What Is The Best Brake Bleeder Kit? – 2019 Review Guide
Your brakes are arguably the part of your car most responsible for keeping you safe behind the wheel. As part of maintaining your brakes, you’ll need to flush the fluids from your brake system regularly. While this used to be a complicated, two-person process, a brake bleeder kit makes it a fairly simple task which can be completed on your own.
Also called brake flushing kits, they can vary significantly depending on the brand and type. We’ve rounded up the best choices for 2019. Plus, our complete guide explains what features to look for in a kit, and how to use it.
- Best Overall: HTOMT 2-in-1 Brake Bleeder Kit
- Best Value for the Money: Capri Tools Vacuum Brake Bleeder
- Best Cheap Option: Genesis One-Person Brake Bleeder Bottle
- Honorable Mention: Mityvac MV6840 Pressure Bleed System
- Another Honorable Mention: Phoenix Systems V-5 Reverser Brake Bleeder
- Factors to Consider When Choosing the Best Brake Bleeder Kit
- Type of Kit
- Ease of Use
- Quality of Components
- Pump Handle Style
- Reservoir Capacity
- Tube Length
- Frequently Asked Question About Brake Flushing Kits
- What is Brake Bleeding?
- What are the Different Types of Brake Bleeding Kits?
- Vacuum Pumps
- Pressure Pumps
- Pump and Hold
- Why Should Brakes be Bled?
- What are the Signs of a Problem?
- Mushy Pedal
- Too Quick of a Response
- Lack of Response
- How Do I Bleed My Brakes?
- Bleeding a Dual Brake System
- Maintaining Fluid Levels in the Master Cylinder
- What Other Tools Do I Need?
- Final Thoughts
Best Overall: HTOMT 2-in-1 Brake Bleeder Kit
Your best all-around option is this durable, easy-to-use brake and clutch bleeding system from HTOMT.
- One-person brake bleeding system
- All tools fit into the padded carrying case
- Fits most cars, trucks, and motorcycles
- Durable, long-lasting construction
- Rubber seals can slip at times
- The vacuum can be slow
Choose HTOMT’s brake bleeder kit if you’re looking for a reliable, one-person brake and clutch bleeding system. The kit includes a vacuum pump with gauge, reservoir jar, four different lengths of tubes, and adaptors designed to fit just about any standard vehicle.
All components fit snugly into the included plastic foam tool case. The kit is easy to transport and hard to damage.
Made from alloy steel, plastic, and rubber, the brake bleeder will be there when you need it. If you’re looking to buy one kit to use for years, this is the best overall choice for most D.I.Y mechanics.
Best Value for the Money: Capri Tools Vacuum Brake Bleeder
Well-made, easy to use and versatile, this vacuum brake bleeder by Capri Tools is a great choice if you’re not on a tight budget.
- Powerful built-in Venturi system
- Includes silicon hose and universal adapter
- Operates with minimal noise
- Fits most standard and ABS brakes
- Easy to use
- Sometimes operates slowly
If you want a powerful, reliable brake bleeder which will fit on just about any vehicle, Capri Tools has you covered. Their vacuum brake bleeder will drain most standard and ABS systems.
The set includes the vacuum brake bleeder, a 40-inch silicone hose, and a one-piece universal adapter. Although it’s powerful, it’s quiet, too. An integrated silencer minimizes operational noise.
Even though this brake bleeder is a bit pricier than its rivals, the powerful motor and easy operation make it an all-around great value.
Best Cheap Option: Genesis One-Person Brake Bleeder Bottle
Although it’s not much to look at, this affordable kit from Genesis allows one person to bleed brakes without making a mess.
- Simple one-person brake bleeder
- Features lanyard cable mount
- Easy, mess-free operation
- Initial setup can be confusing
- Magnet mount not as reliable as cable mount
Don’t need a bleeder with fancy frills? Not looking to pay a lot? This one-person brake bleeder from Genesis Technology allows you to bleed your brakes with no assistance.
