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DIY: Do It Yourself
Post here to share or improve your wrench turning skills! All BMW E46 DIY tips, tales, and projects discussed inside. Learn to work on your car and know the right BMW parts you will need!

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Old 02-05-2009, 07:41 AM   #1
tony325ci_51
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Brake bleed DIY - A few hints

Sorry if this DIYs been covered in detail before, but someone asked me how, so rather than PM the info I thought I'd post it publicly in case others also might find it useful:

To do the job firstly I'll say it's much easier (for spanner and bleed tube access) if you have the car jacked up with the wheels off.

As for the specific tools, you'll need a 9mm ring spanner, and a tube with a non-return valve or kit for bleeding, my own preference is for a tube with a non-return valve, so this is the method I'll describe. I used new BMW OEM Dot 4 brake fluid from the dealers, used about 2/3 of a tin, bought 2 just to be sure I'd have enough.

Before starting, remove dust caps from all four bleed nipples (and store safely), then ensure the spanner is a snug fit on each in turn. It's as well to clean off anything and make sure you have no damaged, snapped or rounded-off bleed nipples before you start rather than finding out half-way through the job. If all looks well, then proceed.

The general way is to top up the fluid reservoir, hook up the tube with non-return valve (important not to let air back into the pipeline, a tightly wrapped elastic band is a good way to ensure the pipe stays tightly on the nipple), with a 9mm ring spanner on first bleed nipple, open the nipple by a half turn of the spanner in an anti-clockwise direction (It may be quite tight at first, a couple of light taps on the spanner with the palm of your hand may be needed to "break the seal", then it will become very easy to turn), pump the brake pedal a couple of times, go back round to wheel and check pipe for bubbles, top up fluid reservoir and repeat as necessary. When all the bubbles have been expunged from the line and only clear fluid is seen in the tube tighten up the bleed nipple (Do not over-tighten, they can snap off with excess force).



Then move on to the next wheel.
Brake bleed sequence is:
Right rear
Left rear
Right front
Left front



After you've done a couple of wheels you'll have an idea of how much fluid you need to top up the reservoir by each time, aim to be able to finish the job with the correct fluid level so you don't need to drain any off, take note brake fluid spills damage paintwork. Replace cap when you're done. Brake pedal should feel very firm. Pump pedal to ensure no leaks or soft pedal BEFORE driving. Now you can put the bleed nipple dust-caps back on.



Incidentally the clutch also shares the same fluid reservoir, you'll see it has it's own pipe from a separate section a little further back, but they share the same fluid and filling hole in the top of the reservoir. If you feel like bleeding your clutch at the same time (not essential, but easy enough while you've got the car prepared and have the fluid and tube ready) do this before the brakes. You'll need a 7mm ring spanner for the clutch bleed nipple.

Also VERY important is not to let the fluid level get too low during the entire process so that bubbles may enter the system from the reservoir. If you let this happen your only option is to get the car trailered to a BMW dealer / Specialist with the right electronic equipment to bleed the ABS unit before you can safely drive it again.

Read my posts in these threads for more details, tips and info:
http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?t=604491

http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showpos...5&postcount=17

Whilst the above applies to my UK 325Ci coupe, I don't know if it's true for other models. If in doubt, consult a manual. If still in doubt ask somebody. If still in doubt get a mechanic to do it.
Remember, it's your car, ensure you do it right.
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Old 02-05-2009, 08:21 AM   #2
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Excellent write up - the use of a non-return valve makes it a pretty quick procedure. Another very common and convenient way to do this is with pressure bleeder like the ones we sell Here. These tools also provide a constant flow of new fluid to the reservoir, so (providing you don't flush the canister on the tool dry), you'll be sure not to let the brake reservoir get to low.

Aside from the use of this type of tool, the procedure is the same as you described.

Thanks for the DIY!

Ken
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Old 03-03-2009, 05:25 AM   #3
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Do you know what size of tubing will fit over the bleed nipple? And how much fluid?

