In this DIY article I will guide you through the general process of bleeding brakes; the same process can be used on disk brakes or drum brakes.
Before I begin I will indicate that the quality of your tools will help immensely in such a project. I understand that this is a DIY thread and thus not expecting air powered pressure brake bleeding kits but there are several reasonable options.
If you’re going at this alone be weary of “one man brake bleeding kits” generally anything with such a title is a complete waste of money. There are pressurized brake bleeding kits that really do wonders for around $50-$75 (I know that’s a bit pricey, but consider that it will either cost you less or about the same as having the repair done at a facility, and in the future you will always have the tool to do it yourself) you could make your own but that’s a project within itself.
Brake fluid oxidizes with contact to the atmosphere, thus over time it loses its effectiveness. It also is highly moisture absorbing so avoid long periods of exposure. Oxidized fluid will become brown and dingy, while new fluid is transparent. Avoid contact of fluid on your skin and consult MSDS in event of ingestion or contact with eyes.
You will need to bleed brakes in the event of any hydraulic brake component change i.e. brake hose or herd line, wheel cylinder (drum), Caliper (disk), master cylinder etc. It is not necessary to bleed brakes when changing pads or any brake surface.
Note* it is recommended to exchange hydraulic brake fluid once every 2 years regardless of mileage.
- Basic tool set (mainly small wrenches)
- Pressurized brake fluid bleeder (not necessary but greatly reduces time and labor involved)
- Jack stands
- Clear plastic or glass bottle of approx. 1 liter in size
- Clear flexible PVC hose (obtain several diameters in advance) 2 ft in length
- Sealed bottle of Brake fluid (whichever is recommended by manufacturer)
- Safety glasses
- Rubber gloves
Note* if utilizing an assistant you will skip step 8 and assistant will have to pump brake pedal and hold while you unscrew the bleeder (this may need to be repeated several times per axle) it is important to maintain pressure on the pedal while the bleeder is open. This can be time consuming.
- Use lug wrench to break loose the lug nuts
- Locate secure jack point and raise vehicle
- Locate safe and secure points to place jack stands (frame rails)
- Lower vehicle (keep jack in place under load just as a precaution)s
- Remove wheels
- Open hood
- Locate brake fluid reservoir and remove filler cap
- Fill pressurized brake bleeder with fresh brake fluid from a sealed container
- Attach to reservoir and pressurize
- Locate hub which is farthest from master cylinder (on right hand drive its rear passenger)
- Attach clear tubing to bleeding screw on caliper (if drum brakes you will need to remove drum and attach to wheel cylinder)
- Fill clear bottle with an ounce or 2 of fluid
- Inset tubing and submerge into fluid
- Unscrew bleeder and watch fluid flow through the hose (you will see air bubbles flowing and in the bottle)
- Continue until all bubbles (or old fluid) have come out
- Move to the next closest hub going around the vehicle (make sure pressure in bottle remains )
- Reinstall wheels
- Lower vehicle
- Torque wheels to spec
- Remove pressurized bleeding bottle and check level of fluid in reservoir (top off if need be)