldn’t you since it saves up a lot of your money and strengthens your braking system? I have here a little guide just for you to easily follow to change your own brake fluid.

For this, however, you are going to be needing a couple of tools. Make sure to use a lint-free cloth, a blaster, and a bottle of freshly bought brake fluids. Make sure to buy the brake fluid that is advised for your vehicle by the manufacturer. Now, let’s follow these steps:

  1. First, grab your blaster and use it to “blast out” or wipe out the old contaminated brake fluid from the master cylinder reservoir.
  2. If and only if it is possible to reach into the reservoir, do so with the lint-free cloth and clean it out.
  3. Now that the cylinder is ready for new fluids, pour the new ones until the “full” line is reached.
  4. Once it is filled, close the cylinder to prevent moisturizing and contamination.

#7. Is a brake fluid leak dangerous?

Answer: Leaking brake fluid can be extremely dangerous, depending on the situation. Vehicles often have the fluids leaking out due to various causes. It is highly recommended to always keep an eye out for leaks.

Regular inspection is required to prevent brake fluid leaking to turn into something we all end up regretting. As we have already discussed before, as great as hydraulic brakes are, they are nothing without fluids. No fluid might as well mean no braking system in a vehicle. So, if brake fluid keeps leaking, it’ll cripple the brakes.

As a result, you’d find your brakes stop working altogether or malfunctioning. Now, imagine that happening on a highway road filled with speeding traffics. Not a good picture, is it?

#8. What color is power steering fluid?

Answer: Read the power steering fluid color guide to know the detail.

#9. What color is transmission fluid?

Answer: Read this automatic and manual transmission fluid color guide for detail.

#10. What color is bad brake fluid color?

Answer: Bad brake fluid color is very dark and looks almost similar to used motor oil. Anything from black to dark brown is a bad brake fluid color.

#11. Is brake fluid clear?

Answer: When your brake fluid is fresh, it looks clear to yellow. But it gradually changes black to dark brown.

In Conclusion

The importance of brake fluid is immense. Therefore, regular inspection is a must. Checking the color of brake fluids can tell a lot about the braking system’s functionality.

You’d know when to change your fluids by the color of each fluid. Also, you’d be able to figure out the types just by looking at the colors. It is an easy skill to obtain that is necessary for all vehicle users.

If you have any confusion/questions about what brake fluid colors, let us know by commenting here.

About the author

John Patterson

Hi there! My name is John Patterson. I’m a meticulous guy who loves to deal with the perfect tools for various needs. No matter if it’s a woodworking tool or gardening tool or anything else, I don’t compromise the quality and usability. Since 2010 I’ve been testing different tools for different DIY and professional tasks. Later in 2015, I decided to share my knowledge with the world. I started by answering people in the forums and several Q/A sites like Quora. Then I founded this blog to aid others like you with my knowledge and experience.