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

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Last Updated on December 29, 2022 by John Patterson

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

As a driver or vehicle users, 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 vital, and it’s equally important to know its colors.

And today, we are going to 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 a working brake system is absolutely necessary.

Although differentiating between decent brake fluid and a crummy one might seem like a task more fit for professionals, it isn’t. 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 yellowness.

Dot 5 Brake Fluid Color:

DOT 5 Brake Fluid

The color of the DOT 5 brake fluid, on the other hand, should be clear and 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 in new ones.

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

Before using any 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 your manufacturer’s instructions. 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 of 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 incompatible. 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, as DOT 3 and DOT 4 do. One of the most significant advantages of DOT 5 is that it is free from toxicity and 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 if 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 replaced them with brand new ones.

I wouldn’t advise waiting until your braking system stops working because a faulty system can also lead to accidents. You must keep an eye on the fluids and monitor them regularly to ensure 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, 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 indicates 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 damage to your brake components.

You cannot expect your brakes to work correctly in their darkest state. And you most obviously want your brakes to work. So, what to do now? It’s pretty simple. All you have to do is find out which brake fluid suits your vehicle. Once you find out, go 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 advise you to think again and keep thinking until you 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 colored brake fluid:

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

Answer: Leaking brake fluid can be easily distinguished due to its unique color 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. It should appear transparent with a bluish sky or ocean hue in its freshest condition. 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 bit of purpleness. The purple color comes from the dye used to produce 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 brake fluid. And why shouldn’t you, since it saves much money and strengthens your braking system? I have a little guide for you to change your brake fluid easily.

For this, however, you will need 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 purchase the brake fluid that is advised for your vehicle by the manufacturer. Now, let’s follow these steps:

  1. First, grab your blaster to “blast out” or remove 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 hazardous, depending on the situation. Vehicles often have 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 from turning into something we all regret. 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 the 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 like 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 from 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 could figure out the types 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 are, 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.