What Color Is Brake Fluid?

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Brake fluid, like every other auto fluid, comes with its unique color. Whether new or old, fresh or used, brake fluid has a color different from other fluids. Your automobile needs these fluids to reinforce the performance of the engine.

Essentially, the fluid lubricates the moving metal parts of the brakes while circulating through the brake lines. It helps to prevent corrosion and rust to these parts. Besides, the brake fluid is responsible for sending pressure to the wheel hub through the brake pedal.

This way, when you press down on the brake pedal, you’ll feel your car slow down or stop. Again, brake fluid helps to augment the pressure that your foot makes on your car’s brake lever.

What Color Is Brake Fluid?

What color is brake fluid? In simple terms, the color of brake fluid can either be light yellow, amber, purple, or clear blue, depending on the type. I should make this point clearer.

Healthy, brand new brake fluid should run the light yellow, amber, or purple tint. What it means is that only brake fluids with these colors are fit and good for your car braking system. However, the color of ageing, used, or old brake fluid is different, and I’ll discuss this later.

But suffice it to say that the fluid suitable to get into your car’s brake fluid reservoir for the first time should come clear, clean, and with a yellow spectrum.

Knowing this is essential. But more importantly, make sure no red or darker brown brake fluid stays in your car. Don’t forget, brake fluid functions the same way blood does in the human circulatory system.

Your car’s braking system can’t work the way it should without the fluid. And once it becomes contaminated, insufficient, or loses its original color, the fluid needs to be replaced. Its contamination also causes the brakes to fail.

The more frequently you step down on the brake pedal, the less effective the brake fluid will become. As a result, the color of the brake fluid will start to change and turn brown. As times go on, the initial brown will turn darker. Eventually, the brakes will become completely ineffective and unsuitable for use.

Brake Fluid: Guide To Identify Brake Fluid

The best indicator of what fluid is dripping from inside the car is the fluid color. The texture and location of the leak are the other two indicating options.

You can use these indicators to identify and remedy any low oil or fluid level quickly. You can check and easily determine the fluid that is leaking from inside your car. All you need to do is to check the underbelly of your car and look at the color of the fluid.

One of the easiest ways to identify brake fluid is its slick and oily nature. A film of brake fluid is slick, slippery, and smooth. When you check under your car hood and the fluid produces some slickness and oiliness, it’s the brake fluid.

Usually, if you’re changing the brake pads, brake rotors, or master cylinder, you’ll need to also replace brake fluid. There are four types of brake fluid suitable for different models of vehicles, DOT 5.1, DOT 5, DOT 4, and DOT 3.

Each of them has different colors. Regardless of the type, the natural color of these fluids will change to black or brown with time. This can be due to moisture, extreme heat, ageing, and worn rubber brake lines. Let’s examine the four types of brake fluid.

  • DOT 5.1
  • DOT 5
  • DOT 4
  • DOT 3
DOT 5.1 DOT 5 DOT 4 DOT 3
Color amber Purple Mineral clear + yellow Clear bluish
Compressibility Highly compressible Highly compressible Low compressibility Low compressibility
Moisture Absorption Great absorbent Doesn’t absorb Highly hygroscopic Absorbs atmospheric moisture
Wet And Dry Boiling Points 190°C and 270°C 180°C and 260°C 155°C and 230°C 205°C and 140°C
Vehicle Compatibility Fleet trucks, Towing vehicles, Racecars, and Delivery trucks weekend collector vehicles, military vehicles Made for vehicles for towing, and with high altitudes, high-speed braking, and ABS systems. Normal driving cars, domestic vehicles, and light trucks
Chemical Constituent Polyethylene glycol-based Silicone-based Polyethylene glycol-based Polyethylene glycol-based
Fluid Compatibility Compatible with DOT 3 & 4 Doesn’t work with DOT 3 & 4 compatible with DOT 5.1 and DOT 3 Works with DOT 5.1 and DOT 4

In addition, DOT 5 is more stable and features a higher viscosity index than other kinds of brake fluid. They produce an incredible braking feel when used under high temperatures. As a result, your foot will make a spongy feel against the pedal.

