If you’ve recently had cause to replace your brake lines or calipers, there’s a real possibility that you may have unwittingly introduced air into your braking system. Now, the effects of this won’t be visible immediately, but as time goes on, the air pressure will build till you’d be able to feel it physically in the system. Many motorists have reported that this feeling is a soft mushy feel when they engage their breaks.
Ordinarily, this would be a matter of convenience. However, it could have real safety implications because it increases stopping time significantly. So it’s an apparent problem.
This problem is usually solved through gravity bleeding. Gravity bleeding is a process whereby people manipulate their brake lines or tubing to release trapped air bubbles. The process of “gravity bleeding” is a foolproof method of freeing your brake lines of air bubbles, and it is guaranteed to work ten out of ten times.
Is Gravity Bleeding Necessary?
Gravity Bleeding is a process that you must take your car through throughout its lifespan. It has to happen whenever you have cause to repair your brake pads, calipers, or lines. It’s almost unavoidable.
To have your brakes working in the best condition, you’d have to bleed them at least once every three years. Even if you don’t have your brake lines repaired— which is rather unlikely, you’ll still have to bleed your brake lines. As your car accumulates miles, small pockets of air can get trapped in your brake lines. This may not even be a result of you changing your brake lines. It could just happen naturally.
“But how” is the obvious question. Well, the air is a sneaky light element, and it could get into your brake system in multiple ways. For one, it could travel into your brake system during any kind of services being done on your car. Secondly, it could get into your brake system when there’s a leak of some sort. Sometimes, it could quickly enter through your brake pads. This is most likely if your brake pads are worn out. That’s why it’s important and indeed necessary to regularly bleed your brake lines— it’s the safe and sensible thing to do.
Can I Do Gravity Bleed Brakes Alone?
There are several car repair jobs that you cannot possibly manage to do alone. However, there are others, like bleeding your car’s brakes, that you can manage to do alone.
So, yes, you can complete the gravity bleeding process on your brakes alone. You do not need outside help, and you don’t have to speak to a mechanic to do it.
What Special Tools Do I Need To Bleed Brakes?
- Brake Wrench
- Brake Fluid Container
- Brake Fluid
- Shop Towel
- Brake Cleaner
- Masking Tape
- Vise Grips
- An open-end wrench for the bleed valve
- About 5 feet of 3/16-inch plastic tubing
Step By Step Guide on How to Gravity Bleed Brakes Alone
- First, get your automotive jack and lift your cat till it’s a bit above the ground. Once you’re done, rest your car on the jack stands and then remove the wheels one by one. It would be best to remember that your car has to be supported evenly on the jack stands. If it’s not supported evenly, it may fall off one end and lead to your car getting damaged.
- Once you’ve successfully removed the wheels, you’ll be able to see the brake calipers. When you have access to this part of your car, then you’ll be able to gravity bleed it.
- The next step is to locate your brake fluid reservoir. The reservoir is usually right next to your brake calipers, so it should be easy to find.
- Next, you need to loosen the cover and bleeder caps with vice grip pliers. While removing the bleeders’ cap, be very careful so that you don’t end up damaging anything. You must use vice grip pliers for this part of the job— if you don’t have one, it’s better not to proceed. This is because losing the cap with any other tool may damage it.
- After losing the cap, it’s time to attach the plastic tubing. To do this, place one side of the plastic tubing over the bleeder, and make sure to raise the other end and ensure it stays above the reservoir. It’s essential that the tubing is extended to a higher level than the reservoir for optimal bleeding.
- And now, it’s time to remove the air. It would be best to set you back the entire process if you were very careful as a mistake. Open the bleeder nipple with an open-end wrench. After doing this, you’ll slowly see fluid rising in the plastic tubing. You’ll also start to notice the air bubbles releasing. The fluid will continue this way until it reaches the brake fluid reservoir’s height in the car. This could take up to five minutes, so you should be careful.
- When you’re done, close the bleeder, remove the tubing— and make sure to use the jar to catch the liquid while doing this. To do this, you need to set the jar below the nipple, then use a wrench to close the bleeder, and then remove the plastic tube from it. It would help if you remembered that you have to keep the brake fluid level full during this process. If it goes too low, you have to replenish it while bleeding.
- Next is to repeat this process for each wheel in the car.
- After this, you need to tighten the bleeder caps, fix the wheels, and lower the car. Take the car out for a test drive, and try to apply a little pressure on the brakes. If it feels firm under pressure, that means the bleeding worked. However, if you press the brakes and it feels mushy, that means you haven’t bled the brakes properly and may have to redo the entire process again.
If you go through these steps, you’d be able to gravity bleed your brakes without outside help easily. However, you have to make 100% sure that you’re following the steps to the letter— anything less may lead to failure.