How to Bleed Your Brakes – Traditional Method
If you had to replace a caliper or brake line then chances are you introduced air into the brake system which causes the “mushy” or soft feeling in the brake pedal. This is not only an inconvenience but a safety issue also. There are many ways to bleed your brakes; the traditional method will be demonstrated in this article. It is by far the cheapest alternative but also the most difficult. It requires two people to work together in unison. This is a great opportunity to work with a loved one or a best buddy. Other methods will be illustrated in other articles. To bleed your brakes, follow the steps outlined below.
1. Loosen the wheel lug nuts and raise the vehicle with a jack as outlined in our article titled “How to Replace Disc Brake Pads and Rotors” and place jack stands underneath.
2. Completely loosen the lug nuts and remove the wheels.
3. Locate the bleeders on the 4 calipers. We will start with the caliper or brake cylinder if you have drum brakes in the back that is farthest from the master cylinder.
4. We will have to loosen the bleeder ensuring that we don’t break it. To do this, spray rust penetrant very liberally onto the 4 bleeders letting them soak for as long as possible. Then lightly tap the bleeder with a hammer to jolt the rust loose. Now grab your 8mm wrench or deep well socket/ratchet and loosen the bleeder. You don’t need to take the bleeder off, simply loosen it about half a turn.
5. Obtain a clear rubber hose that will fit snugly over the bleeder and route it to a drain pan as brake fluid will be dripping down into it.
6. Now find a helper who will sit inside the car to assist you in the brake bleeding process.
7. Now close the brake bleeder
8. Open the cap on the master cylinder and monitor the brake fluid during the bleeding process. Ensure that you keep it full while bleeding because if you let it go down too low it will cause more air to get into the system, thus forcing you to start over.
9. The person inside the vehicle will press the brake pedal firmly 3 times and will count every time. However, on the 3rd time he/she will keep the brake pedal depressed. So when your helper is between counting 2 and 3 you will want to open the bleeder, thus allowing brake fluid to escape the system. The reason why we wait till the 3rd time is to allow brake pressure to build up in the system.
10. Tell your helper to hold the pedal down on the 3rd count giving you time to close the bleeder so that air doesn’t get into the system.
11. Simply repeat steps 9-10 at that caliper/wheel cylinder until you see clear fluid (no air bubbles) escaping the clear vinyl/rubber tubing.
12. That was the right rear (RR) wheel. Now continue on to the left rear (LR) wheel. Then to the right front (RF) wheel. Then to the left front (LF) wheel.
You have now successfully bled all 4 corners of the car and your brake pedal should be much firmer then it was previously. If not, you could have improperly bled the brakes, a leak may be in the system, or the master cylinder could be damaged internally. If these steps seem a bit too much for you, look out for future articles demonstrating simpler ways to bleed your brakes, but will require you to spend money on supplies and tools.