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Old 02-23-2011, 08:41 PM   #1
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Default Flushing the brakes with a hand vacuum pump

After the accident last month, my front brakes felt a little soft. I've known they needed to be flushed but without the right tool or knowledge how to do it manually (without my big sister), I just waited. Today I went to Harbor Freight and got a vacuum brake bleeder based on advice and encouragement from Cruzman.

After I cooked dinner, I journeyed to the garage--with the right tools to do the job for a change.

The Clymer manual assumes you have some mechanical knowledge. Why they'd assume that is beyond me but they do. The first step is to get the master cylinder level. The book says: "Turn the handlebar to level the front master cylinder. Lock the wheel in this position..." Even when I did it, I could see the master cylinder wasn't level. Somewhere I could hear the Angel of the Mechanics chuckling.

Make sure you cover your tank and two month old painted handlebars so that when the brake fluid spills, it won't strip the paint you worked hard to get acceptable. I put plastic on the tank and a rag under the master cylinder. Cruzman warned me about this but I didn't get what he meant until the worst was already happening. Unfortunately, I didn't put the rag between the bars and the cylinder until after I saw the fluid dripping onto them and the paint stripping away . I'll be taking them off for repaint when I get the new fairing in. Again, that Angel was amused at my attempt.

After that, clean the area on the caliper around the bleed screw before exposing it. This prevents contamination and showed me that my calipers are not the color I thought they were! With the area clean, remove the rubber cap and put a closed end wrench over the bleed screw.

Then attach the hose for the bleed screw to the bottle on the pump using the appropriate adapter

Connect the other hose from the bottle to the pump.

Remove the cover from the master cylinder--Mine has a cap and a rubber cover--to expose the brake fluid.

Note: Brake fluid should not look like apple juice! It's also not level. Frankly turning the handle bars left and right is not going to get it level. I loosened the screws and rotated the thing until it was level, re-tightened the screws, then added some fluid.

The pump should already be connected so pump up the pump according to it's instructions. If your pump is new like mine, remove that rubber thing between the handle and the cylinder or your forearm will get sore fast!

Please learn from my mistake. The instructions for my pump says to squeeze the lever about 10 times or until the pressure is around 20. With that rubber thing in the way, it barely got above 15. Fortunately for me it fell away because I didn't know it wasn't supposed to be there--and I read the manual first!

Now this is where things speed up. Barely loosen the bleed screw and watch the bottle fill with apple juice looking fluid. Don't loose the screw too loose or you will let air into the system. While the bottle is filling, the level in the reservoir goes down. You have to top it off AND keep the pressure on the pump up.

Brake fluid in one hand, pump in the other. Keep doing this until the fluid going into the bottle is clear. This is easier to tell when the tubes are not black. I'll be replacing those before I do the rear tomorrow. I had to keep closing the bleed screw so I could empty the bottle to see what color the fluid was.

I have two calipers so I had to repeat on the other side. It didn't take as long to get from dirty to clean.

While the pump is still connected and the bleed screw is closed, pump the lever to make sure it feels right. If it's soft or spongy, there is air in the system and you need to keep bleeding until it's gone. Another reason for clear hoses because you can see the air bubbles.

If you have adjustable levers, make sure they are on their farthest setting when you pump the lever otherwise you may not be able to tell the difference between right and wrong. I didn't make sure mine were on 6 and they still felt wrong. I got frustrated, put my new toy away, put the caps and covers back on then took the slow ride recommended in the clymer manual hoping I didn't have a bigger problem than air in the lines. I followed all the directions so that softness should be gone! There was no way I was going to do the rear brakes now. I might have gotten a HF dud on the vacuum bleeder kit.

During the ride I decided I couldn't have because the brakes stopped better but still not like before the accident. When I got back, I went from 2 to 6 then squeezed the lever. It felt like it was supposed to so I put it back to 2 to be sure the spongy feeling was still gone.

I am full of myself and decided that I'll definitely do the rear tomorrow after getting clear hoses.

Last edited by theWolfTamer; 02-23-2011 at 09:00 PM. Reason: change title
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Old 02-23-2011, 08:54 PM   #2
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Default Re: Bleeding brakes with a hand vacuum pump

Very nice write up! I have always done it the manual way and wondered how to use one of those. Pretty slick device!
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Old 02-23-2011, 10:57 PM   #3
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Default Re: Bleeding brakes with a hand vacuum pump

Great job Nothing better than the feeling of doing it yourself.
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Old 02-24-2011, 03:27 AM   #4
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Default Re: Bleeding brakes with a hand vacuum pump

Originally Posted by theWolfTamer View Post
After the accident last month, my front brakes felt a little soft.
What accident? Can I assume you are ok? .... What about Baby? How much was his doctor bill?

Was the accident due to spongy brakes?

PS: Nice write up
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Last edited by Luna Tique; 02-25-2011 at 03:09 AM.
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Old 02-24-2011, 04:05 AM   #5
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Default Re: Bleeding brakes with a hand vacuum pump

The accident details are here:

It was due to stupidity and a beautiful day. Just about the time I noticed that it was going to be a good day to ride, all hell broke loose and I locked up the rear during my panic stop. It was really too stupid to talk about and nothing to learn from it except remember who you're riding with and pay attention. We were fortunate it wasn't worse!

Baby's doctor bill (and his related accessories) has come in around $750, deducting the money made from selling broken parts, to date. The front brakes got soft then back to normal then soft again prompting the flushing I did yesterday. I also didn't include the price of the new tools I bought--a tap and die set and the vacuum brake bleeder--to make the repairs.

I also split the zipper in the lining of my pants! I replaced them but didn't include that in the tally because they were due for replacement anyway. First Gear sent me a new jacket under their crash warranty so out of loyalty, I bought tpg pants to match the new jacket. Unfortunately no more yellow in my riding out fit though. I still need to get summer pants.

The only damage I sustained was tissue damage to my left index finger and guilt. If I move it the wrong way it barks, but other than that I'm fine. Cruzman dislocated his shoulder and is undergoing PT but won't need surgery. He is also sharing the guilt.

There were things we both should have been doing that we weren't that contributed to the incident. (Pay attention and remember who you're riding with). Either that or he wanted to make sure I had a matching scratch on my right lever to go with the one he instigated on the left one!
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Old 02-24-2011, 06:00 AM   #6
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Default Re: Bleeding brakes with a hand vacuum pump

glad to hear you and Cruzman are ok.
Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living.
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Old 02-24-2011, 06:37 AM   #7
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Default Re: Bleeding brakes with a hand vacuum pump

So sorry to hear about your accident, but certainly glad the damage to you and Cuzman was minimal.

Great job on the break bleeding! What an awesome wright up!

Optimist: Someone who figures that taking a step backward after taking a step forward is not a disaster, its more like a Cha-Cha.
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