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Adler's Antique Autos, Inc.
Author of "Notes from the Corrosion Lab"
801 NY Route 43, Stephentown, NY 12168
(518) 733 - 5749     Email
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Brake Bleeders - A Few Tips.*
by Bob Adler

Let's start with those pesky brake bleeder screws. The shop manuals euphemistically say “unscrew”. Don't get angry at the manual—it was written for the dealer's service department. They don't deal with rust, just the flat rate book. Now, at least 40 years later we need some new tricks to get the job done. If you can't get the bleeder screw to work, there's no point rebuilding the wheel cylinder. That's the first criterion for a rebuildable wheel cylinder.

Some tips for loosening bleeders:
  1. Penetrating oil can't hurt. A squirt daily for a month could be beneficial if one can plan that far in advance.
  2. Use only six point sockets and box wrenches. Twelve point openings or open end wrenches invite disaster.
  3. If a 3/8” socket fits loosely (1936 to 1960's cars and most trucks) try hammering in a metric socket.
  4. A hand impact driver might break it loose.
  5. Once the hex is rounded off start with vise grips. Working them back and forth while tapping with a light hammer could beat the odds.
  6. Using heat gets dangerous. If the cylinder is full of fluid and shoes and drums are in place, it can explode when the fluid boils. Burning fluid will blow out through the inlet flame thrower style. Heat can only be recommended after removing drums, shoes, pistons, and cups. After heating close to red hot the bleeder will unscrew, but it will not be reusable.

New bleeders are available in steel and even stainless steel for trouble free operation well into the next century. Anti-seize compound should also be used on the threads.

* Originally published in the Vintage Chevrolet Club of America, Inc.'s "Generator & Distributor", June 1990, v29, no. 6, p23.

Bob Adler is owner of Adler's Antique
Autos, Stephentown, New York, and
specializes in GM truck restoration.
He can be reached at 518-733-5749.

Adler's Antique Autos