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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've heard that you can bleed your brakes yourself using a gravity method, where you jack one corner up, open the bleeder, and wait for the fluid to flow out due to gravity, waiting until the fluid runs clear (you have to keep adding ew fluid to the master cylinder). Then you close that bleeder and repeat with the other three wheels. Do you guys think that's a good idea, or should I just stick with having the dealer do it with the master-cylinder-mounted pump for $95? My main concern is how long it would take for me to do a gravity bleed one wheel at a time.

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I've heard that you can bleed your brakes yourself using a gravity method, where you jack one corner up, open the bleeder, and wait for the fluid to flow out due to gravity, waiting until the fluid runs clear (you have to keep adding ew fluid to the master cylinder). Then you close that bleeder and repeat with the other three wheels. Do you guys think that's a good idea, or should I just stick with having the dealer do it with the master-cylinder-mounted pump for $95? My main concern is how long it would take for me to do a gravity bleed one wheel at a time.

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Don't use your gravity method. You'll end up with air in the caliper.

Also no need to let the dealer do it.

Use the time honored two person method. One person pushes on the brake pedal while the other cracks open the bleeder. Close the bleeder when the pedal gets near the floor (requires a little communication between the two people). Repeat as needed but keep the master cylinder full.

Bleed each one until you see fresh, new fluid flow.

Works every time. No air in the system.
 

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Don't use your gravity method. You'll end up with air in the caliper.
Unless the master cylinder is allowed to go dry, I don't see how air will end up in the caliper. Gravity bleeding is a good way to go if you're not in a hurry and don't have a volunteer handy to work the brake pedal. Both methods have worked well for me.
 

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Unless the master cylinder is allowed to go dry, I don't see how air will end up in the caliper. Gravity bleeding is a good way to go if you're not in a hurry and don't have a volunteer handy to work the brake pedal. Both methods have worked well for me.
Set up your own test bed with a funnel and a piece of clear tubing on the end. Block off the end of the clear tube and fill up the funnel (water, brake fluid, or any other liquid of similar viscosity). The funnel represents the master cylinder (reservoir) and the block at the end of the clear tube is the bleeder screw. We really have an additional reservoir at the caliper and you can simulate that if you wish.

Open the screw and you'll learn a little about fluid dynamics. Bleeder screws are not one-way valves (but there are some on the market) and you'll see that it's impossible to bleed properly via gravity. You end up with air in the caliper every time.
 

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Ok, I see where you're coming from. Two things though. I was assuming you'd have a tube over the screw with the other end in the brake fluid in the catch can/jar just like you do with the two person method. Also, the bleeder screws are at the top of the caliper so the air will come out of the caliper when the screw is opened. The air being lighter doesn't work it's way down into the fluid on its own. I have seen air sucked in via the threads using the two person method when the bleeder screw was opened a little too far. I've had plenty of practice using both methods on my '74 Corvette before I rebuilt it's brake system. There's folks over on that forum that swear by gravity bleeding over all other methods. But, that may be peculiar to the old Vette's brake system. Both methods work satisfactory when done properly.
 

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Ok, I see where you're coming from. Two things though. I was assuming you'd have a tube over the screw with the other end in the brake fluid in the catch can/jar just like you do with the two person method. Also, the bleeder screws are at the top of the caliper so the air will come out of the caliper when the screw is opened. The air being lighter doesn't work it's way down into the fluid on its own. I have seen air sucked in via the threads using the two person method when the bleeder screw was opened a little too far. I've had plenty of practice using both methods on my '74 Corvette before I rebuilt it's brake system. There's folks over on that forum that swear by gravity bleeding over all other methods. But, that may be peculiar to the old Vette's brake system. Both methods work satisfactory when done properly.
I use to gravity bleed my 78 vette, had a problem with air getting into the calipers while driving due to bad wheel bearings, alot of times I didn't have a partner to help with bleeding so I used to gravity bleed never had any problems doing so. This all ended when I replaced the rear wheel bearings and installed stainless steel breaks. I also gravity bled my clutch on my Celica GTS with no problems.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Another update:

I asked around, and AdvanceAuto Parts LOANS a vacuum bleeder. This is the thing that you hook up to the bleeder and draw a vacuum with, then opening the bleeder. It sucks out the fluid. When it runs clear, you close the bleeder, and that's it. You pay $50 to get the device, and you get the $50 back when you return it. FREE!!!

Incredible. I'm still seriously considering getting those SpeedBleeder things.
 

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I've done gravity bleeds before and it does work (don't ask me about the physics behind it, still trying to figure out). If you're on your own, there's an easy way to do a 1- man bleed. Take a soda bottle (20 oz works best). Make a hole in the cap. Then you'll need some 3/8" silicone tubing. Fill the bottle a little with some brake fluid. Stick the tubing through the cap and submerge the end under the level of the brake fluid in the bottle. The other end fit over the bleeder nipple. Crack the bleeder open, pump pump pump pump pump, close it nipple off and you're done.
 

