Spongy brakes aren’t good for anyone. They’re dangerous to the health and safety of you and those around you. Without adequate stopping power, you might brake for a turn and find yourself in a creek. If you notice your brakes are squishier than normal, you might need to bleed your brakes.
Though it may sound daunting for those who haven’t done it before, bleeding your brakes is a fairly easy task and ensures your safety for years to come. To demystify the process, Car Bibles has put together this helpful how to just for you! Now, let’s bleed those brakes.
What Is Bleeding Your Brakes?
Though it sounds like it involves an automotive vampire, bleeding your brakes is actually the process of removing trapped air bubbles that have found their way into your vehicle’s brake system. The air bubbles bleed out of the brake lines.
How Is It Different Than Flushing Your Brakes?
A brake flush is a process of removing the entirety of the fluid from the vehicle’s brake system and replacing it with a new brake fluid—just like a toilet’s flush…ew. It is similar to flushing other fluids in your vehicle, such as the engine oil or transmission fluid. Now that you know the difference, let’s do this!
Car repair can be hazardous to your health, so it’s best to be safe, take your time, and arm yourself with the safety gear necessary for the job. Here’s what the editor’s at Car Bible’s suggest.
What You Need
We’re not sure what your toolbox holds, so here’s a short list of the tools you’ll need to bleed your brakes.
- Mechanic tool set
- Jack and Jack stands
- Brake fluid
- Wheel chocks
- Impact wrench or lug wrench
- ¼-inch clear plastic tubing, about a 1 ½ feet in length
- Clear plastic receptacle (an empty water bottle can be used)
- An assistant not named Siri
How To Bleed Brakes
Now that you have your tools laid out, let’s get to bleeding those brakes.
- Pop the hood of your car.
- Unscrew the cap of the brake master cylinder reservoir. Leave it resting on its threads.
- Jack up the car, insert jack stands, and remove the wheels.
- Locate the brake bleeder valve on the brake caliper—it usually faces the inside of the wheel well.
- Hang the plastic bottle on something above the bleeder valve. Zip ties or small pieces are wire can help with this.
- Attach one end of the tubing around the bleeder valve and feed the other end into the bottle, making sure the tubing remains above the valve to keep air from flowing back into the brake system.
- Using your handy-dandy helper, have them hop into the car and begin applying pressure to the brakes.
- Using the wrench, open the bleeder valve to allow air and some fluid to escape.
- When your helper gets close to the floor, have them yell “Stop!” and close the valve. They can release the brakes.
- Check the master cylinder level and add fluid as needed. Don’t forget this step, as your brake system needs the proper amount of fluid! Tighten cap.
- Repeat these steps for the other three wheels.
- Attach the wheels, remove the jack stands, and lower the car.
What is the Best Brake Bleeding Tool?
The best and easiest tool is simply what’s described above: a wrench, some tubing, and an old plastic bottle. It’s cheap, effective, and you likely have most of it in your house or garage.
Brake Bleeding FAQs
We know you probably have a few questions, so here are our answers!
Q: What Is the Correct Order To Bleed Brakes?
A: The one described above!
Q: How Long Does Bleeding Brakes Take?
A: At most, without any snags like stuck valves or frozen lug nuts, it should take about 1-3 hours.
Q: Why Are My Brakes Soft After Bleeding?
A: You may have not bled all the air out of your brake lines or you may have forgotten to retighten the brake reservoir cap. You’ll likely need to bleed them again.
Q: How Often Do I Need to Bleed My Brakes?
A: You only have to bleed your brakes when you feel that they’ve become somewhat spongey. That means there’s air in there, and that can affect your stopping power, something you definitely need.
Q: Can You Bleed Your Brakes Without Using a Bleeder?
A: If you want the air completely out of your brake system, then no, you want to use the bleeder. You can remove some air from the system by opening the brake master cylinder reservoir and pumping the brakes, but you won’t remove all of it.