It features both a magnet mount and a stainless steel lanyard cable mount. You can hang the bottle from a lug stud or the bleeder screw for simple, secure operation. A no-leak hose storage bung on the top cap doubles as a vent for smooth fluid flow.
It’s not the fastest bleeder, and it’s not packed with features. But it’s an easy, mess-free way to bleed your brakes solo without spending a lot of dough.
Honorable Mention: Mityvac MV6840 Pressure Bleed System
Looking for a pressure bleed system? Mityvac’s kit is an overall excellent choice with seven cylinder adapters, large fluid capacity, and push-connect technology.
- Versatile pressure bleed kit
- Includes five-liter fluid capacity
- Easily connects to almost any vehicle
- Pressure bleed systems can be complicated
A pressure bleed uses a pump attached to the master cylinder to clear air bubbles from the fluid in the brake system. If you’re interested in a pressure system, Mityvac’s MV6840 is an excellent option.
With seven included master cylinders, you should have no problem connecting it to most American, Asian, and European vehicles. A push-to-connect system allows you to get set up quickly and easily.
It has a large five-liter fluid capacity. Fluid flows smoothly once the pressure is activated. You can control the system pressure via a gauge on the dispenser.
Pressure bleed systems are useful when dealing with older cars and especially fragile brake systems. If you’re looking for a pressure system, Mityvac is an excellent option.
Another Honorable Mention: Phoenix Systems V-5 Reverser Brake Bleeder
Removing trapped air bubbles is fast and easy with this reverser brake bleeder from Phoenix Systems.
- Fast and easy reverse brake bleeding system
- Can be operated by just one person
- Also works as pressure and bench systems
- Bleeder port cap can leak
- Unit is somewhat fragile
A reverse brake bleeder pushes brake fluid from the bottom up, which forces air bubbles out of the systems. It’s a fast, easy way to bleed brakes.
Phoenix Systems’ V-5 allows you to bleed systems solo in about 10 minutes or less. It fits most cars and trucks easily. The V-5 is compatible with the three most common types of brake fluid (DOT 3, 4, and 5).
Although the emphasis is on reverse bleeding, the V-5 is also a three-in-one tool. You can also perform Pressure and Bench bleeding.
Factors to Consider When Choosing the Best Brake Bleeder Kit
Here are the main features to check out when shopping for a kit:
- Type of Kit
- Ease of Use
- Messiness (or Lack of)
- Quality of Components
- Pump Handle Style
- Reservoir Size
- Hose Length
Type of Kit
There are a few different types. The five most common are:
- Pump and Hold
We’ll dive into the details below, but for now, just note there are different types of kits for different purposes. Also, the pump and hold kit requires two people to operate while the rest can be used by one person solo.
Look for universal adapters so the pump can connect to your brake system. Generally, connectivity should be fairly straight-forward for most makes and models of cars and trucks. However, you’ll want to double-check for any issues related to foreign cars and motorcycles.
Ease of Use
One-person kits are far easier to use than ones where you have to recruit a friend. Unless you have a specific need for a two-person pump, you’ll probably want to stick with a vacuum, pressure, reverse or gravity pump.
Most at-home mechanics find vacuum, pressure, reverse, and gravity pumps all fairly easy to use. Gravity pumps are the simplest type overall. Reverser pumps are the fastest, but they can feel a bit complicated during first-time use.
You want to clean the brakes without spilling fluid all over your garage. Gravity pumps have the potential to be fairly messy just because their simple design can be prone to spills. Also, check for tight seals on any type of pump, but especially on the vacuum type.
Quality of Components
Working on your car can be rough business. You’ll need a pump which can handle a few bangs and knocks. Look for silicone hoses, tight rubber seals and other signs of quality construction.
Pump Handle Style
You want the pump handle to be easy to grip and comfortable. Look for an ergonomic design with cushioning. More than just a way to keep your hands from hurting, an ergonomic handle gives you precise control over the fluid flow.
