If you want to bleed your brakes in your car, there are three ways to do it: the easy way, the cheap way, and the best way. The easy way is taking it to a shop which requires you to lift nary a finger except that which you will use to remove a wad of cash out of your wallet to hand over your mechanic. The cheap way is to round up a friend and do it the old fashioned way with one person in the car operating the brake pedal and another tightening and loosening the bleed screws on command. While this way works famously, you’ll certainly owe someone a favor after they’ve spent a couple hours helping you out and the process can be painfully slow. If neither of those options sound appealing, the best way to bleed your brakes is with a brake bleeding kit (or by using speed bleeders as an alternative which we also highly recommend and detail below).
Why Bleed Your Brakes?
Why do you want to bleed your brakes? There are a couple reasons. Over time air is slowly introduced into the system. While brake fluid is effectively incompressible, air is most certainly compressible. Having air in your brake lines results in a spongy feeling pedal resulting from compression of this air. A squishy pedal doesn’t provide very good feedback to your foot and your braking performance slowly degrades until you bleed the air out of your brake system. The other reason is that brake fluid is hygroscopic (meaning it absorbs water) and eventually becomes water-saturated from the moisture it absorbs, which will eventually threaten to rust your brake lines. Replacing the fluid that has become saturated with water prevents this from happening. Overall bleeding your brakes increases the longevity of your braking system as well as maintains factory braking performance. We should also mention that a brake bleeding kit will also allow you to bleed your clutch in most cars since your clutch usually shares a master cylinder with your brakes, so you can do everything at the same time.
What Is A Brake Bleeding Kit?
A brake bleed kit is a system that allows you to continuously pressurize (at your master cylinder) or pull vacuum (at your bleeder screw) on your brake system as opposed to having to repeatedly push and pull your brake pedal. This allows you to adjust the bleed screw using a flare nut wrench without having to rely on a partner. Brake bleeding kits come in a variety of flavors including hand powered and air powered, positive pressure based or vacuum (aka negative pressure) based. Essentially you hook the system up to your master cylinder or bleeder screw to create an airtight seal. You then pump it up and bleed your brakes, only pausing occasionally to top your fluid off to make sure it doesn’t dip below the minimum level.
The Best Brake Bleeding Kits
When choosing the best brake bleeding kit, there are a few things to consider. Here we offer you our two favorite options. One is a true brake bleeding kit, and the other is a replacement option for your bleed screws on your brake calipers that allows you to perform a brake bleed operation with only one person without the need for a brake bleed kit at all.
Mityvac MV8000 Automotive Test and Bleeding Kit
When it comes to vacuum or pressure in the automotive world, Mityvac is a longstanding player who makes a variety of products for brake systems, fuel systems, cooling systems, and other engine diagnostics. For brake bleeding specifically, the Mityvac system is a great all around kit that allows you to painlessly complete a brake bleed without the usual headaches. It comes with all necessary fittings to mate up with your brake bleeder screw so that you can draw your brake fluid out using vacuum. The kit comes with a metal vacuum pump equipped with an easily visible dial gauge so you know exactly how much vacuum you are pulling. You just have to hook it up and squeeze the handle to start drawing fluid.
Overall the kit is of decent build quality and is priced extremely well compared to some of the more sophisticated systems. The Mityvac works well enough so don’t be tempted by some of the most sophisticated air powered brake bleeding kits as they just aren’t necessary unless you both have a compressed air system and expect to bleed brakes quite frequently.
Finally, we should note that the kit includes an extensive instruction manual that will guide you through the process from beginning to end and will serve as a handy resource if you are a beginner. Overall we highly recommend this kit and think for the money this is the best brake bleeding kit available.
As promised, we are also going to cover speed bleeders. We have used speed bleeders on a vast number of cars and swear by them. A speed bleeder is a direct replacement for your brake bleed screws that contains a check valve inside. A check valve only allows fluid to flow one way, unlike a conventional bleed screw which allows bidirectional fluid flow. What this means is that when you loosen your bleed screw, you can actuate your brake pedal to push fluid out continuously without having to repeatedly tighten your bleed screw at the correct time because the check valve prevents air from flowing back into your brake lines.
This means that your brake bleed procedure only consists of loosening the speed bleeder, pumping the brake pedal repeatedly until you have either sufficiently bled the air out of your brake lines or completely flushed the fluid in the line, and then tightening the bleed screw. You do not need a partner to accomplish this task, and all four corners on your car can be done in about an hour. This method also does not require a brake bleed kit, so while we can’t say that this is the best brake bleed kit on the market, this is arguably the best and most cost effective method to accomplish a one man brake bleed job.
Speed bleeders are high quality and come with threadlocker pre-applied so they are ready to go right out of the package. You will have to take a quick look to make sure you get the right size for your car, which you can find by reviewing this reference chart on the Speed Bleeders website. Overall we highly recommend speed bleeders as they will save you tons of time over the long haul and can be had relatively cheap. They are extremely popular with the guys and gals that track their cars as they allow quick brake fluid flushes without the need for lots of tools.
Overall, there are multiple ways to bleed your brakes and the above represent both of our favorites. Whether you opt to use the best brake bleeder kit around or whether you prefer the speed bleeder approach, you are bound to have a firmer brake pedal, better stopping power, shorter stopping distances, and an all around better driving experience after bleeding your brakes. While we have made our recommendations, if neither of them suit you perfectly feel free to take a look at some of the other systems on the market by clicking here. Happy wrenching!