Bleeding the brakes on a vehicle is part of the regular maintenance process. All Terrain Vehicles or ATVs are no different.
While the specific process of bleeding the brakes may vary depending on the make and model of your vehicle, the basic steps include draining the brake fluid and then replenishing it with new lubricant to get rid of any air bubbles, which may be stuck in the system.
This article provides a detailed overview of how to bleed the brakes on your ATV.
Why do the brakes have to be bled regularly?
Before we begin explaining the steps you need to follow in order to bleed the brakes on your ATV, it is important to emphasize why it should be done. Brake bleeding is a process which is only required in vehicles with a hydraulic fluid system. In ATVs fitted with this, the pressure from the flow of fluid is responsible for braking.
Over time, as you open the container cap, a little bit of air enters the system. Air doesn’t mix with the fluid so it remains as pockets within the liquid. When you press the brake fluid, the pistons and master cylinder inside the vehicle rely on a smooth flow of braking fluid to engage the calipers and stop the ATV. Even if there is one small bubble in the system, the flow will be disrupted.
This hindrance caused by the air will render the entire braking system ineffective. Even one drop of air is enough to stop the smooth flow of liquid as well as the resulting build-up of pressure inside the system.
Imagine having a considerable amount of air inside the pipes and then trying to brake. Not only is it hazardous for the life and well being of the driver but also to the passengers of the ATV. This is why the braking system needs to be bled every once in a while. It ensures that the ATV remains in proper working condition and the brakes apply on point when needed.
How often should a replacement be done?
The braking system is one of the most important components of an ATV. There is a lot riding on the brakes in your ATV especially because it is an open vehicle. Loss of braking and a resulting crash could throw you off the ATV. Even with proper protective gear, you are going to take a hit. Depending on how fast you were going and where you crash, it could end in a serious injury.
There are chances that the cap of a braking fluid reservoir is only opened once in a while. Still, experts recommend that the fluid lines be bled after a certain period of time. It is usually a part of the regular maintenance process where the engine undergoes tuning, oil change, as well as replacement of the air filter.
If you follow a regular schedule you could estimate about once a year.The brake fluid should be bled every 10,000 miles. This can be a mileage which you take quite some time to achieve on an ATV unless you are driving it long distances on a regular basis. Ten thousand miles is a good rule of thumb you should keep in mind for when to have the braking system bled on your ATV.
If you have a little bit of technical knowledge or have done the process before you can bleed the braking system on your own. It isn’t difficult but the main thing is that you have to know what you are doing.
With the right tools and procedure you can easily perform the whole maintenance process on your own or maybe just bleed the brakes if that’s what is required. I would suggest doing this with a friend and you will see why later.
If you are willing to perform the brake bleeding on your own and think you can handle it, here is a run down of the whole process. There are two ways of bleeding the brakes. One is manual and the other requires a vacuum pump. Since the latter is not available with all of the machines, we’ll stick with explaining the manual method.
First and foremost, you need to have all the necessary tools. As we mentioned earlier, the exact tools you need may vary depending on what ATV you have.
Generally, these are the tools which will suffice:
- A container to hold the fluid as it drains out of the system
- Screw driver for some models to open the reservoir
- The right size wrench to turn the bleeder valve (exit for the fluid)
- Fresh brake fluid
I use Motul DOT 5.1 Brake Fluid found here on Amazon. DOT 5.1 means it has higher boiling point than DOT 4 and this is one of the better brake fluids I can recommend.
With all the right tools, you are now ready to begin the process.
Steps to perform
The brake bleeding process is not that complicated. All it requires is a little know how. Here’s how to do it:
Begin by topping up the reservoir which holds the brake fluid. This is usually located on the right side of the handle bars near the front brake. Or lower on the machine somewhere.
Next find the bleeder nozzle. This is usually found on the braking system behind the tires. The bleeder nozzle is usually at the bottom. The exact place can be found through a little help from Google. Just enter the model of your ATV and hit search.
Spread a piece of newspaper or cardboard under the container you are using for drainage. This will catch any excess liquid which may fall.
Open the reservoir cap and the bleeder nozzle, this is where a friend comes in handy. Now, have a friend press the brake lever repeatedly. You will see the fluid begins to flow out.
Keep pressing the pedal and you will see air bubbles coming through the hose. Stop the process once there are no more bubbles coming out of the bleeder.
You may need to keep pouring fluid into the reservoir while you’re pressing the brake and draining fluid through the bleeder. Now that you’ve drained some of the fluid, check the levels and then top off the container to the appropriate level.
You can do the whole process alone but you won’t be able to check the bubbles coming out at the same time. If you can figure out a creative solution that’s up to you. It is good to use a friend in the process because it helps you get better ideas and a change is perspective too. Also it is good fun to have someone to pass the time with while you are going through the whole process.
Once your brakes are in good working order you can brake like a pro. To learn more about ATV braking techniques, check out this article I wrote to help you slow down faster. Because slowing down faster helps you corner better.