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Old 04-04-2013, 03:16 PM   #1
jmp6889928
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Default The BEST way to bleed your brakes

A little background before I begin because I'm sure that this will cause a stir and that's not my intent. I used to teach braking systems and ABS diagnosis for 4 years. There is a lot of different consensus on how to bleed brakes-pump and hold, vacuum, reverse bleeding, power bleeding. None of them I have read are incorrect however, there is possibility of causing other problems with the system by doing it some of these different ways. Most people don't have a power bleeder at home and with the newer ABS systems, these are not the best method anyway. Besides, usually power bleeders are filled with brake fluid that can be months old and most likely already contaminated and "wet". Vacuum bleeding is an excellent way, but again, most people don't own or have access to a good vacuum machine. A Mityvac is NOT a good vacuum machine although if you are competent with it, you can do vacuum bleeding, but it's not necessary to even use it in this method.

NOTE: Working on brakes should not be attempted unless you feel that you are competent in understanding the following instructions.

We've all been taught the "Pump it up, Hold it, Tell me when it's on the floor, OK, Pump it up again, Hold it again, tell me when it's on the floor", etc. method, and while this does, in fact, work for bleeding the system, it can cause problems that are not immediately apparent. This method pushes your master cylinder into zones that it's not used to being and can cause issues with the seals and cups inside because of corrosion and wear. Sooner or later down the road, and it doesn't always happen, but your master cylinder can fail from grit and corrosion that was loosened when you did your bleed. At that point, you are purchasing an expensive piece, having to do the labor, and then having to do the whole damn thing all over again.

So with that being said, here is the best way to bleed your brakes:

When bleeding your brakes, remember this: Gravity is your friend, unlike around our waistlines (I can attest to THAT fact unfortunately). It's very simple to bleed your brakes, remove the air, and never invade your master cylinder where it shouldn't be invaded.

I have taught this method for over 30 years and have never had a single issue with a system that is in good working order. If there are problems with your vehicle in the ABS controller, proportioning valve, lines, or calipers, then the vehicle needs to be repaired before attempting this method. This will NOT make up for worn parts such as pads, rotors, calipers, master cylinder, booster, etc.

Gravity bleeding is easily done by a single person, but the only downside is that it takes a bit longer to do and you MUST pay attention to your master cylinder and fluid level. Here's how:

Clean the outside of your master cylinder thoroughly around the cap area to make sure no dirt can enter when you remove the cap. Open your master cylinder and remove as much old fluid as you can from the reservoir. Remove the floating screen (if it's a Subaru) so you can reach all the way inside. I use a turkey baster that I have mounted/glued a piece of curved brake line in the tip so I can reach around through the side slots and get as much fluid out of the bottom reservoir as possible. Make sure you have wet rags around in case you spill some fluid when you are sucking it out. Wipe any spilled fluid up immediately with a wet rag and rinse the rag. Once you have it as empty as possible, fill it with the new fluid of your choice and reinstall the cap. ONLY use a NEW bottle-never one that's been sitting around half full, even if it's only a few months old, and put the cap back on between fills of the master cylinder. Make sure you have enough NEW fluid to completely flush your system-a 32 oz. bottle/can is a good size.

NOTE:
NEVER USE DOT 5 SILICONE FLUID-IT IS NOT TO BE USED FOR ABS SYSTEMS. (If you have questions about this, PM me and I'll explain exactly why it doesn't work.)

Jack up the car at all 4 corners and place it on stands (if you have a hoist, even easier). Remove the wheels and break loose each of the bleeder screws and then check them to make sure that they are open and not rusted shut. If they are, use a piece of wire or drill bit to open the center and side holes and then reinsert back into your calipers or wheel cylinders.

