How to Bleed Drum Brakes? Best Methods

Do you have to pump your brake pedal several times before the car will come to a complete halt? Do you have a spongy or soft brake feel? If you experience any of these, there’s likely air in the brake lines which needs to be expelled out.

Older vehicles feature drum brakes on the front and rear wheels. Newer cars are designed with disc brakes on the front and drum brakes on the rear wheels. Drum and disc brakes are different from each other. However, they use the same working principles. If you are trying to figure out how to bleed drum brakes, follow this article religiously.

This article has a sufficient and detailed step-by-step process on how to bleed drum brakes yourself.

Wait, scratch that! Let’s get high.

How to Blade Drum Brakes Best Methods

how to bleed rear drum brakes

Before going into a detailed step-by-step process on how to bleed rear drum brakes, you need some items and tools to prepare for the bleeding process. You will have the following items;

  • Brake fluid
  • Glass or plastic jar
  • Lug wrench
  • Line wrench
  • Jack stands
  • Clear plastic tubing
  • Carjack.

Find out the required brake fluid for your vehicle

You can find this information in the vehicle owner’s booklet. ( It is also essential to know the recommended interval for brake flush).

There are Dot3 Dot4 and Dot5 brake fluids. Place an order on Amazon or Walmart, or better still, get recommended brake fluid at a nearby local auto store. Quality brake fluids are relatively inexpensive. Two or three 12 ounces cans will be okay to bleed a brake.

Park your vehicle

Before you proceed to bleed your drum brakes, park your vehicle on a level and firm ground. Block off the front wheels with wheel chocks to prevent them from moving forward or backward.

Take off the wheel

Lift the wheel you want to start bleeding with the car jack and support it with your jack stands. If you’re working with common hand tools, slack the lug nuts before lifting the wheel. Take off the bleeder valve. Now, proceed to the next step.

Bleeding the brakes

Both disc and drum brakes require the same bleeding principles. Proper brake bleeding sequence requires you to start from the wheel farthest from the brake master unless your owner’s booklet states otherwise.

The bleeder screw is usually located at the topmost part of the rear backing plate. Remove the dust cover that prevents dirt and debris from blocking the bleeder screw.

Get a straw or a tiny hose and connect one end on the bleeder valve and fix the other end into a container to prevent the hydraulic from splattering everywhere when bleeding the wheel.

This is not a one-person bleeding job. So, if you’re wondering how to bleed brake with one person, this is the bleeding process. Have an assistant sit on the driver’s seat and depress the brake pedal a couple of times. Ask him to hold the pedal down while you unscrew the bleeder valve.

Once you open the valve and the brake fluid starts gushing out, the brake pedal should slowly go to the floor. Lock the screw once the fluid stops gushing out, and ask your assistant to pump the pedal a couple of times. Repeat this process until you expel all the air in the brake lines. When you’re done with this wheel, go to the opposite side of the wheel and do the same thing.

Make sure you keep checking the brake fluid level as you force air out of the system. Suppose the brake fluid goes below the minimum mark on the brake fluid reservoir while you’re bleeding the brakes; it’ll cause air to enter the brake system. This will result in a spongy or soft brake feel after bleeding brakes.

Recheck your work

Regardless of your level as a petrolhead, or DIY, give yourself a sense of doubt. Doubt your work and cross-check it again. Ensure everything is in place. Reinstall the wheels using the reserve process. Recheck the brake fluid, and make sure it’s on the maximum level.

Once you’re convinced that your work is okay and the brake pedal responds nicely and smoothly, pump the pedal a few times, and test run the brake.

how to bleed drum brakes with one person

FAQs

Q: Do you bleed brakes with the master cylinder open or closed?

You have to unscrew the brake fluid reservoir when bleeding brakes. However, don’t remove the cap from the mouth to prevent dirt and debris from falling into the reservoir.

Q: What is the correct order to bleed brakes?

The correct order for bleeding brakes is to start from the farthest wheel from the brake master until you get the closest wheel unless your owner’s booklet says otherwise.

To bleed the brakes, raise the wheel and support it, open the bleeder screws, remove the air in the system using vacuum, gravity, or pressure, refill the brake fluid reservoir and screw the bleeder valve.

Q: Will air in the system go away?

Of course, bleed the brake lines using either vacuum, gravity (the lazy man bleeding), or pressure to remove air from the system.

You may have to find out how to bleed drum brakes with a vacuum pump if you choose to expel the air with a vacuum.

Q: Why are my brakes still soft after bleeding?

I know how frustrating it is. I have been in that situation a couple of times when I was an entry-level mechanic.

The most common cause of soft or spongy brakes after bleeding is contaminated fluid in the brake lines and reservoir. To fix things right, you need first to check the brake fluid color and ascertain whether the fluid is contaminated and requires flushing the old brake fluid and replacing it with new fluid.

If the fluid looks nice and okay, grab your line wrench and expel it out of the wheels. If you still have a spongy brake pedal, contact a certified mechanic to rectify the issue.

Q: How much does it cost to take the air out of brake lines?

Brake bleeding is as simple as ABC. But what happens when you bleed it several times and still have a spongy brake feel? That could mean there’s air in the system, or you have leaks somewhere.

Since the brake is a hydraulic system, you need to regulate the pressure in the lines.

Fortunately, if you cannot expel air out of the system, you can consult a certified mechanic and get the job done at less than two hundred dollars. On average, the cost of bleeding a brake is $70 to $150. In any case, the price will vary depending on your car, make, model, location, and mechanic handling the work.

As we all know, going to a local mechanic will be cheaper than going to a dealership. And if you have the skills and tools, it’ll be more affordable than going to a local mechanic since all you have to pay for is the brake fluid.

Final words

You don’t have to gamble with your brake system. Your life and that of other road users depend on it. If your air conditioning and the audio system fail, you may leave it until you want to fix it. The brake is a different system. It doesn’t work that way.

Thankfully, this article has explained how to bleed drum brakes. So, You can easily bleed your brake lines. Suppose your drum brake is not bleeding; check if the brake line is blocked. Or better still, contact your dealership or mechanic for a thorough inspection and fix.

Osuagwu Solomon

Osuagwu Solomon is a seasoned automotive technician for the past 9 years, and a technical writer. He loves writing about auto professional repair guides, DIY repair guides, and buyer’s guide. After spending six years in the automotive workshop, he decided to impact his knowledge to people aside his domain, and he has achieved this by centering his Automotive writing skills on REPAIRS.

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