After installing new brake pads, rotors, calipers or brake lines, you need to be sure your car’s hydraulic braking system is air-free. That’s because air in any hydraulic system, including your car’s brakes, can lead to a “spongy” brake pedal feel and poor braking performance. Properly bleeding your brakes prevents this by allowing pesky air bubbles to exit your car’s hydraulic braking system, immediately improving pedal feel and braking power.
There are many ways to properly bleed a braking system, but not all methods are created equal. In our guide to bleeding brakes, we use the best tool for the job—a Phoenix brake bleeder. But if you don’t have one of these nifty tools handy, any similarly-designed bleeder tool will work. Just follow these simple steps to bleeding brakes and enjoy firm, responsive stopping power.
Safely Raise & Secure Your Vehicle
- In most cases, you won’t be able to reach your car’s brake bleeder screws. So, be sure to find a clean and level area away from traffic to lift and work on your car
- Raise and secure your car by the frame or chassis lift-points using an approved floor jack and jack stands
Expect to Make A Mess
- Place a drip tray or pan under each brake caliper. If you don’t have those, using a few sheets of cardboard instead will keep leaking brake fluid off of your garage floor or driveway
- Wear gloves and face protection. Brake fluid is toxic and will dissolve paint, so it’s a good idea to keep it out of your eyes and off of your skin
- Pro Tip: If you get brake fluid in your eyes or on your skin, quickly wash it away with lots of water. If you still experience irritation after washing, drop what you’re doing and see your doctor
- Open your vehicle’s hood
- Remove the master cylinder cap and slightly loosen the bleeder screw on the wheel furthest away from the master cylinder with a wrench or socket, but don’t allow it to leak
- Attach a brake bleeding tool to the bleed screw located on the top of the brake caliper
Bleed Your Brakes
- If you’re using a vacuum bleeding method, draw fluid out of the bleeder screw until no more bubbles come out. Be sure to continually top off the master cylinder with fresh brake fluid so it won’t run dry and draw in air. This simple brake bleeding method also doubles as a nifty way to replace your dirty brake fluid with clean fluid
- If you’re using a pressure bleeding method, run a hose from a fresh brake fluid source to the back of your brake bleeding tool and connect the other end to the car’s bleeder fitting. Slowly squeeze the tool and force fresh fluid into the caliper. Frequently check the master cylinder’s fluid level to prevent spilling. If possible, recruit a second set of eyes to monitor the master cylinder for bubbles. It will simplify this tricky, but effective, bleeding method
- Pro Tip: Brake fluid is hygroscopic, which means it absorbs moisture from the air. For that reason, never leave the top off of a bottle of brake fluid for an extended period of time, or use brake fluid that’s been stored with the top off. The fluid within will become waterlogged, which will lower the fluid’s boiling point, causing brake fade under heavy use. Also, excess water in the brake fluid will rust the inside of your car’s braking system, causing calipers and the master cylinder to lock up. And if left uncorrected, rusted hard brake lines can suddenly rupture, making you lose brake pressure!
Repeat the Process on All Remaining Bleeder Screws
- Be sure to tighten each bleeder screw before removing your bleeding tool. This will ensure every last bit of air will be removed from your car’s braking system
- Test your vehicle’s pedal feel after bleeding each corner. Once your brakes are properly bled, you should be able to build up pressure in the system with a few pumps of the pedal and should not be able to press the brake pedal to the floor
Clean Up and Hit the Road
- With all of the air removed from your braking system, tighten the last bleeder screw and remove the bleeding tool from it
- Check the master cylinder’s fluid level and top it off as needed with clean brake fluid
- Spray each caliper with brake cleaner to remove any residue. This will allow you to check each bleeder screw for leaks over time
- Remove and drip trays or cardboard and carefully lower your vehicle back onto its wheels
- Close the hood and enjoy
Whether you’re driving a comfy commuter, a white-hot street machine or a down-n-dirty mudding monster, having a trusty set of brakes at your command is critical to staying safe both on and off the beaten path. By properly bleeding your vehicle’s brakes after servicing them, you’re ensuring they’ll work correctly not only on the first stop out of your driveway, but also when you need them to avoid a collision. Here at AutoAnything, we have everything you need to service your brakes the right way, from high-quality brake components to precision brake bleeding tools. Even better, you can grab these outstanding brake accessories and more at the best prices in town, thanks to our 1-year low price guarantee.