NOTE: If you have bleeders that you think are going to break off, there are several methods you can use to loosen them. If you have access to an oxy/acetylene (cutting/welding, not a propane) torch, you can heat the caliper JUST right around the screw, red, not flowing metal red, but just red, and quench them with water. (DO NOT DO THIS WITH ALUMINUM CALIPERS). This will make them come loose easily. If you don't have a torch, soak them in PB for a day before you try to remove them. Find a socket that fits the bleeder but doesn't bottom all the way to the caliper. Put the socket on the screw over the nipple and tap the flat end of the socket lightly several times with a hammer (NOT A BFH-a small hammer) and then try to loosen it. It may take several times of trying and tapping, but be patient. This helps the PB penetrate and also loosens the threads with the shock. (You CAN do THIS with aluminum calipers). Once you have them loose, see above about making sure they are open.

Find some clear hose that will fit snugly on the nipple of the bleeder screw long enough to reach from the bleeder down into a container on the floor. Go-kart/atv/dirt bike fuel hose works perfectly. Put the hose over the bleeder screw nipple and place the open end into the container (clear container with graduations it is IDEAL so you can see how much fluid is coming through-a Ratio-Rite cup is perfect) and open the bleeder screw taking care to make sure that the hose stays pointed in the cup. It will take a minute but you will see fluid building up above the bleeder in the hose (only on the rear as the bleeder screws point straight up-the fronts flow quickly without a buildup in the hose) and then it will start to drip into the container. Remove the master cylinder cap and "LET 'ER DRIP" for a while-usually 10 minutes is a good number to use as a beginning but it may take as long as 15. You MUST maintain a constant vigil at your master cylinder to keep it full as it will slowly go down. DO NOT LET IT GET DOWN TO EVEN HALF FULL-JUST PAY ATTENTION AND KEEP THE DAMN THING FULL...LOL. Keep adding the fluid and once you see about 6 oz. in the clear container, then close the bleeder and move to the left rear. Refill the master cylinder and do exactly the same thing and look for about 6 oz. Move to the right front-6 oz., and the left front-6 oz.

Use just clean water to clean up any mess that you may have made and use a wet rag to wipe down the calipers to make sure that there is no fluid that leaked onto the paint (if they are painted). Put your floating screen back inside of the master cylinder, refill a final time, and install your master cylinder cap.

NOTE: Make SURE to install the master cylinder cap before completing the next step.

Leave the car on the stands and start it and gently push your brake pedal several times. You'll find that the pedal is engaged sooner and firmer.

In approximately an hour, this method will completely flush your entire system and replace all of the fluid with new. Reinstall the wheels, lower the car, check the lug nuts for torque, and then test drive the car. Check the master cylinder a final time after your test drive.

Enjoy ! ! !
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Old 04-04-2013, 03:24 PM   #2
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Thanks for the writeup. How does this method prevent air from entering back into the bleeder screw?

I thought that is the reason why the standard two-person bleed process requires one to open and close the bleeder nipple - to avoid introducing air back into the system through the bleeder.
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Old 04-04-2013, 04:02 PM   #3
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That is true, because after depressing the brake pedal the resulting vaccum created by letting off the pedal can cause air to be sucked back into the system. Hence the use of speed bleeders, or this gravity method.
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Old 04-04-2013, 05:59 PM   #4
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Constant pressure of the fluid will not allow any air back into the system. As long as you keep your master cylinder full, the pressure will continue to push the fluid out the open bleeder.
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Old 04-05-2013, 07:55 AM   #5
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Nice write up... been doing similar for years.. 1/4" vinyl tube from any hardware and a pop bottle...(bling bling)

One thing I do a little different, not sure if you'd agree or disagree, once the bleeder is open and the drain line is pretty full, you can hit the pedal and purge any air, usualy it flows out and gets past the point of no return, so you can do it by yourself and not have to worry about it getting sucked back in...
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Old 04-05-2013, 08:18 AM   #6
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You can do that if the end of the tube is submerged in fluid however, usually any fluid you have at the end in your bottle has drained from the system and is most likely contaminated. That's the fluid you do NOT want back in your calipers as it has the most moisture and crap in it because it's the lowest point in the system. I do know that bleeding race car brakes in an emergency (i.e. a crash and getting it repaired as quickly as possible to get back on the track) they have a special bottle that's sealed and fits over the brake nipple. The bottle if full of fresh fluid and they jam it on, open the bleeder, pump the hell out of the brakes, it pushes and pulls the fluid quickly (they have the calipers pre-filled and ready to go before even mounting which is what I do when I mount a new caliper-fill it with fluid before putting the hose on) and close the nipple and go.

