Do you have to bleed brakes after changing pads? It’s not always necessary to bleed your brakes after changing the pads. However, you may change the brake pads and notice the brake pedal is down or spongy while you drive. If that’s the situation, park the vehicle and bleed your brake fluid.   photo: Why do brakes get spongy after changing the pads   Why do brakes get spongy after changing the pads? Your brake caliper cylinder may be fixed very close to the brake pads, depending on your vehicle model. To prevent damage while bleeding brakes, open the bleeder valve and push the caliper back in afterward. Opening the bleeder valve lets’ the air bubbles into the brake system. And once the air bubbles are trapped in the system, the brake components corrode. As a result, the brake intensity reduces, leading to safety risks. However, in some vehicle models, you can push the caliper in without opening the bleeder valves. In this situation, you dont need to bleed the brake fluid.

When to Bleed Your Brakes

Apart from the situation when you have to open the bleeder valve while changing brake pads or rotors, other factors determine when to bleed brakes. Take a look at some of the reasons.
  • If your car takes longer to brake, air bubbles might be in the brake system. You will have to bleed the fluid.
  • If your brake pedal feels too loose or spongy, air bubbles might be in the brake system. You need to bleed the brake fluid.
  • If you find a leak in the brake system and repair it afterward, you must bleed the brake fluid. In the event of a leak, air bubbles may get into the system.
  • If your brake pads are already worn, you must press the pedal hard for the car to stop. In this situation, the braking requires more fluid which drains the reservoir tank. As a result, air bubbles form in the space and corrode the components.

How to Bleed Your Brakes

The best way to bleed your car is to visit the repair shop and have professionals do it for you. But what if the brake system is in a critical condition and the brakes need to be bled? You can call a mechanic at your home or on the highway where the brake malfunctioned. However, there is another option. You can do it yourself if you have the necessary tools. Below is the procedure for bleeding the brake fluid.

Step 1: Gather the Necessary Tools

You will need all the necessary tools before starting the process. Below is the list of the tools:
  • Socket wrench to loosen the bleed valve.
  • Four open containers to collect the brake fluid around each wheel.
  • Protective glasses and gloves because brake fluid can be toxic to your eyes and skin.
  • Fresh brake fluid to replace any lost fluid when bleeding.
  • WD-40 lubricant to treat rust.

Step 2: Park the Car On a Level Surface, Jack it Up, and Remove the Wheels.

The brake fluid moves to the four wheels of the car. As such, you must park the car on a level surface to bleed all the fluid successfully. If you decide to use a car ramp, ensure it's well set for the vehicle to be level. On the other hand, opt for a jack and the jack stands for your safety.   photo: Remove all four wheels to easily locate the bleed valve and have an easy time draining   Remove all four wheels to easily locate the bleed valve and have an easy time draining.

Step 3: Locate the Brake Fluid Bleeder Screw

The bleeder valve(screw) is located at the rear of the caliper cylinder. In some car models, it can be a rubber cap, while in others, it can be metallic.   photo: Locate the Brake Fluid Bleeder Screw  

Step 4: Use a Socket Wrench to Loosen the Bleeder Valves

The socket wrench will work best to avoid damaging the bleeder valve. If the valve is tight or rusted, spray WD-40 around and slowly turn the wrench to open. Finally, after the screw opens, place it in a safe area out of dust and other contaminants. 

Step 5: Connect a Hose to the Bleeding Screw

Find the appropriate hose to connect to the valve with one end and the other directed to the collecting container. The hose will prevent the fluid from spilling. Proceed to each wheel, open the bleed valves, and set the collecting containers.   photo: Connect a Hose to the Bleeding Screw  

Step 6: Pump the Brake Pedal a Couple of Times

Get into the cabin and press the brake pedal to push all brake fluid out of the system. But note that you will need a helper at the end when closing the bleed valves. Ideally, let the helper press the brake pedal down as you close all the valves. Pressing the brake ensures no air is left in the system.   photo: Pump the Brake Pedal a Couple of Times  

Adding the Brake Fluid to the Car

After you have drained the brake fluid, you need to add it to the system and assured that no air bubbles are in the brake pipes.

Step 1: Locate Your Master Cylinder

Ensure the car engine is off and open the hood. The brake master cylinder is normally at the back of the engine bay on the driver's side. Then, clean the master cylinder reservoir and cap with a clean towel. Wipe out all the dirt and the water droplets to prevent them from dropping into the system as you service the cylinder.

Step 2: Fill Up the Master Cylinder and Drive

Add your brake fluid until it reaches the marked “MAX” line on the reservoir. If the old fluid isn’t enough, add the fresh fluid until it reaches the maximum level. Carefully set the cap on the reservoir and press down until it clicks into place.   photo: Fill Up the Master Cylinder and Drive   Take a short test drive and confirm your brakes are firm. You have bled your car’s brake fluid.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

What Happens If You Don't Bleed Your Brakes?

If you dont bleed the brakes, air bubbles corrode the brake system and alter hydraulic pressure. As a result, the brakes become less efficient, putting you at risk of accidents. Ensure all air bubbles are off the brake pipes for high brake intensity.

How Often Should I Bleed My Car Brakes?

Automotive service professionals advise bleeding the brakes after two to three years. Brake fluids get old with time, and as a result, their boiling point lowers. Alternatively, if you bleed the brake fluid and notice it’s contaminated, add fresh fluid for better brake performance.

What is the Difference Between Bleeding and Flushing Your Brakes?

You perform brake fluid bleeding to eliminate air bubbles from the system and refill the brake master cylinder with the same fluid. However, when you flush the brake fluid, you get rid of the old fluid by adding fresh brake fluid.

Can I Bleed Brake By Myself?

Yes. Gather the necessary tools and bleed the brake fluid if you know how a car’s hydraulic brakes work. However, avoid contaminants when adding the fluid to the brake master cylinder to avoid brake failure afterward.

Wrapping Up

Do I need to bleed brakes after changing pads? If you have opened the bleed valves, you definitely have to bleed your brakes. Note that bleeding brakes is a simple process but requires much care. Observe cleanliness to avoid contaminants when adding the brake fluid to the master cylinder.