EDIT: Nevermind, I searched and found my info, I guess the tubing is 1/4" or 6mm ID tubing, and about 2/3 to a liter of fluid.
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Old 07-23-2010, 06:20 AM   #4
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Splendid info..!
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Old 07-23-2010, 10:49 AM   #5
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also, to bleed the abs system,( it will take a little more time, but will certainly cost less than taking it to the dealer ) you can drive your car onto a shoulder of the road, grassy area, somewhere where you can engage your abs a few times so that you can cycle all the old fluid out of the lines..of course this might lead to you re-bleeding, but im sure less $$ by taking it to the dealer will certainly be worth while....just a few cents
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Old 07-25-2010, 05:53 PM   #6
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also, to bleed the abs system,( it will take a little more time, but will certainly cost less than taking it to the dealer ) you can drive your car onto a shoulder of the road, grassy area, somewhere where you can engage your abs a few times so that you can cycle all the old fluid out of the lines..of course this might lead to you re-bleeding, but im sure less $$ by taking it to the dealer will certainly be worth while....just a few cents
Point is, if you've let the fluid go too low to get air in the ABS you shouldn't drive it at all as the brakes *might* not work properly. Just saying, official advice is to get the car trailered to the dealer.
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Old 07-26-2010, 01:40 AM   #7
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Point is, if you've let the fluid go too low to get air in the ABS you shouldn't drive it at all as the brakes *might* not work properly. Just saying, official advice is to get the car trailered to the dealer.
that is *only* if the level of the fluid gets too low, you can mitigate this by having a friend help, and i do agree official advise = dealer, but never fully 100% believe them..just saying
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Old 08-24-2010, 10:54 AM   #8
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In response to a couple of enquiries about the brake bleed tube / one way valve I used I'll post the info here:

I found mine in a small local motor accessory shop, they can also be found on the web / ebay. The brand /part number to look for is Europat Vizibleed NV16
Should be available for under 5 inc.

Here is a link (It's an item for sale rather than an auction but could go out of date, if it does just search

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/VIZIBLEED-ONE-...-/250616341591
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Old 08-24-2010, 01:45 PM   #9
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I was lost on the first part, it is not much easier to turn the wrench or access the valves with the wheels off, what a waste of time. Ramps in front, jack stands in teh rear, crawl under the car and it's a very quick job.
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Old 08-26-2010, 12:58 AM   #10
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I was lost on the first part, it is not much easier to turn the wrench or access the valves with the wheels off, what a waste of time. Ramps in front, jack stands in teh rear, crawl under the car and it's a very quick job.
Depends what you find easier. Your way involves crawling under the car each time you loosen / tighten bleed nipples in between every pedal-pumping and topping up of the reservoir. That's getting down and crawling under the car and out again, lying on your back using a spanner to work above you at least 8 times (I was starting to feel like a yoyo when I did it that way, up, down, up, down), and unless your spanner's pretty short you can't leave the spanner on the nipple and get a full 180deg turn because it fouls the inside of the wheel so you'll be repositioning it each time. I found it pretty inconvenient and uncomfortable doing it from under the car on the cold, hard road outside.

The big advantage of taking the wheels off is that it doesn't involve having to crawl underneath the car at all (so no dirt falling in your face, brake fluid running down your arm.. apart from if you're also bleeding the clutch). Also allows a wider angle of spanner movement so you need only put the ring spanner on once, loosen it half a turn leaving it in position on the bleed nipple, then move it back half a turn to close after you've pumped the brake pedal.