To be honest though, I've never needed to push the pedal. Every single time I can remember, this method has produced a shorter, much harder pedal. I have replaced entire front to rear lines before and in doing it as a gravity bleed, you can watch the bubbles come out of the bleeder screws and then all of a sudden, it starts to drip and then as I said, "Let 'er drip" for a while.

None of them are wrong as they are all instituted with the same goal and that is to push fluid and air out of the system. Pressure, vacuum, gravity-they all work, but the gravity and weight of the fluid is the most gentle on everything.
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Old 04-05-2013, 02:00 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aaron'z 2.5RS View Post
Nice write up... been doing similar for years.. 1/4" vinyl tube from any hardware and a pop bottle...(bling bling)

One thing I do a little different, not sure if you'd agree or disagree, once the bleeder is open and the drain line is pretty full, you can hit the pedal and purge any air, usualy it flows out and gets past the point of no return, so you can do it by yourself and not have to worry about it getting sucked back in...
I've done this too, but only to flush the fluid, and then after that I do a couple of the regular "pump and hold" things per corner. Even if there's no air in the clear hose some can come through the threads of the bleeder.
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Old 04-05-2013, 05:22 PM   #8
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Air can't come back into the system as long as there is gravity pressure on the fluid coming out of the bleeder screw. Air CAN come back into the system in the pump and hold method if the bleeder isn't tightened completely or soon enough. As long as there is fluid coming out of the bleeder screw, no air can go back in, even around the threads of the bleeder screw because fluid is trying to escape and pushing it's way out.
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Old 04-06-2013, 01:51 AM   #9
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jmp6889928,

Thanks very much for your write-up.
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Old 04-06-2013, 09:53 AM   #10
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You are most welcome. I put it up because bleeding brakes is a sticking point for a lot of people that are easily mechanically adept enough to do it but are hesitant because of worry about ABS, proportioning valves, master cylinders, and thinking they need someone else to help.

This is easier to do than most imagine and once you've done it, you'll be fired up about doing all of the vehicles you own and save yourself a lot of money in installer costs and also not damage any expensive parts. The other nice thing is that you can choose which brake fluid you want to use and KNOW that it's fresh when you buy it (at least as fresh as the store has...LOL) and not contaminated.

I truly hope this makes a lot of people go ahead and bleed their own brakes. It's very simple and will definitely make you feel good, especially when you hit the brake pedal.
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Old 04-06-2013, 10:15 AM   #11
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PowerBleeder > all
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Old 04-08-2013, 02:35 AM   #12
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Definitely will be on my to-do list within the next week or two. Thanks for the writeup!
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Old 04-08-2013, 06:36 PM   #13
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I posted this method on a couple of other forums and several people asked about the reasons to not use DOT5 Silicone brake fluid with ABS systems. I answered one of them and thought I would copy and paste it in here for everyone that may have the same questions.

Silicone brake fluid is much thicker which means much slower to move through the system when you push the pedal down, and has a compressibility factor which will make an ABS controller think that you are trying to pump the pedal. This causes the controller to pulse erratically and COULD cause a crash. Silicone brake fluid also gives a spongier feeling pedal (again, due to the compressibility) and as it heats up, important chemicals can evaporate off, leaving the pedal even more spongy and again, COULD cause a crash.

Poly glycol based fluids (DOT3, DOT4, DOT5.1) are a thinner fluid that provides a solid compression without any springiness because of the composition of the fluid. The ABS system relies on wheel speeds and pedal pressure and adjusts the pulsation to the wheels that need it. These fluids allow that to happen in milliseconds as the pressure is consistent and solid.

