How to choose the right brake fluid for your car and pickup
Hey there! I’m Matt and today we’re talking about the best brake fluids and how to choose a product that will keep you and your family safe on the road. The brake fluid is probably one of the most neglected fluids in your vehicle. When was the last time that you checked the level of the brake fluid reservoir? Probably not as often as the engine oil or the engine coolant, right?
In this article we’re gonna help you choose the right product to put in your vehicle to help your vehicle have the stopping power it needs to avoid accidents and keep you safe.
Best Brake Fluids Overview
|ATE Original TYP 200 Racing Quality DOT 4 Brake...
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|Prestone AS401 DOT 3 Synthetic Brake Fluid - 32...
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|MAG 1 120 Premium DOT 3 Brake Fluid - 32 oz
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|Motul Brake fluid, DOT 5.1 (N-S) - 500ml
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|Motul MTL100949 8068HL RBF 600 Factory Line Dot-4...
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Best Brake Fluids with Reviews
- ATE 706202 Original – Best DOT 4 Brake Fluid
- Prestone AS401 – Best Budget-Friendly Brake Fluid
- MAG1 120 Premium DOT 3
- Motul Brake Fluid DOT 5.1
- Motul RBF 600 – Best Racing and High Speed Brake Oil
- Hopkins 60100VA
1. ATE 706202 Original
The ATE TYP 200 Brake Fluid meets SAE J1703 and FMVSS 116-DOT4 standards. This brake fluid has a dry boiling point of 536 degrees Fahrenheit (280 degrees Celsius) and a minimum wet boiling point of 374 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius).
This brake fluid contains a careful blend of select additives to provide excellent resistance to corrosion. It has a high safety tolerance against bubbles in the braking system which is excellent if you’re planning to bring your car to a racetrack.
The relatively high wet boiling point also means that the ATE TYP 200 DOT 4 brake fluid will still provide excellent braking performance even if the fluid ages or after racing your car on the track. If you have a European car that demands the highest quality DOT 4 brake fluid, this is one of the best brake fluid that you can buy.
- Excellent wet and dry boiling points
- Good maintenance intervals (up to 3 years for normal road use)
- Not the blue stuff that enthusiasts want
- The metal container dents or punctures easily
- It’s a bit pricey
2. Prestone AS401
The Prestone Dot 3 brake fluid is excellent for drums, discs, and ABS-equipped braking systems. It delivers powerful braking without the spongy brake pedal feel. This brake fluid provides an added margin of boiling point protection, although it has a lower dry and wet boiling point compared to the ATE TYP 200.
Still, the dry boiling point of 460 degrees Fahrenheit (238 degrees Celsius) and wet boiling point of 284 degrees Fahrenheit (120 degrees Celsius) exceeds the minimum government standards and is excellent for most vehicles that demand a DOT 3 brake fluid.
- Good pedal feel
- Excellent braking performance
- Great price
- Minor issues with the packaging (seal breaks easily even when bought brand new)
3. MAG1 120 Premium DOT 3 Brake Fluid
The MAG1 Premium DOT 3 brake fluid meets or exceeds FMVSS 116 and SAE J1703 specifications for safety. It is still one of the most trusted DOT 3 brake fluids in the market. It has a dry boiling point of 494 degrees Fahrenheit (256 degrees Celsius) and a wet boiling point of 292 Degrees Fahrenheit (145 degrees Celsius) which makes it slightly better than the Prestone DOT 3 brake fluid in terms of high-temperature performance and longevity.
However, the MAG1 Premium DOT 3 brake fluid is a bit more expensive compared to the Prestone DOT 3, but not by much. I guess it’s a small price to pay for the added performance benefits.
- Excellent dry and wet boiling points for everyday use
- Good brake pedal feel
- The cap and the seal breaks easily (not exactly good for storage)
4. Motul Brake Fluid DOT 5.1
Motul is a renowned name in the aftermarket industry. This Motul DOT 5.1 brake fluid is polyglycol-based and is compatible to use with DOT 3 or DOT 4 braking systems. It is NOT compatible with DOT 5 fluids which are silicone based and do not handle water/moisture very well.
Since this brake fluid is DOT 5.1, the superior glycol formulation has a dry boiling point of 518 degrees Fahrenheit (270 degrees Celsius) and a wet boiling point of 365 degrees Fahrenheit (185 degrees Celsius). This is an ideal upgrade for most cars, trucks, and SUVs.
If you drive a high-performance street car or heavy 4×4, then you can trust the Motul DOT 5.1 brake fluid to deliver great pedal feel and consistent braking even under heavy loads and extremely high temperatures.
- Superior dry and wet boiling points
- Great pedal feel even during hard braking
- Excellent for bicycles and motorcycles
- Glycol based fluid quickly absorbs water and is backwards compatible with DOT 3 and 4
- Higher cost compared to DOT 3 or DOT 4 brake fluids
5. Motul RBF 600
I’ll be honest with you… at ScannerAnswers we love the Motul RBF 600 and believe that it’s the best brake fluid for everything from minivans to Dodge Vipers. It’s a little more expensive than some of the other fluids we’ve mentioned, but can you put a price on peace of mind? When you hit that brake pedal, you want to be able to slow down or stop, and quick!
This Motul RBF 600 DOT 4 brake fluid offers extreme thermal resistance and stability and exceeds DOT 3 or DOT 5.1 specifications. It has an extremely high boiling point that provides effective stopping power even in the most demanding driving conditions.
If you like cruising in the triple digit speeds in your Z06 and want to be able to stop quick, this is the fluid you better be armed with!
Motul RBF 600 has a dry boiling point of 594 degrees Fahrenheit (230 degrees Celsius) and a wet boiling point of 401 degrees Fahrenheit (205 degrees Celsius). This makes it perfect for race cars or high-performance applications.