I think the time you lose in taking off the wheels you make up for in being able to move quickly between each wheel, reservoir and brake pedal in turn, so time-wise it's not much different. You certainly stay cleaner and more comfortable during the job and it's easier to see what you're doing, but yes, it can be done with the wheels on if you like.
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Old 08-26-2010, 04:40 AM   #11
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Mmm the no return valve/hose you listed is only sold in the UK wonder if there is an equivalent version here in the states that sells as cheaply as the one you listed.
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Old 08-26-2010, 05:23 AM   #12
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Depends what you find easier. Your way involves crawling under the car each time you loosen / tighten bleed nipples in between every pedal-pumping and topping up of the reservoir. That's getting down and crawling under the car and out again, lying on your back using a spanner to work above you at least 8 times (I was starting to feel like a yoyo when I did it that way, up, down, up, down), and unless your spanner's pretty short you can't leave the spanner on the nipple and get a full 180deg turn because it fouls the inside of the wheel so you'll be repositioning it each time. I found it pretty inconvenient and uncomfortable doing it from under the car on the cold, hard road outside.

The big advantage of taking the wheels off is that it doesn't involve having to crawl underneath the car at all (so no dirt falling in your face, brake fluid running down your arm.. apart from if you're also bleeding the clutch). Also allows a wider angle of spanner movement so you need only put the ring spanner on once, loosen it half a turn leaving it in position on the bleed nipple, then move it back half a turn to close after you've pumped the brake pedal.

I think the time you lose in taking off the wheels you make up for in being able to move quickly between each wheel, reservoir and brake pedal in turn, so time-wise it's not much different. You certainly stay cleaner and more comfortable during the job and it's easier to see what you're doing, but yes, it can be done with the wheels on if you like.
Well I also take the opportunity to do the transmission fluid at the same time as well, nothing wrong with taking the wheels off just wanted to point out that it is completely not necessary.
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Old 08-26-2010, 09:56 AM   #13
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Check out speedbleeders...http://www.speedbleeder.com/]

Similar concept using a check valve, but in this case, the check valve is in the bleeder itself. Makes fluid changes a one person job. Fast and easy.
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Old 08-26-2010, 10:13 AM   #14
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I'd also recommend that before you start, drape a towel over the front engine quarter panel. When we say brake fluid takes off paint, I mean it effing takes it off right then and there. You DO NOT want to drop a drop onto that quarter panel as you're unscrewing the cap. So, take your time and cover the quarter panel so you don't ruin your day.

Here's another tip - the brake bleeder hose you can buy at the auto parts store is for some reason too small for the bleed nipples on these cars (actually, I had trouble with it on more than one car). The no-return hose kit I bought at harbor freight for a dollar or so has been PERFECT.

Okay, one more tip. You know what makes a great bleeder bottle? A used differential oil bottle (the kind with the pointy cap). Cut the tip to just the right size and jam the bleeder hose in and you've got a pretty clean setup. Alternatively, you can drill a hole in the top of a plastic gatorade bottle or something like that, too.
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Old 08-26-2010, 11:05 AM   #15
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Is the process different when you are changing your brake lines and fluid to racing fluid?

This might explain why my clutch and brakes are acting slightly different after I had a shop put new oem fluid in. Could there be air bubbles? The brakes seem on/off where they aren't fully engaging and the clutch seems sluggish in engagement, both don't seem consistent as they were before.

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Old 11-08-2011, 12:18 PM   #16
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Where can you get this non-return valve in the photos from stores? I cannot seem to find one
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Old 03-03-2013, 09:08 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by gordo325xiwagon View Post
Check out speedbleeders...http://www.speedbleeder.com/]

Similar concept using a check valve, but in this case, the check valve is in the bleeder itself. Makes fluid changes a one person job. Fast and easy.
Blast from the past, are you using those speed bleeders you mentioned ? Tks Ed
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Old 03-03-2013, 09:12 PM   #18
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Old 03-03-2013, 10:15 PM   #19
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Blast from the past, are you using those speed bleeders you mentioned ? Tks Ed
I use speedbleeders on all my cars. They even work on the 300zx hydraulic clutch slave cylinder.
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Old 03-03-2013, 11:17 PM   #20
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The non-return valve is pretty ingenious, admittedly, but it isn't necessary. The ABS pump already has them built in.
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