How to Bleed Brakes

Knowing how to bleed brakes is an effective form of preventive maintenance. Bleeding and replacing brake fluid will increase your stopping power, extend the life of brake components and allow you to inspect brake parts.

Materials And Tools For Bleeding Brakes

  • Penetrating oil-applying these to the bleeder valves the night before the repair can make opening the valves easier.
  • Two or three small bottles of brake fluid-use only what you need, open cans can't be stored and must be recycled.
  • An old turkey baster or syringe-used to remove old brake fluid from the master cylinder reservoir.
  • A helper-you'll need someone who can follow directions precisely: any miscommunication and you can get air bubbles in your brake lines.
  • A jack, jack stand and tools to remove you wheels-you'll also need bricks or wood blocks to chock your wheels.
  • A box wrench that fits the bleeder valve-other types of wrenches may round off the valve and you'll have to replace the valve or cylinder.
  • Clear plastic hose that fits tightly over the bleeder valve
  • An old plastic container with screw top-water or soda bottles work well for this job.
  • Rags and other cleaning materials-to handle the inevitable spills.

Bleeding Brakes Safely

  • Going up. Chock the tires so the car won't slip off the jack. Loosen the lug nuts on the right rear wheel. Jack up the right rear of the car and remove the wheel. Lower the car onto the jack stand.
  • Start clean. Locate the master brake cylinder reservoir in the engine compartment. Open the reservoir and use the baster to remove as much of the old brake fluid as possible. Replace the fluid in the reservoir. NOTE: To avoid getting air in the brake lines, never let the reservoir get less than half full during the bleeding procedure.
  • Open up. Locate the bleeder valve on the brake assembly-it will look like a nipple and have a rubber cover on it. Remove the rubber cover and place the box wrench over the valve. Place one end of the tubing over the valve and the other end in the plastic container.
  • Teamwork. With your helper sitting in the driver's seat, have her press down smoothly on the brake peddle and hold it down. When the pedal is down, your helper should shout "Down!"
  • Let it bleed. Open the bleeder valve a quarter of a turn until brake fluid begins to flow through the tube. Allow fluid to flow into the tube for a second or two and then close the valve. When the valve is closed, shout "Up!" to your assistant, who should lift her foot off the brake peddle. Repeat the down-open-drain-close-up procedure until fresh brake fluid flows out of the valve. Remember to keep the master cylinder topped off.
  • Just three more times. Cover the bleeder valve, re-attach the wheel and lower the car off the jack stand. Repeat the bleeding procedure with the other three wheels in the following order: left rear, right front and left front.
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