Your DIY skills are evolving, and now you’re ready to work on your own brakes — pads, discs and everything else. One tool you’ll need to get started is a brake bleeder kit.
It’s important to get any air bubbles out of your hydraulic brake system every time you change pads or discs or when your brakes feel spongy. Air bubbles in your brake lines can rob your car of braking power, which is essential for safety on the road. That’s what makes brake bleeding critically important.
A Brake Bleeder Kit Saves Time
A brake bleeder kit is the cleanest, most convenient way to do the job. Here’s how it compares to some of the other options:
- Gravity Bleeding: This involves opening the bleeder screw and letting gravity do the work. Of course, that means you get fluid all over the calipers and wheel cylinders, so there will be cleanup involved. It’s also the slowest method.
- Manual Bleeding: This is similar to gravity bleeding, except you’re using the brake pedal and master cylinder as a pump to push the fluid out through the open bleeder screw. It’s a two-person job, with one watching what happens at the bleeder screw while another applies and releases the brake pedal.
- Pressure Bleeding: The upside to pressure bleeding is one person can do this on their own, using a pressurized can of brake fluid to flush the system. The downside is you can’t see what’s coming out of the bleeder because you’re at the brake fluid reservoir, pushing new fluid in.
A brake bleeder kit uses vacuum bleeding. Vacuum bleeding is an easy one-person job where you attach a pump to the open bleeder screw and pull old fluid and air out of the braking system and into a container that’s part of the vacuum bleeder kit. There’s no waiting for the fluid to flow out on its own (gravity), no stop-and-start with another person (manual) and no need to be at the brake fluid reservoir rather than at the bleeder (pressure). There’s also very little cleanup time involved. The vacuum method with a kit is by far the quickest, easiest and cleanest approach to bleeding your brakes.
Other Uses for a Brake Bleeder Kit
A bleeder kit will be handy to have as part of your tool kit even beyond brake jobs. If you want the best possible performance from your brakes, remember that brake fluid degrades over time. This is due to the near-boiling brake fluid temperatures vehicles (especially front-wheel drive vehicles) experience in stop-and-go traffic. The fluid’s degradation lowers its boiling point, which can affect braking and inadequately protects braking components like master cylinders and anti-lock hydraulic modulators. For that reason, you should flush out your braking fluid and replace it every two years. You’ll find the bleeder kit makes that job a lot easier and cleaner, too.
A brake bleeder kit is a must-have if you want to tackle your own brake jobs, and it can help you take better care of your car’s brakes.
Check out all the brake bleeding products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on brakes, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photo courtesy of Mike Hagerty.
Mike Hagerty is an automotive journalist whose work has been featured on radio, TV, in print and online since 1997. He's the Publisher and Editor of MikeHagertyCars.com, and contributes car reviews to the Los Altos Town Crier and losaltosonline.com. Previous outlets have included KFBK and KFBK.com in Sacramento, California, the ABC television affiliates and Hearst-Argyle and Emmis radio stations in Phoenix, Arizona; AAA magazines for Arizona, Oklahoma, Northwest Ohio, South Dakota and the Mountain West and BBCCars.com.