Flushing your brake fluid is occasionally necessary to keep the brake hydraulics running smoothly.
After all, over time, the fluid collects grease, condenses, and leaves residue – which goes on to contaminate any new brake fluid you put in the system.
A good brake fluid flush cleans the system and replaces the old fluid with new.
That allows you to keep your brakes, the lines, and the system in as good of a condition as possible.
Most importantly, the average cost of flushing brake fluid is just $100. It’s a cheap way to maintain your car. It’s also mostly labor, because new brake fluid can cost as little as $6 a quart, which is usually all a brake system will take. The rest of the costs are paying your mechanic.
The table below shows a quick price comparison of brake fluid flush cost estimates from reputable suppliers:
|Supplier||Labor||Brake Fluid Cost (quart)|
How Much Does a Brake Fluid Flush Cost?*
A brake flush normally costs between $80 and $130. In some cases, you might pay more for it. For example, if you have a lengthy chemical flush done at the same time. Alternatively, if you use performance brake fluid (this is rare).
Otherwise, there are very few differences between what a brake flush costs other than the local cost of labor in your area.
The following include the average costs of flushing brake fluid in 10 popular vehicle models.
|Vehicle||Brake Fluid Flush Cost|
|Ford F Series||$76-$112|
|Dodge Ram 1500||$76-$187|
*Note: Prices are estimates and were correct at the time of writing (February 2022). Cost estimates may have changed since, our figures should be used as a starting point for your own research.
Brake Fluid Flush Price Factors
If you get your brakes flushed, there are only a few real price factors to consider. The first and most important is the cost of labor. Then, you have to consider whether you’re bleeding all four corners of the car.
Finally, you should consider the cost of the brake fluid and the cost of any chemical flush you might use. Otherwise, there are few differences between vehicles.
Cost of Labor
The cost of labor is the most influential cost of changing brake fluid. For example, if you look at the chart above, quotes include fluid and labor. The higher quotes are almost always dealer quotes.
These average $100-$189 depending on the dealer. Here, luxury car dealerships like BMW charge significantly more than a Honda dealership.
E.g., the quotes we received were $223 from a BWM dealership for changing the brake fluid on the X-5 and just $113 from a Honda dealership for changing fluid on an Accord.
In most cases, the cost of changing the brake fluid depends on factors like geographic location. For example, if you live in an area where mechanics are normally paid a lot, you’ll pay more for the brake fluid flush.
Here, normal mechanic rates range from $15 to well over $210 on a national scale. You’ll average at paying $60. In addition, brands like Valvoline, YourMechanic, and Firestone charge a flat rate for many changes like brake fluid updates.
Here, YourMechanic charges a flat rate of $94.99 for the labor and $17.99 for the brake fluid – no matter what it is your vehicle needs.
Four-Point Brake Bleed
Most vehicles have hydraulic brakes on all four wheels. That means four brake bleed nipples and a master cylinder, which must be pressurized and pumped empty.
A small number of vehicles only have 2. And, many older vehicles have caliper brakes on the front and drum brakes on the back. Both still use hydraulics, so you’ll still have to change the brake fluid.
However, they might contain different amounts of brake fluid.
If you don’t need a four-point brake flush you might opt to just have a problematic brake flushed. That can save time and money.
However, you’ll still likely pay a minimum rate for your mechanic. What that will be depends on your location.
Brake fluid is normally very cheap. Here, you can expect costs to average about $12 a quart. However, you can get cheap brake fluid for $2-$6 a quart from Walmart, Amazon, and sometimes your local mechanic. Most mechanics will charge you in the range of $20.
However, you can also get brake fluid that goes up to over $30 per quart. This is normally designed for specialty systems.
In addition, your brake fluid will have a DOT rating. This refers to the amount of heat your brake fluid absorbs and the amount of moisture the fluid absorbs.
Here, it’s always important to check your owner’s manual and to replace old brake fluid with that recommended in the manual. You should also never mix DOT ratings.
- DOT 3 – Absorbs less water and therefore needs to be changed less frequently, but not suitable for high heat engines
- DOT 4 – Has a higher dry and wet boiling point, making it safer for high temperature engines, but also requires changing more frequently
- DOT 5 – Silicone based brake fluid
- DOT 5.1 – 30% or less silicone –based brake fluid (normally cross-compatible with DOT 3 and 4)
In each case, it’s important to get the brake fluid recommended for your vehicle. However, DOT 3 is cheaper than DOT 4 and so on.
In some cases, you might choose to use a chemical flush when flushing your brake lines. Here, you’ll use either a bottled brake flush agent or a simple mix of alcohol.
This fluid is pumped through the brake lines at pressure to clean the lines. Then, it’s removed using the same method. Chemical flushes are normally cheap. If you buy a pre-bottled one, you can expect to pay about $4-$15 per quart.
However, this process is not usually recommended. In fact, if you do it improperly can result in rust buildup inside the ABS, calipers, and cylinders. That could cause more harm than good.
Therefore, if you choose to go for a chemical flush, it’s almost always a good idea to consult a mechanic first.
3 Signs You Need Brake Fluid
Noticing you need new brake fluid isn’t always straightforward. In fact, some drivers simply keep going until the brake fluid causes real damage to the rest of the system.
Here, you’ll want to pay attention to the brake pedal and braking performance. You’ll also want to pay attention to how long it’s been since your last flush.
