How to Bleed Brakes

Nissan mechanic checking brakes


Getting your brakes inspected and serviced is a key part of your vehicle’s regularly-scheduled maintenance. After all, the brake system is possibly the most important component of your car, and keeping it in top condition is essential to keeping you safe on the Fairmont roads. One of the elements of brake maintenance is a process called “bleeding,” which refers to the releasing of air and contaminant particles that are trapped in your brake system. While you can bring your car to a service center like Dan Cava's Buick GMC to bleed your brakes, you can also do it yourself from home if you want! It’s a time-consuming process–especially if you haven’t done it before–but it’s not especially difficult if you know what steps to follow. We’ve organized all the relevant information on how to bleed brake lines in the guide below.



Why Bleed Your Brakes?

Bleeding your brakes isn’t always a well-known part of vehicle maintenance, but it’s very important. As you drive your car around Morgantown, your brake fluid will start to wear out and absorb water. Air and excess brake fluid can also seep into the brake system, which can cause the brake pedal to feel “soft” or “spongy” when you press down, lessening the effectiveness of your brakes. If you let it go on for too long, and too much air and fluid gets trapped in your brake system, it could start to cause serious danger on the road. When you bleed the brakes, it removes all of these contaminants and returns your brake pedal to its normal firmer feel. 

How to Bleed Brakes By Yourself: Step-By-Step

If you’ve decided you want to bleed your brakes from home, the first thing you should do is gather the necessary materials. Find someone to help you and get ahold of brake fluid, a box-end wrench, a fluid holder, and tubing. Then, just follow these steps:

  1. Check your owner’s manual to make sure you’ve gotten the correct brake fluid, since there are many different types of brake fluid. It’s important that you know which is right for your vehicle, since using the wrong type may damage your brake system.
  2. Bring your car to solid and level ground, jack up the car, and remove all of the wheels.
  3. Find the four caliper bleeding screws and loosen them. If they don’t loosen immediately, spray the screw with penetrating oil and wait about 30 minutes before trying again. Don’t twist hard with the wrench, since it could snap the screw. If the screw does strip or snaps don’t go any further — bring your car to our service center right away and we’ll take care of it.
  4. After the screws are loosened, tighten them again. Bleeding your brakes is a slow process that involves bleeding one brake at a time; the other three screws need to be tight to avoid air bubbles.
  5. Open up the hood and check the master cylinder reservoir’s brake fluid level to make sure the car has the correct amount of fluid. While you’re bleeding the brakes, leave the master cylinder cap unscrewed but still resting on top of the reservoir. You should generally start with the brake furthest from the master cylinder, but your vehicle may require a different order–your owner’s manual will give you more specific guidance.
  6. Secure the end of a piece of clear tubing (about 1/4 inches in diameter) over the first bleeder screw. Put the other end of the tubing into a receptacle of some sort, such as a plastic bottle. You can also find a cheap brake bleeding kit from most auto stores in Grafton, or order one online. The tubing needs to be long enough that you can place the catch container above the bleeder screw’s height. This way, any air caught in the tube won’t move back into the brake caliper. 
  7. You’ll need an assistant for this next step. Make sure the car engine is off, and ask your assistant to pump the brake pedal several times until they feel resistance pushing back against the pedal. Instruct them to keep pressure on the pedal as you open the bleeder screw a bit. Fluid will move through the tube and the pedal will start dropping closer to the floor. Make sure your assistant continues to apply pressure. 
  8. Have your helper notify you immediately before the pedal reaches the floor. When they do, close the bleeder screw right away. Then, inspect the fluid level in the master fluid reservoir. You may need to add fresh fluid. 
  9. Repeat the previous two steps about five times at the same bleeder screw, or until the fluid stream no longer has any bubbles. 
  10. Then, repeat steps 7, 8, and 9 on the other three bleeder screws in the correct order — starting with the screw further away from the master cylinder and moving to the one closest to it. 
  11. After you’ve finished bleeding your brakes, instruct your helper to apply the brakes, then quickly release the pedal. While they do that, watch the fluid in the master cylinder reservoir. If the fluid is bubbling significantly, there’s still air in the system and you should keep bleeding the brakes. However, if the fluid is moving only slightly, you’ve bled the brakes fully. 
  12. Before putting the wheels back on your car, tighten each of the bleeder screws. Again, don’t use all of your strength — just apply enough pressure to make sure they’re secure. 

Service Your Brakes at Dan Cava's Buick GMC!

If you don’t want to bleed your brakes yourself, go ahead and schedule a service appointment with Dan Cava's Buick GMC and we’ll get everything taken care of for you. Feel free to contact our office with any questions, or to learn more about the services we offer!

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