A large fluid reservoir makes draining easier because you don’t have to stop and add brake fluid as you work. Plus, if you’re not using a bleeder with an automatic pump, a large reservoir means you don’t have to pump as often.
You’re better off with tubing which is a bit longer than needed instead of tubing too short to use. The tubing should be long enough that you can see the top of the master cylinder reservoir.
Frequently Asked Question About Brake Flushing Kits
Check out some of the most common questions about brake flushing kits.
What is Brake Bleeding?
Brake bleeding is a fairly routine maintenance procedure performed on hydraulic brake systems. Basically, it involves removing old fluid and replacing it with new. Potentially hazardous air bubbles are removed from the brake line. The same basic process flushes the brakes.
Brake bleeding kits include a:
The pump pushes fluid through the tubing, which forces any air bubbles out of the brake system. At the same time, the system is refilled with new fluid via the master cylinder.
What are the Different Types of Brake Bleeding Kits?
There are five different types of bleeding kits. Although they all operate in the same way on a basic level, each has important distinctions:
They’re probably the most common type. A vacuum pump sucks the brake fluid through the system. They’re typically easy to operate and flush the lines quickly.
The biggest potential problem is a poor connection between the pump and the bleeder threads. If air enters the line, you won’t be able to remove existing air bubbles (because the leak is adding more air to the line).
These fluid-filled pumps force pressure through the system as you open each value in turn. They use a one-way check-valve to push out air but not allow it back in. Because the pump holds fluid, you don’t have to refill the fluid reservoir as you remove the air bubbles.
Both pressure and vacuum pumps require several line bleeds to prevent air from entering the system. Because of this, these methods can take 20 minutes or more to flush the system.
Reverse brake bleeding is the fastest method. The pump forces fluid through the value into the master cylinder. The system is based on simple physics: Air naturally wants to rise to the top of any liquid and escape.
If you’re comfortable working in a garage, using a reverse brake bleeder is usually no problem. However, it can be a tad complicated if you’ve never used any type of bleeder before.
Gravity bleeding is a simple, straightforward way to replace the fluid. After attaching clear tubing to the vehicle’s bleeders, you manipulate the tubing to release the trapped air bubbles. As the name implies, gravity helps drain the system.
Gravity bleeding isn’t always as effective as other methods. You’ll need to bleed the system a few times to remove all air bubbles. Plus, it’s slow. Expect to spend 30 minutes or more.
Pump and Hold
Pump and hold is the oldest bleeding method. It’s not used too often these days. The brake pedal is physically pressed down while each bleed screw is opened in turn. The bleed screw must be closed before the pedal can be released.
The process requires two people, who have to continually yell back and forth to coordinate the brake presses. Unless you have an old car in rather unique condition, you probably don’t need to use this method.
Why Should Brakes be Bled?
In order to understand why brakes should be bled, let’s first take a closer look at how the brake system works.
Modern cars use disc brakes. A hydraulic system triggers calipers, which are a strong set of padded clamps. The calipers squeeze together on the rotor, causing enough friction to slow and stop the car.
The brake fluid within the hydraulic system is hygroscopic. That means it absorbs water from the atmosphere. Over time, it’s boiling point lowers.
Using the brakes causes friction. Friction heats the fluid in the disc calipers and wheels. The water in the fluid turns to steam.
When air enters the brake fluids, major problems can occur. The brakes can be slow to respond and eventually fail altogether.
What are the Signs of a Problem?
There are three common signs your brakes might need to be bled and your brake fluid replaced:
Does your brake pedal practically touch the floor before the car starts slowing down? That’s usually a sign of either worn brake pads or a problem with the hydraulic system. Hydraulic issues are likely caused by air bubbles in the brake lines, an air leak or a brake fluid leak.
You can identify a potential fluid leak without bleeding the system. Place a clean sheet or piece of cardboard under the car for at least 12 hours. Afterward, check for any signs of a leak. Brake fluid is clear with a consistency similar to cooking oil.