Traction control also relies on the ABS system and allows the ABS system to systematically apply brakes to the spinning wheel to equalize the speeds so that both wheels pull the same. Silicone fluid will cause this to be erratic which can actually cause damage to a differential because of the wheel speeds changing all over the place.


http://www.gomog.com/allmorgan/brakefluid.html A good article about the differences of brake fluids


http://collision.alldata.com/online2...ot_3_or_41.htm Read the final line in this post.

I hope this helps. Please feel free to PM me.

Thanks,

John
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Old 04-09-2013, 12:52 AM   #14
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Please, I have a few questions.

1] If I have to check my bleeder screws for flow, then I have to remove them from the caliper?

2] Then run wire or a drill bit through them?

3] If I have to run a drill bit through them to loosen rust, shouldn't I just loosen the bleeder screws one at a time when I'm ready to flush that line and if it doesn't flow with the brake fluid reservoir cap off, replace the reservoir cap, pull off the bleeder drain hose, then swap out the bleeder screw for a new one, as quickly as possible, then rehook up the bleeder drain hose, remove the reservoir cap, and continue?

4] Otherwise, won't brake fluid be draining out of the bleeder screw seat all over brake parts and the floor and screw everything up while I'm reaming out the bleeder screw channel?

5] Do I not have to be concerned with getting rust particles into the caliper if I have a rusty or otherwise plugged bleeder screw?

6] Do I have to jack up all 4 wheels at a time, or can I do this one wheel up at a time?

Thank you.

Last edited by 1x2; 04-09-2013 at 01:01 AM.
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Old 04-09-2013, 09:44 AM   #15
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love using the vaccula brake bleeder with my compressor.... so easy

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Old 04-09-2013, 07:14 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robin2 View Post
love using the vaccula brake bleeder with my compressor.... so easy

I have the exact same vacuum bleeder. I have only used it twice-I don't like the fact that it can pull things lose inside the system but again, as I said, there really is no wrong way. If you have a brand new system (lines, calipers, master cylinder) like we do when we build a circle track car, then they work well and fast.

I also have a power bleeder (it's old but in perfect shape) and I never use it either. With only the weight of the fluid pushing it out, there isn't much chance of anything coming loose inside a caliper, master cylinder, or line that can cause an ABS controller to screw up.
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Old 04-09-2013, 08:13 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robin2 View Post
love using the vaccula brake bleeder with my compressor.... so easy

Have the same bleeder too! Awesome tool!
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Old 04-09-2013, 08:17 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 1x2 View Post
Please, I have a few questions.

1] If I have to check my bleeder screws for flow, then I have to remove them from the caliper?

2] Then run wire or a drill bit through them?

3] If I have to run a drill bit through them to loosen rust, shouldn't I just loosen the bleeder screws one at a time when I'm ready to flush that line and if it doesn't flow with the brake fluid reservoir cap off, replace the reservoir cap, pull off the bleeder drain hose, then swap out the bleeder screw for a new one, as quickly as possible, then rehook up the bleeder drain hose, remove the reservoir cap, and continue?

4] Otherwise, won't brake fluid be draining out of the bleeder screw seat all over brake parts and the floor and screw everything up while I'm reaming out the bleeder screw channel?

5] Do I not have to be concerned with getting rust particles into the caliper if I have a rusty or otherwise plugged bleeder screw?

6] Do I have to jack up all 4 wheels at a time, or can I do this one wheel up at a time?

Thank you.
OK...let's see if I can answer all of your questions in order:
1. If you open the bleeder screw and fluid begins to come out, then you're OK. If they are all rusty and look clogged, THEN you can either remove it and clean out the hole using wire or a drill bit or replace it.
2. See #1.
3. See #1.
4. Brake fluid will come out of the bleeder hole, even if you put the master cylinder cap back on, but not as much as when the cap is off. If you do have to remove your screw, just do it quickly and you can put a rubber or plastic plug in the bleeder screw hole until you're done. Look closely at each bleeder screw before you begin to see if it's clogged. If you have the rubber caps on all 4 of them, then chances are excellent that you'll be fine.
5. As long as there is fluid coming out of the hole, then any rust particles will come with the fluid. Obviously, if there is excessive rust around your bleeders, then clean them up BEFORE you begin to loosen them. Use a wire brush around them and then compressed air to help remove any loose rust. Take a can of brake cleaner and spray them after you've removed the loose rust and then hit it with air again.
6. You do not have to even lift the car if you can reach the bleeder screws (such as in wide spoke wheels). Make sure it's on level ground and put your drain hose on the nipple and open the bleeder screw.