- Very high wet and dry boiling points
- Superior stopping power
- Great for racing or heavy duty applications
- It’s more expensive than DOT 5.1 brake fluids
What Brake Fluid Should I Purchase For My Car?
When you think about it, the brake fluid in the reservoir (and the entire braking system itself) is the most important and critical component in any modern vehicle. When the brake fluid boils, this will cause catastrophic brake system failure. When this happens, you better pray to the high heavens that you’re not traveling at 120 mph because your vehicle will be unable to stop in time. In fact, you don’t need to be driving at ridiculous speeds in order to realize the importance of a well-maintained braking system.
It is easy to add power and torque to the motor. Simply bolt on a couple of aftermarket performance parts and you’re ready to tear up the highway. But if you are planning to reach ludicrous speed, you should carefully pay attention to your braking system. All that power, torque, and crazy exhaust sound will mean nothing if your brakes are not up to the task.
…you can NEVER have TOO MUCH braking power.
This is oh so true, trust me.
Hence the reason why I decided to come up with a review of the best brake fluids in the market today. Pouring a fresh batch of brake fluid into the reservoir will not only ensure superior stopping and braking power, it will also result in a safer and more pleasurable driving experience, guaranteed.
But first, allow me to discuss a couple of important things about brake fluids and the braking system in your vehicle.
The Important Role of Brake Fluid
So you’ve gotten your car tuned up with a WiFi OBD2 scan tool, picked up a long range radar detector and stepped up to some HID headlight kits but if you can’t scrub your speed, then you put your safety at risk. That’s where brakes become the million dollar car part.
The brakes on a modern vehicle are governed under the principle of hydraulics. Without getting too technical and scientific on the details, brake fluid is utilized by the braking system to transfer the braking action from the brake pedal to the master cylinder and towards the brake caliper. Brake fluid will also protect the parts of the braking system from rust and corrosion.
The hydraulic braking system will basically allow fluid pressure to be transferred from the pedal to the brake caliper to stop the car. This simple action will push the brake pads against the brake disc rotor to stop or decelerate your vehicle.
This sounds simple enough, right? Well, when you think about the basic properties of braking, then yes, it is simple enough to understand. But when a car is traveling at speed, at extremely high temperatures, or on demanding terrain, then things become complicated.
The enemy of most vehicle components is excess heat. Mechanical motion creates heat, and the same goes true for the braking system. Huge amounts of heat are created every time you press hard on the brake pedal. The longer you drive, the more heat is created.
Since brake fluid is essentially liquid, it has a tendency to absorb heat and eventually boil. You know what will happen when the brake fluid boils up: you will lose all braking power, which is not good at all. The brake fluid must have the ability to withstand extreme rises in temperature without degradation.
This is the reason why you should use the best brake fluid for your vehicle, along with regular brake cleaning, inspection, and maintenance.
The Types of Brake Fluid
There are basically two types of brake fluid:
- Polyalkylene Glycol Ether. This type of brake fluid is generally regarded as either DOT 3, 4, or 5.1. The higher the number, the higher the boiling point. It is right to assume that a DOT 4 or DOT 5.1 brake fluid will perform better than a DOT 3 brake fluid. Polyalkylene Glycol Ether brake fluid is also hygroscopic. This means that the fluid has the ability to mix with water without significant loss of performance or braking power. With that being said, it is unwise to use glycol-based brake fluids from open containers since it will absorb moisture from the surrounding air. If you have a DOT 4 brake fluid exposed to open air, it will gradually degrade to DOT 3 or lower due to the moisture content of the fluid.
- Silicone-based brake fluid. This type of brake fluid is regarded as DOT 5 fluids and is generally utilized in military-type vehicles. Silicone brake fluids are highly compressible. While this may sound like a good thing, in reality, it is not. Using highly compressible brake fluid will result in spongy brake pedal feel, which also equates to unprecise braking action. This type of brake fluid is non-hygroscopic and will not absorb or mix with water.
The best brake fluid to choose is obviously polyakylene glycol ether since it performs better under extreme duress. Since silicone-based brake fluids are non-hygroscopic, it lacks the ability to deal with water and moisture inside the system. All brake systems will accumulate a significant amount of water over time, and you know that water will affect the performance of the braking system.
If you own a classic car or motorcycle that is mostly for show, then there is no harm in using silicone-based brake fluid since it is non-corrosive and will not inflict damage on paint.
When choosing the best brake fluid for your vehicle, the rule of thumb is to check the owner’s manual or service booklet. It is not a good idea to mix different types of brake fluid since this will affect the overall performance of the hydraulic system.
Dry versus Wet Boiling Point
The dry boiling point of brake fluid is based on fresh, brand new brake fluid with minimal water content. The wet boiling point is the minimum temperature that the fluid will begin to boil when the system contains at least 3% of water by volume.
You will notice that the wet boiling point is lower than the dry boiling point. This is due to the fact that water boils at 100 degrees Celsius or 212 degrees Fahrenheit, which is lower than the actual boiling point of the brake fluid.
As previously mentioned above, if you expose glycol-based fluid into the air, the boiling point will fall to the ‘wet boiling point’ level even if it is fresh or brand new.
These are the best brake fluids that you can buy today. It is hard to choose a winner since they are designed for specific applications. But when it comes to DOT 3, the MAG1 Premium DOT 3 Brake Fluid is on top of my list. If cost is not an issue, the Motul RBF 600 DOT 4 Synthetic Racing Brake Fluid is my top choice.
Remember that it is not advisable to mix brake fluids, even though it is deemed safe to mix DOT 3 with DOT 4 and DOT 5.1. It is still good practice to flush your braking system before pouring in a fresh batch of brake fluid.