Bleed BrakesWhen changing brake fluid in a car, it’s very important to know exactly what you’re doing. Brakes are a major part of the safety of your car, and without them working properly you are putting yourself and other drivers at risk. There are some unique tools that are used when changing brake fluid in a car, and the whole process only takes about an hour. Bleeding your brakes will reduce the amount of wear on your brake system. You need a helper to assist you when flushing the old brake fluid from the master cylinder and bleeder screws.

Selecting Tools and Brake Fluid

Before you begin changing your brake fluid, you need to identify the correct brake fluid for your car. While DOT 3 brake fluid is overwhelmingly the most common, be sure to reference your owner’s manual before proceeding. The appropriate brake fluid type should also be labeled on the master cylinder cap, or you can consult a repair manual for your car. Also, you should buy at least two large bottles of brake fluid for this job, since the capacity of your brake system is actually quite large.

Once you’ve selected your new brake fluid, you’ll need to gather the tools that will be used in the job. Most importantly, you need to recruit a friend or helper to assist you with the bleeding process. While there are a few “one-man” brake bleeding kits on the market, having an extra set of hands and eyes will prove invaluable during the brake bleeding process. Beyond the help of an assistant, the tools you will need are a box wrench set, a large turkey baster, a mason jar, and a two feet section of 5/32” transparent tubing.

Bleeding the Brake System

The first step in changing brake fluid in a car is to fill the master cylinder with fresh brake fluid. Using the turkey baster, remove as much of the old brake fluid and dirt particles from the master cylinder as you can. Once you’ve cleared it out, refill the master cylinder to the appropriate level and put the cap back on. Putting the cap back on each time is very important, because the pressure from the bleeding process will cause brake fluid to spray out of the top.

Next, crawl under the car and attach the 5/32” tubing to the bleeder screw on your caliper. It may be important to note that you can only do one caliper at a time when bleeding the brake system. Once the tubing is attached, place the open end of the tubing into the mason jar with about two inches of brake fluid. The brake fluid in the jar will act as a dynamic seal for the brake system, while the jar itself will act as a receptacle for the old brake fluid.

Once everything is in place, have your assistant sit in the driver seat. The helper should press the brake pedal down until they feel some resistance and hold it in place. Next, turn the bleeder screw about one-quarter turn to crack the seal. Once the seal is cracked, the brake pedal will want to depress and evacuate the old brake fluid. It’s important that the helper maintains constant pressure on the pedal so that air doesn’t sneak into the end of the bleeder screw. Once the brake pedal is nearly to the floor, the helper should signal you to close the bleeder screw and then release the pedal once the system is closed.

This process should be repeated several times until only clean brake fluid is coming out the tube. After every five or six bleeding cycles, open the master cylinder and top off the reservoir. It’s important to keep the master cylinder over half full during the whole process. Repeat these steps for each of the remaining wheels.

Testing Your Work

Once you’ve finished all the wheels and your entire brake system has been bleed, it’s time to test the brakes. To do this, start the vehicle and pump on the brakes a few dozen times. You should feel the brakes tighten as you pump, and there should be a normal amount of resistance when depressing the pedal. If everything seems good, give it a test drive and you’re done. As a general rule, you should never wait more than three years between changing brake fluid in a car.

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