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I just have to plug the Harbor Freight bleeder that shovelhd mentions. I suspect most of us have used the "time honored" two person method with great success. The last two times I used the Harbor Freight bleeder also with great success. Have to say that I have not used it on the Ridge yet, anyone? . It takes just a little practice to squeeze the handle to get the optimum vacuum and crack the bleeder just enough to allow bleeding without sucking air back through the bleeder threads. Preaching to the choir right, but the same problem exists with the two person method, just to a lesser degree (if you don’t coordinate well with your helper, and/or you open the valve too much) since the vacuum tool can provide quite a bit of suction and more easily back pulls air through the bleeder threads.

The key to the Harbor freight bleeder seems to be don’t just squeeze the handle all the way down, but give it a little bit, while you crack the bleeder, otherwise you will get foamy output from the high suction pulling air through the bleeder valve threads. Perhaps the foam isnt such a big problem since its being evacuated if you know what I mean, but I was able to avoid it so why not and it makes it easier to visually confirm that you are getting clear bubble free fluid. Also one vehicle seemed much more prone to pulling air back through the bleeder valve than the other. Tolerance in the threads, I assume? But all in all a great tool that makes a complete flush as easy as it could be. I have looked at one of these things from time to time but stuck with the two person method because they were always $40 or $50 and didn’t have the refill reservoir. This unit isn’t just similar; it’s identical to ones I’ve seen elsewhere for twice the price.

I’ve also considered those bleeder valves with the check valve, and they also seem to have some sealant around the threads. Not sure I’ll ever invest in them, but they seem like a good idea. Anyone have them?

For my money, I pretty much only bleed about the same interval as I would do a complete flush and if you are going to do a complete flush why not make it easier on yourself by at least using a refiller at the master cylinder. Way overkill in fluid volume in terms of waste, but last time I just paid ~$7 for a quart of quality brake fluid and filled my “refiller” bottle and then used the Harbor Freight bleeder to pull most of the bottle in roughly equal amounts. Overkill in the amount of fluid you could get by with, but you don’t save partial bottles anyway, and process is so easy with this thing. The manual is available on their site if you want to check it out.
 

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I have a pneumatic brake bleeder from snap-on as well. Too bad my air compressor needs a new regulator valve, pressure gauge and outlet. Oh well. I might end up selling it because I cycle it too much when I do use air (need to step up to something like a 55+ gal shop compressor. Basically the previous generation of this item:
 

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Here is what you get with the Harbor Freight one. The price has gone up $5 since I bought it in March 09. The price was 24.99 then. I dont imagine the quality compares to the snap-on, but for $25 this one is seems quite substantial, and for the $30 current price I'd do it again. Harbor Freight seems to have frequent sales and coupons so perhaps that will be a future option. For me, storage of these things is always a problem. Especially with fluids as harmful to paint as brake fluid. I drained it as best i could then used paper towels where I could to hopefully catch drainage.

http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/displayitem.taf?Itemnumber=92924
 

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I find Harbor Freight items good for occasional use, but if you use it everyday like how I used to as a tech, they just don't have the strength or durability to last.
 

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I find Harbor Freight items good for occasional use, but if you use it everyday like how I used to as a tech, they just don't have the strength or durability to last.
I totally agree. They got this one right.
 

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No debate on relative quality or reliability? You put your money down and take your chances. This one seems like a comparatively good deal and pretty well made. Not that this is hugely significant either, but as far as i can tell, it’s identical to the one Griots sells but at almost half the price (when I bought it), and I don’t think the Griots one has the refiller which was my particular attraction. I also have the attachment for a MityVac. It has a more substantial brass valve and other hardware, and of course doesn’t need a compressor, but it’s the refiller that makes the job easier- even if it’s all made “off shore”

http://www.griotsgarage.com/product/tools/specialty+tools/one-person+brake+bleeder.do
 

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Whenever I purchase a tool, I try and balance what I intend to do with it versus how often I will use it versus what I will pay for it.

For example, I use a torque wrench often. I have three of them. I have both Craftsman and Snap-On and take good care of them. The Snap-On can be calibrated and will hold its calibration for a very long time. They are tools that will last a lifetime.

With hand tools, I buy Craftsman exclusively. They will wear out, rust, and break, so I want something that I can get with a lifetime warrantee that I can redeem easily. Craftsman fits the bill. Plus I buy most of my Craftsman tools at yard sales for pennies and trade them in for new ones.

This brake bleeder gizmo, I'm going to use it maybe a dozen or two times in my life. It doesn't make sense to pay 4x-6x the price for something that will last my lifetime. If it breaks at an inopportune time, I always have the two person method to fall back on.
 

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Off topic, and I apologize for that, but I’ve also got a large collection of Craftsman tools, some of it from my grandfather from the 40’s I’d imagine. The history of who made what when is kind of interesting. Some I still use others it’s just personally neat for me to have.

Can’t beat the Craftsman warranty. As a kid in high school I worked for little company that made transformers. The owner had jury rigged a foot pedal to a lathe that we used to wind 8awg wire on a form. Two of us wearing leather gloves would provide tension on the wire. After we had the proper windings we would install the actual transformer core plates and then use the biggest Craftsman vise available with a cheater pipe to compress and square the thing off. We had a mold of sorts that he had welded up. There was lot more to it to finish it off, but every couple months one of the vise jaws would break and off to Sears the owner would go.

Obvious tool abuse, and in retrospect we are probably lucky to have not lost limbs in the lathe or eyes, but I don’t think Sears even asked questions why we needed a new vise every few months. I bet they would now.
 

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