1. Every 2 Years or 30,000 Miles
Most drivers can get away with changing their brake fluid about every 2 years. However, other vehicle manufacturers recommend changing your brake fluid every 30,000 miles.
This averages about to the same for most drivers. Therefore, you can normally put a reminder in your calendar to change your brake fluid every 2 years or so.
Why? Brake fluid does heat up, condense, and create residue. If you have DOT 4, it’s also more likely to absorb moisture through condensation in the system.
This can cause rust and contamination inside the system. Eventually, you’ll want to flush it out and replace it with new to keep your brake system in good condition. And, every 2 years is a very good mark to do so.
2. Poor Pedal Performance
If your brake pedal isn’t responding well or you have to mash the pedal to get the car to stop, it might not be the brakes. Instead, it might be that the brake fluid is low, that there are clogs, or that the viscosity of the fluid is too high.
That means it’s putting less pressure on the caliper or drums when you press the pedal. Of course, it might also mean your brake shoes are wearing out. So, it’s important to check both.
If it’s been a while since you changed brake fluid and you’re having pedal issues, the brake fluid is a very likely culprit. In most cases, your brake pedal should never make it all the way to the floor with the pressure where it should be.
In addition, you should never have to pump the brakes to get full braking power.
3. A Bad Smell
If your brake fluid smells or smells burnt, it’s probably time to change it. You won’t always get this. And you definitely won’t notice it inside most vehicles. But, if you go to check the fluid and it smells, just replace it.
Brake Fluid Flush: Step by Step
You can easily change brake fluid at home. However, you often need two people to do the job. In addition, you’ll need a hand pump to fully flush the system. If you can’t do a two-point brake bleed, consider taking your vehicle to a mechanic instead.
A mechanic will use a power flush system, which will do a much better job of getting all the old brake fluid out. If you’re using a small hand pump, you’ll never do a perfect job. However, it will be a lot better than nothing.
Things You’ll Need:
- 2 People – One to open the brake bleed nipples, one to pump pedals in the car
- A hand pumps
- A container to hold old brake fluid
- A wrench or socket set that fits your car
Make sure you park your car on a flat and level surface. Then turn off the vehicle. Find the master cylinder under the hood and wrap it in rags or paper towels.
- Use a hand pump or a turkey baster to suction the old brake fluid out of the master cylinder. You’ll never be able to get all of it out. Here, you should aim for about 80%.
- Refill the master cylinder to the indicator lines.
- Bleed the brakes.
- Most mechanics recommend starting with the rear left brake caliper and moving around to the front of the car. However, some vehicles have a recommended order. It’s always a good idea to start with the furthest caliper from the reservoir. Normally that’s rear-passenger, rear-driver, front-passenger, and then front-driver.
- Some vehicles require that you take off the wheels to access the caliper. In this case, jack the vehicle up and use jack stands to stabilize it.
- Use a ratchet to open the bleeder valve with a container underneath. Here, you want the person in the car to pump the brakes 4-5 times while you hold the valve open and close it just before the pedal hits the floor. When you see the fluid start to lighten, stop bleeding the system.
- Finish off by topping off the brake fluid to the max line. You’ll also want to replace the wheels and double check that you have put the cap back on the master cylinder properly.
You’ll always get a better brake bleed from a mechanic. That’s because they can use a pressure system to remove all the old brake fluid. You can’t do so at home.
However, it’s always up to you which you prefer. Mostly new brake fluid will still last you for years and is unlikely to damage the system.
If you’ve never changed brake fluid before, you probably still have questions.
Is a brake fluid flush really necessary?
Yes. Brake fluid is hydroscopic. That means when air comes into contact with the fluid, it absorbs water. It also absorbs water through condensation through the system.
In addition, some water vapor gets into the fluid through the vent. The vent is necessary to ensure the system doesn’t over-pressurize. However, over time, water vapor changes how brake fluid compresses and can cause corrosion in the system.
The rate at which it does this depends. For example, most manufacturers recommend changing every 2 years. However, you can also check the water in the fluid using a meter to see if it needs changing.
What happens if you don’t change brake fluid?
Brake fluid can become contaminated. It might also reduce the performance of your brakes.
And, worst-case scenario, it results in corrosion. This could eventually result in leaks or in having to replace the calipers, the drums, or the locks.
All of these are significantly more expensive than occasionally flushing your brake fluid.
Is brake fluid changed on a service?
Usually, no. However, you can always check with your mechanic to ask.
Some will include it. Plus, if you’re already having the wheels removed, you’re accounting for most of the work of flushing your system.
You can likely have flushing the brake fluid added onto a service for a small extra fee.
How long should brake fluid last?
Most manufacturers recommend changing your brake fluid every 2 years or about every 30,000 miles. However, there are different types of brake fluid. Check the recommendations on the back of the package.
In addition, you can always measure the water content in your brake fluid if you’re not sure.
PTE testers can cost as little as $10 or less, so they might be worth the investment if you want to avoid changing fluid unnecessarily.
Flushing your brake fluid is a quick and relatively affordable job. You can choose to do it yourself.
However, you’ll never be able to get all of the old fluid out. In addition, you need two people to bleed the brake calipers. If you don’t have someone to lend a hand, ask a mechanic.
Normally, a professional brake fluid flush won’t cost more than $100. However, it can cost up to twice that for some vehicles.