Brake fluid is a type of hydraulic fluid used in hydraulic brake and hydraulic clutch applications in automobiles, motorcycles, light trucks, and some bicycles. It is used to transfer force into pressure, and to amplify braking force. It works because liquids are not appreciably compressible — in their natural state the component molecules do not have internal voids and the molecules pack together well, so bulk forces are directly transferred to compress the fluid's chemical bonds.
The three main types of brake fluid now available are DOT3, DOT4 and DOT5. DOT3 and DOT4 are glycol-based fluids, and DOT5 is silicon-based. The main difference is that DOT3 and DOT4 absorb water, while DOT5 doesn't.
One of the important characteristics of brake fluid is its boiling point. Hydraulic systems rely on an incompressible fluid to transmit force. Liquids are generally incompressible while gases are compressible. If the brake fluid boils (becomes a gas), it will lose most of its ability to transmit force.