What is it and why is it done?

Does it have to be done on a bench? For example, does this fellow (who ran the master cylinder dry while bleeding his brakes) need to pull the master cylinder, or just do the "bench bleed procedure" with the master cylinder in place in the car?

  • 1
    Bleed the MC before you mount it on the car.... startpage.com/do/…
    – Moab
    Aug 27, 2016 at 0:37
  • Can it be done in place? Or is there some reason why you have to pull the MC to do it?
    – dlu
    Aug 27, 2016 at 0:38
  • It can be done on the car, but would not be considered a "bench bleed". It can be done on the car or on the workbench vice, no difference. Typically it is easier to do it on the bench when replacing the MC.
    – Moab
    Aug 27, 2016 at 0:44

2 Answers 2


Meh. Extra, messy, unnecessary step.

Bench job done right: you need a set of master cylinder plugs. New master cylinders usually ship with cheap plastic ones that will suffice. You're just looking to drip paint-clouding glycol on your car, your workbench, your tools, etc.

While common "gospel" says you must bench bleed before mounting, I simply refuse to do it this way, and will never try it this way again.

There is a better way...

Basically, the MC is shipped virtually dry, and will create a bit of an "airlock" if you will, due to the compressibility of air relative to the hydraulic brake fluid. An insane amount of bleeding often won't get you anywhere.

So... (I should charge for this, but today it's free) ...

Get a 3-6 foot length of polyurethane clear "fishtank" tubing, with about a 3/16" ID. The ID should fit nice and tight over the bleeder nipple on the closest brake caliper or cylinder, for us LHD folks in 'Merica that's the left front wheel. You'll need a length of tubing that can reach the master cylinder reservoir.

Fender covers are always recommended when working around good paint.

Now is your opportunity to take the reservoir off (if the new MC didn't come complete) and clean it thouroughly, with brake cleaner inside and out.

Once reinstalled and filled with fresh brake fluid, the loose end of the tubing should be inserted into the reservoir, and secured with duct tape or a zip tie in such a way that it can't pop out. The end of the tubing should be well submerged in new brake in the MC reservoir.

Crack the nipple with the tubing. Some cardboard under this arrangement might be useful, as it will still drip.

Now pump the brake pedal slowly and repeatedly, with full strokes from foot-off to floor, until you observe zero bubbles traveling through the tubing. Close the nipple, remove the tubing, wipe up the inevitable drip or two.

You may want to replace the bulk of the fluid in the MC at this point, if this process pushed a lot of older fluid out of the piston that appeared dark or discolored.

You can now bleed the entire brake system normally. This process takes less time than a bench bleed, usually results in less of a mess, and gives a clear visual indication when performed properly.


Bench bleeding is the only way to get the air out of the end of the master cylinder because once you mount it in the vehicle it doesn’t set level. The front is almost always uphill and traps air

  • Downvoted as both assertions (that a bench bleed is the only way to get the air out of the MC, and that the MC isn't level when mounted in the car) are incorrect. Apr 17, 2020 at 21:25

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