You are welcome. PM me if I can be of any help. As I said in the write up, if you're not comfortable with the instructions, then it may be better to find someone to help/show you how to do this. The next time, you'll know how and be able to do it confidently.
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Old 10-26-2013, 11:23 PM   #19
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Currently trying this method for the first time, why won't the bubbles stop? I can let it drip for over an hour and the bubbles will still come and go.
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Old 10-27-2013, 01:59 AM   #20
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Currently trying this method for the first time, why won't the bubbles stop? I can let it drip for over an hour and the bubbles will still come and go.
trace the line back from the caliper and see if you can see any seepage...sounds like ya got a LOT of air or a leak upstream
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Old 10-28-2013, 09:22 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ohxietviet View Post
Currently trying this method for the first time, why won't the bubbles stop? I can let it drip for over an hour and the bubbles will still come and go.
What Scotty said or your line isn't fully on the nipple. I let mine drain for 15 minutes and I still had bubbles but my line was kind of loose.
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Old 11-02-2013, 11:54 PM   #22
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Hello,

I have a 2005 Subaru wrx sti (brembo brakes). My problem being...all my brakes work fine except the rear right brake seems to not have the same pressure as the rest. I say that because when i don't wash my car the brake dust is equal on all the wheels except that right rear brake is always cleaner "way cleaner" than the rest.

Im guessing there might be some air in that line. Driving the car is normal, i don't feel any pull, but its just one of those annoying things i see every time i wash my car.

so i guess what im trying to ask is using your gravity method, would that be the best way to check for possible air in the line?

note* I only want to service that brake for air, and not bleed the whole system.

any help is much appreciated.

Thanks.

Last edited by blp-subie; 11-03-2013 at 12:00 AM.
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Old 11-03-2013, 12:55 AM   #23
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its a pretty slim chance there is air in the lines, due to gravity. bubbles will rise to the top of the system, and then "burp" them selves out in the reservoir.

You could try doing a quick bleed on that corner only. Or, for assurance, you can bleed the entire system for 100% certainty.

Though, I wouldn't assume you have a braking issue on that corner simply due to the lack of dust. Typically the rear wheels are going to be "cleaner", as the majority of braking is done up front.
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Old 11-04-2013, 08:09 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blp-subie View Post
Hello,

I have a 2005 Subaru wrx sti (brembo brakes). My problem being...all my brakes work fine except the rear right brake seems to not have the same pressure as the rest. I say that because when i don't wash my car the brake dust is equal on all the wheels except that right rear brake is always cleaner "way cleaner" than the rest.

Im guessing there might be some air in that line. Driving the car is normal, i don't feel any pull, but its just one of those annoying things i see every time i wash my car.

so i guess what im trying to ask is using your gravity method, would that be the best way to check for possible air in the line?
I would think the best/quickest way would be to just do a "normal" bleed at that corner. Pumping the pedal a couple of times with a bleeder open will very quickly tell you whether that caliper is getting fluid.

As said above, it's probably not air in that one line, but it's possible a hard brake line has gotten kinked or something like that. Do you still have the original rubber brake lines on the car, or do you have braided lines?
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Old 05-14-2014, 04:01 PM   #25
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I am currently using this method and the master cylinder cap is off but it is seriously just dripping. One by one. It's taking a really long time. I have been sitting here at the first corner, the passenger front, for half an hour already. I dont evem have to fill up the cylinder yet. Any suggestions?

Car is on jackstands.
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