Too Quick of a Response
Instead of a mushy pedal, another sign of a problem is when the pedal feels overly sensitive, which means the car slows dramatically when you only lightly touch the pedal. That’s usually caused by either an unevenly worn rotor or dirty brake fluid.
First, inspect the rotors. If they show no signs of uneven wear, it’s probably time to bleed the brake system.
Lack of Response
If you need to stomp on the brake pedal to stop the car, either the brake line is obstructed, or the vacuum system is damaged. Both problems require immediate attention. The brake system is close to catastrophic failure.
(Are your brakes squeaking? That’s a different issue entirely. Check out Why Do My Brakes Squeak for more info.)
Even if your brakes seem to be in fine working conditions, experts recommend changing your hydraulic brake fluid every 18 to 24 months.
How Do I Bleed My Brakes?
Always follow the specific instructions included with the system you purchase. Operation specifics will vary based on the type of bleeder and even from brand to brand.
However, the basics are always fairly similar across all types. Here’s a general rundown:
Before bleeding the system, you’ll need to identify any leaks. Replace any damaged or faulty components. Once the leaks are fixed, you’re ready to bleed the hydraulic system and add new brake fluid.
First, drain the existing brake fluid. You do this by opening valves called bleed nipples. They’re small valves located on the caliper.
You’ll attach the bleeder to the nipple. If you’re using a pump and hold method (you’re not, but let’s pretend) here is where one person would start pumping the brake. Instead, you’ll follow the specific instructions to set up your particular style of bleeder. It’s easy to see why one-person brake bleeders are considered such an improvement over the old school methods!
On most cars, you don’t have to take the wheels off to reach the bleed nipples. However, removing the wheels usually gives you more space to work. If you’re using a slower method like a gravity bleeder or vacuum pump, you might want to take the wheel off first. It’s not usually necessary if you’re using a reverse bleeder kit.
Bleeding a Dual Brake System
Most cars have dual-brake systems, which means the front and rear brakes run on separate hydraulic circuits. In many cases, the rear brakes in a dual-brake system won’t bleed if weight is taken off the wheels (meaning, if you take the back wheels off).
A dual brake system must be bled in a certain sequence. Start with the front-wheel brake closest to the master cylinder. For most cars, that’s the brake closest to the driver’s side. Next, bleed the other front wheel. Finally, bleed the rear wheels. Bleed the brake furthest away from the master cylinder last.
Maintaining Fluid Levels in the Master Cylinder
During bleeding, the reservoir of the master cylinder must be continually topped off. The level drops as old fluid is drained away, but you can’t let the level drop too low. If the reservoir empties, air gets back into the system, which defeats the purpose of bleeding. You’ll need to start anew until all the air is forced out.
Keeping the master cylinder topped off during bleeding is vital. Pressure pumps are often considered the best at preventing the levels from getting too low. They automatically keep brake fluid at an appropriate level. However, vacuum pumps also work well here.
What Other Tools Do I Need?
You’ll need a few simple supplies aside from the brake bleeder kit.
You’ll want a funnel and a drain pan to hold the used fluid. Most of the general equipment used to change your oil is useful when changing your brake fluid.
Don’t forget to wear latex gloves and safety goggles. You don’t want to get brake fluid on your skin or in your eyes. Brake fluid is toxic so you’ll want to wipe it off your skin quickly with lots of cold water.
Of course, you’ll also need brake fluid. Most vehicles used DOT-3. However, check your owner’s manual for specifics.
Use kitty litter to help mop up any small fluid spills in your garage. Also, make sure to always dispose of brake fluid properly. Don’t dump into the sewer system. Your city should likely have safe disposal methods available. Some auto retailers will also take it.
Bleeding your brakes doesn’t have to be a time-consuming hassle – and you don’t need to trick a friend into helping you. A wide range of brake bleeding kits are available for the D.I.Y. mechanic. Vacuum kits, pressure kits, gravity kits, and reverse brake bleeders are all generally easy to use.
Spending a small amount of time taking care of your brakes today can help avoid major brake issues down the road. A brake bleeder is often a great addition to any home garage.