Auto Fluid Color: Different Shades And Hues

Light Yellow

Originally from the bottle, brake fluids are light yellow. They turn dark brown as they age. Apart from the yellow color, brake fluid also produces a smell similar to that of fish oil.

Light Brown And Dark Black

On the other hand, motor oil comes in light brown and also turns thick dark black with time. However, a light brown liquid with a smell reminiscent of a rotten egg is lube oil.


Power steering oil is reddish in hue. When you notice the fluid from under the frontal part of your car, it’s likely the power steering oil. The automatic transmission fluid can also show some reddish color. They are both hydraulic fluids. As either of the fluids ages, they tend to turn to plain old brown.

Orange Of Reddish-Brown

If the color of the fluid is either orange or reddish-brown, then it is likely to be transmission fluid. However, there are times when the orange color is a result of a mixture of rust with antifreeze inside the radiator.

When this mixture leaks away from its reservoir, it looks orange. But you can easily notice the difference by the thinness of the rust-antifreeze mixture.

Variety Of Colors

When you see different shades of green, yellow, blue, or red color in a leak, it is the coolant. Engine coolant comes in a wide range of colors.

Clear Fluid

Your automobile runs on two fluids that feature a clear color: water and gasoline. If water leaks from the hood of your car, you can easily touch it to have a feel. Taking a little sniff is another option. Although gasoline evaporates fast, you will need to also rely on your organ of smell and touch.


Is The New Brake Fluid Dark, Brown, Or Yellow?

As noted above, fresh brake fluid that you just poured into your car braking system reservoir comes with a clear yellow or amber tint. It can also come in a bit of golden tint.

However, as it ages, the color changes with time, leaving a darker brown or black spectrum to replace the original color. Some new brake fluid comes originally clear blue But the new brake fluid is neither dark nor red.

How Often Should I Change My Brake Fluid?

A useful rule of thumb is that you should change your car’s brake fluid every four years or 50,000 miles. However, make sure your mechanic checks your brakes each time you replace the brake oil. Getting the right and appropriate feedback on the condition of your car braking system is quite important.

The other thing is that if the brake fluid becomes dirty or contaminated, it can alter the proper operation and functioning of the brakes. The presence of moisture inside the brake fluids can result in the internal rusting of many of the brake parts, including the brake rotors, brake lines, master cylinder, and calipers.

Whenever you observe that the brake fluid is getting dark, or dark brown, or black, ask your mechanic to replace it.

Does Brake Fluid Turn Green?

Yes, brake fluid might turn green over time due to use. Once algae find its way into the brake fluid reservoir, the fluid will give off some green color. If you notice this green color, it’s time to act fast and immediately replace the fluid.

Green brake fluid implies that the braking system won’t work effectively. The longer you let the contaminated green fluid lingers in the car, the darker or more brownish it will turn. Consequently, the fluid and the brakes will become less effective.

Does Brake Fluid Smell?

Yes, brake fluid gives off a fish oil smell. The fishy smell is similar to what you sniff when you place your nostrils around fish oil or castor oil. Being able to identify the smell of brake fluid helps to quickly notice when it starts to drip from its reservoir.

Final Word

Knowing the color of healthy brake fluid is very crucial. What is more vital is to maintain good brake fluid and know when to replace the fluid when it gets contaminated. Yellow, amber, brown, dark brown, green, or red brake fluid has implications on the overall performance of your car braking system.

As a careful driver, make sure you study each of these brake fluid colors, what they stand for, and their effects on the car.

When next I ask, ‘what color is brake fluid?’ it shouldn’t take you more than a few seconds before you respond. When fresh and new, brake fluid is light yellow, amber, or brown; if contaminated, it gives off dark brown or green.

When it’s completely gone bad, the fluid will turn dark or darker brown. As a warning, if you notice that your brake fluid is leaking, you should discontinue driving.