What Happens When You Run Out Of Brake Fluid?

What happens when you run out of brake fluid? Well, if you are driving along the road and find out that your brakes are not working, that’s a sign that you are out of brake fluid. And as you can imagine, it’s not a pleasant situation to be in.

It might not be the first time you will read that the braking system is the most critical car system and is responsible for human safety. But even after knowing this, we often forget to keep it in the best condition. 

The car’s braking system comprises many small yet essential components, and one such component is the brake fluid. Brake fluid converts the force exerted on brake pedals into braking pressure and helps to stop the vehicle. It also prevents corrosion and helps maintain the braking system’s overall health.

If brake fluid in your car empties by chance, the worst that can happen is that you will be unable to stop the vehicle. It can be a serious affair, and you might hurt yourself and damage the car. Hence, like the way you take care of the car’s exteriors, its engine, and other systems, don’t forget to check on the brake fluid from time to time.

Even if the brake fluid level is not low, you must change it every two years for a safe and carefree drive.


What Happens When You Run Out Of Brake Fluid


What Happens if You Run Out of Brake Fluid

Most likely, you won’t be able to drive your car in this situation. If the brake fluid empties in your vehicle, your drive will not be as smooth as you like. However, if you manage to do so, you can encounter these issues:

  • You will not be able to decelerate the vehicle: The brake fluid helps apply pressure on the brake calipers, which help to stop or decelerate the car. In the absence of the liquid, your vehicle might not come to a halt.
  • No resistance: in the absence of brake fluid, your car’s brake pedal will directly hit the floor when you apply force on the pedals to accelerate. Hence you will feel zero to no resistance if your vehicle runs out of brake fluid.

How can I stop my car under this circumstance?

When the brake fluid level depletes or completely vanishes, the hydraulic brake remains of no use. Your only chance of stopping the car will be by using the parking brake. Unlike hydraulic brakes, parking brakes apply brakes on the car’s rear. 

Hence, while you are applying parking brakes to stop the vehicle, do it slowly. If done without care, you might worsen the condition as the wheels might lock up, and then you will lose control of the car. 

Hence it is imperative you get the brake fluid checked from time to time without fail. It’s your duty to know the root cause of its depletion and get it corrected before the next drive.


You might like to read: What Happens If You Overfill Brake Fluid? 12 Reasons Not To Do It


What Happens When Brake Fluid Is Low?

When the brake fluid is low in a vehicle, it can lead to a braking system not working correctly. The brake fluid is responsible for applying pressure on the brake pads, which eventually leads to a vehicle stop. If there is no brake fluid to apply pressure, the braking system on a vehicle won’t work.

Lower brake fluid can also make your vehicle move too much while applying brakes. Brake fade is also a result of lower brake fluid or having water content in the brake fluid. A low brake fluid level also results in squeaking or loud screeching sounds whenever you apply brakes.


Also read: Does Harley Davidson use special brake fluid?


Why Is There Low Brake Fluid in My Car?

One of the most common reasons for low brake fluid levels in your car is the brake pads wearing off. It results in the extension of jaw pads, leading to a lowered level of brake fluid in the reservoir.

One of the main concerns with brake fluids is that it absorbs water, and that can result in a low brake fluid level. Another more serious reason for a low brake fluid level is due to leakage of some sort. 

Leaking of brake fluid can be due to worn-out parts or due to cracks in the walls of the reservoir. Brake fluid gets contaminated with time and needs replacement every two years as its boiling point decreases by almost 20 percent in two years.


What Happens When You Run Out Of Brake Fluid


What Are the Signs of Low Brake Fluid?

There are several symptoms of the lower eve of brake fluid in the car. Some of them are:

  • You can lose complete or partial control over the baking system. Either the brakes won’t work effectively or not work at all.
  • Every time you apply brakes, your vehicle will move or deviate due to low pressure.
  • The brake pad can also feel spongy and bouncy if there is insufficient brake fluid.
  • The ABS light can also turn on due to a lower brake fluid level.

What Can I Use Instead of Brake Fluid?

A lower level of brake fluid is dangerous, and sometimes you are in a situation where you need a substitute. A mixture of water and soap is the best substitute for brake fluid because of the similar consistency, and there is a high chance that you have some in your car.


You might like to read: Should I Open Brake Fluid Reservoir When Changing Brakes?


Frequently Asked Questions

#1. What happens if you drive without brake fluid?

If you drive without brake fluid, it can result in you losing partial or complete control over the brakes and you may not be able to lower your vehicle speed or bring it to a halt. It can be dangerous to drive without brake fluid.

#2. Will brakes still work without fluid?

If the brake fluid reservoir in a vehicle is empty, the brakes won’t work. The primary purpose of having a brake fluid is to push the brake pads against the rotors, eventually bringing the wheels to a halt. 

If there is no fluid, there will be no pressure on the wheels while applying brakes, and thus the vehicle won’t stop. So, no, the brakes won’t work without brake fluid.


What Happens When You Run Out Of Brake Fluid


#3. Can you just add brake fluid to your car?

No, you can not just add brake fluid to your car as there is a risk of overfilling the brake fluid reservoir. Before refilling brake fluid, check the brake fluid level indicator. If the indicator is above the minimum sign, then the level is fine, and you don’t need to add any extra fluid. 

But if the level drops below the minimum, you need to add brake fluid for brakes to work smoothly. While refilling brake fluid, make sure it remains between the minimum and maximum level and never above it.


You might like to read: Why Is My Brake Fluid Green?


A Few Final Words

Let’s once again reiterate that the brakes are the most important part of your car. If your braking fluid is absent, the car might lose control over the road and can crash anywhere. Hence, it is extremely important to keep your brake fluid level optimized and never let your car run out of brake fluid.

That said, we hope we have been able to answer all your questions about what would happen, hypothetically, if you were to run out of brake fluid. If you have more questions on the same please drop us a word in the comments and we will get back to you.


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Sean Mendez

Hi, I am Sean, a self-confessed petrolhead. I live in Boise, Idaho with a busy family of four and our energetic Labrador retriever. Thank you for visiting my website. You can find my email on the contact page.

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