DIY: Bleeding The Brakes

Discussion in 'How-To/Tech Database' started by Kevan, Jan 30, 2008.

  1. Kevan

    Kevan SRT-10 Owner

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    Dec 15, 2007
    New Albany, OH
    Bleeding The Brakes

    This DIY article is based on information obtained via the Zeckhausen Racing site and personal experience.
    I transposed the tech info and added pics specific to our trucks.

    First, get your tools and supplies in order.
    Here we have:
    - Brake Bleeding Kit (less than $10 at auto parts store). It has a right-angle 'nozzle' for attaching to the bleeding outlet on the brakes, a 1' long clear plastic tube, a small cup/ reservoir to hold expelled fluid.
    - Plastic cup (because the cup that comes with the kit is for Yugo brakes)
    - 11mm combination wrench (Craftsman, of course)

    Not pictured is the new pint of Wilwood brake fluid from JEGS (less than $10).
    I did not do a complete fluid swap. I will do that when I replace the rotors later this month.
    If you do a complete fluid swap, get several of the small bottles of brake fluid instead of the one large bottle. Smaller bottles have less moisture in them.
    Oh, and don't skimp on brake fluid. Buy the best that you can. It's not worth saving a few pennies when it comes to something as important as your brakes.

    Also not pictured is the buddy you'll need to pump the brakes while you're doing the bleeding.
    This is absolutely a two-person job.

    Remove the wheels.

    It helps to have all 4 off at the same time, but isn't really necessary.

    In fact, if you have a long enough bleeder tube and tiny carni-hands, you can leave the wheels on and reach past the spokes to access the brakes.

    Though Zeckhausen says it's not necessary, I like to do the "Far Corners" method when it comes to bleeding order.
    My Bleeding Order:
    - Pass. Rear
    - Driver's Rear

    If you don't like my layout, start on the Pass. side, and do the back first, then the front. With the control systems in our trucks, either method should work fine.

    Remove the protective rubber cover from the rear brake caliper housing.
    (It's the only rubber part on the outside of the caliper)

    Set (DO NOT TURN YET!!!) the 11mm combination wrench on the bleeder valve:
    I use the box (closed) end of the wrench for this; it reduces the "Slip and Scratch Paint" factor.
    Brake fluid is slicker than an L.A. defense attorney.

    Attach the nozzle end of the bleeder line/cup to the bleeder valve on the caliper:

    Now have your buddy who's eating donuts in the drivers seat pump the brakes a few times until the pedal becomes firm, then hold it towards the floor.
    Slowly open the bleeder valve a VERY SMALL AMOUNT. Watch as the fluid passes through the tube for air bubbles.
    When the bubbles stop appearing and it's pure fluid coming out, tighten up the valve.

    The cup provided with the kit is barely bigger than a shot glass. You will need to empty it at least once per caliper. That's what your spare plastic cup is for.

    Now go check the brake fluid reservoir in the engine bay. Make sure you've got plenty of fluid in there, and make sure it's NEW FLUID.

    Repeat this on the other rear brake caliper.
    Check the reservoir again.

    On the front the bleeder valve is in a slightly different position, AND there are (2) of them per caliper. We'll do the outside section of the front caliper first, then the inside section.
    My Bleeding Order:
    - Pass. Outside
    - Pass. inside
    - Driver's Outside
    - Driver's Inside

    Again, remove the rubber cover, and slide the box end of the combination wrench onto the valve.

    Attach the bleeder nozzle/tube/cup to the bleeder valve.

    Wake up your buddy and have him pump the brake pedal again. Keep watch for those air bubbles. You hate air bubbles. They are terrorists in your brake lines. You want them OUT! NOW! :)

    When you're done with the outside of that caliper, check the brake fluid reservoir (gotta keep it full), and move to the inside and repeat the bleeding process:

    Before you go jaunting off, double-check that all the bleeder valves are closed tight. Driveways are a great place to do this. Your emergency brake will still work if your regular brakes fail.

    Make sure your parking brake is set (or your transmission is in P for those with grocery getters).
    Fire up the engine and let it idle.
    Test the brake pedal.
    It should give a little bit, but then quickly firm up and become solid.

    Tap the pedal a few times, then push and hold.
    You should get the same 'give a little, then really firm and solid' feel.

    If your pedal goes to the floor, you have problems and need to check that all the bleeder valves are closed. You'll be able to spot the open one by the missing paint on your fender where the fluid squirted up onto it.
    If the bleeder valves are all tight, then you need to re-do the bleeding process and get the rest of that air out of there.

    Be sure to dispose of the old brake fluid properly. Most auto parts stores will take old fluid and have big ol' containers for it to be disposed of.
    Put it in an old 2-litre bottle and drop it off next time you pick up a pine tree air freshener.

    That's it. Our brakes are bled and we're good to go.
    Or stop, as the case may be.

    Huge 15" rotor thanks to Mr. Zeckhausen for his amazingly thorough write-up on brake bleeding.

    ©2007 Kevan J. Geier
    All Rights Reserved
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2008
  2. Mains

    Mains Pobody's Nerfect

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    Oct 10, 2007
    Albuquerque, NM
    Great work Kevan!