ABS and Bleeding Your Brakes…

I received a call today about a brake job and heard something I have heard before but is not oft talked about. When I’m changing my brake pads, do I simply compress the pistons without opening the bleeder? Or, do I open the bleeder and let some fluid out instead? Over the years, I’ve heard two different theories on this and thought I would go ahead and put something out there. So, here it goes…

Back in the day when ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System) didn’t exist, you could compress the caliper pistons without opening the bleeder valve and not risk harm to your braking system. All you needed to do was open the overflow reservoir and take some brake fluid out with something like a Turkey Baster. But, a new idea came about with the introduction of ABS on vehicles and it changed the way we change our brake pads.

The current theory is that if you compress the caliper piston with the bleeder closed you run the risk of ruining the ABS module. If the ABS module is ruined, it could run as much as $2,000 or more the replace. Obviously this is a very expensive mistake to make. However, there are many out there who claim to have performed brake pad service on ABS systems without opening the bleeder with no ill effects to the system. This may be the case. They also say that the only reason to bleed your brakes is to replace the fluid if it has been 2 or more years. This may also be the case. But, I have a question to ask of those…

Think about this. If every time you changed your pads, you opened the bleeders and let some brake fluid out and replaced it with new fluid you would 1) never really have to flush the brake fluid because you’d be slowly replacing it all and 2) how much more time or harm would it cost to open the bleeders?

All I’m saying is it can’t hurt to go ahead and open the bleeders when compressing the pistons. It takes a little extra time and and you get some clean new fluid mixed in. And, who knows. Why risk the possibility that it could break something that would cost thousands of dollars?

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