Top 5 Brake Fluid Leak Symptoms

#1 – Brake Warning Light On

This will usually be the first sign a driver will notice that corresponds to a problem with your brakes since a warning light turning on in your instrument cluster is easily noticeable. It may not necessarily mean you’re leaking fluid, but as mentioned above, most brake problems are a direct result of low brake fluid so consider it an early indicator.

#2 – Puddle of Brake Fluid

If you notice a small puddle or drips of fluid near the wheels or on the wheels, it’s likely leaking brake fluid. If the brake master cylinder is leaking or the brake lines are, brake fluid will be underneath your car and a bit more difficult to determine whether it’s brake fluid, transmission fluid, or even motor oil.
Brake fluid is light yellow or even clear when new and gradually darkens as it ages. It has a very oily feel (even slicker than oil) and has a rancid smell almost like fish oil. The properties make it fairly easy to confirm that fluid on the ground is in fact brake fluid.
As a final confirmation, check to make sure your brake fluid reservoir is full. If not, you likely have a leak.

#3 –  Brake Pedal Feels Squishy

When you push down on the brake pedal to slow down or stop your car, it should feel firm with only a small amount of travel before your brakes are engaged. If instead, the brake pedal feels soft, mushy, spongy, or squishy, it’s likely the result of air getting trapped in your brake lines.

Normally, brake lines should be completely full of brake fluid (this is why we “bleed brakes”) to function properly. If there is not enough brake fluid in the system due to a leak, air will enter the brake lines and you could have serious consequences if you need to stop.

#4– Brake Pedal Goes Down to Floor

This often occurs alongside your brake pedal feeling soft or squishy. When you have a severe brake fluid leak or problem with the brake master cylinder, you will experience what some call “brake pedal sink”. This simply means there is not enough brake fluid in the lines for the brakes to function.
If you notice this happening before you start driving, do not attempt to drive the car as driving a car without functioning brakes is about at serious as it gets. If you experience this while driving, immediately forces your car to slow down by downshifting gears or even slowly applying the emergency brake and safely get off the road. Do not drive the car until the issue is fixed.

#5 – Poor Stopping Performance

While poor braking performance can be attributed to many issues including issues with brake pads, rotors, calipers, and more, it can also be because of your brake fluid leaking. Most people will notice one of the above symptoms first but if you feel like something just doesn’t seem right with the way your car brakes, check your brake fluid reservoir at the earliest opportunity. If the reservoir is not full, you likely have a leak somewhere.
No matter which symptom above your experience, you should not continue driving your vehicle until you get it checked out and fixed. Non-functioning brakes are one of the most serious car problems that can occur and are literally life-threatening.

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