Leaking brake fluid

The consumer’s issue:

“I bought a new SUV in 2014, and in March 2019, when the car had done around 30,000 miles, the brake fluid warning light came on. I therefore took it back to the selling dealership, and the engineer inspecting the vehicle said that the brake fluid level was very low. However, they said there was no obvious reason for this, as the brake pads and discs were in good condition and there did not appear to be a leak.

When paying the invoice, I was told that, if the warning light came back on, I should bring the car back in. Six weeks later, there was a grating noise, so I took it to a dealership closer to home, rather to the previous one that was further away. No brake warning light was showing on this occasion, and this business found that the brake calliper had seized due to brake fluid leaking. As a result, the pads, discs, calliper and actuator all needed to be replaced at a cost of £777. They also explained that, had the leak been discovered in March, none of these parts would have needed to be changed. To resolve my complaint, I am therefore looking for the first dealership to refund me this cost as compensation for not resolving the issue.”

The accredited business’ response:

  • The customer bought the vehicle brand new from us in 2014, and we did not see the car again until it was brought back by the customer in March 2019.
  • At the time, the car was not booked in, and the customer had asked us to “top up the brake fluid”. We also carried out a visual health check free of charge, and there was no evidence of a brake fluid leak at the time.
  • Nevertheless, the brake fluid was topped up, and the customer was advised verbally and on the invoice that no leaks were seen, and that, if the light came back on again, the car would need to be booked back in for a full diagnosis.
  • The fault reported by the consumer happened six weeks after the visual inspection, and they said that the brake calliper had seized, but there was no previous evidence of this when the car was looked at.
  • At the time of this incident, the car five years old, so there is a significant risk of parts requiring replacement due to wear and tear.
  • As a result, we do not accept we did anything wrong, and therefore do not consider we should cover the cost of the fault.

The adjudication outcome:

  • The Motor Ombudsman adjudicator noted that the evidence provided by the business showed that they could not see any leaks during the visual inspection of the car.
  • They also advised that, if the light came back on, the customer would need to come back for a full diagnosis.
  • When the consumer took their vehicle to the dealership, they requested that the brake fluid was topped up. The business did so in addition to further visual checks which found there was no evidence of a leak. The customer was then correctly advised to monitor the issue.
  • It was therefore considered by the adjudicator that, based on the evidence at hand, and on the balance of probabilities, the business took reasonable skill and care when they inspected the vehicle.
  • As a result, the consumer’s complaint was not upheld in their favour, meaning that the business did not have to cover the cost of the repair.


  • Neither party requested an appeal of the outcome, and the case was closed.