If your vehicle has a hydraulic clutch, you will have great ease and comfort when you press down on the clutch to change gears. Keeping the clutch system functioning properly will require that you carry out routine maintenance procedures periodically. You will also have to take corrective measures whenever you notice a problem with your clutch. Part of this will involve making sure that the fluid level in the reservoir is correct and that there are no leakages that let air into the hydraulic system.

What Does it Mean to Bleed a Clutch?

A clutch master cylinder has a reservoir that holds brake fluid and is connected to the slave cylinder through hoses. Whenever you step on the clutch pedal, the brake fluid will flow to the slave cylinder from the clutch master cylinder applying the pressure needed to engage the clutch and make it easy to change gears.

In most vehicles, the clutch system will work similarly as the brake system, using brake fluid as the working fluid. New cars come with hydraulic clutch systems that may feature their own dedicated master cylinder. However, there are vehicles that use the same master cylinder for both the brake and clutch systems.

In case of a leakage or when you open the hydraulic system, air will make its way into the system. Air pockets in the system mean that you will not get enough pressure, and the clutch will not engage fully. In essence, air pockets make it difficult to shift your transmission and potentially cause the system to malfunction. As such, it is necessary to remove all the air by pushing it down the fluid line and the bleeder valve on the slave cylinder. The process of removing both the liquid and air and replacing them with uncontaminated liquid is referred to as bleeding.

How Do You Bleed a Clutch by Yourself?

You should start by gathering the correct materials for the job. Next, open the hood and find the brake master cylinder. Check the level of fluid that is currently in the clutch fluid reservoir and proceed to fill the clutch master cylinder with the right brake fluid. This ensures that the master will not run dry, a factor that could cause more headaches.

Next, locate the slave cylinder and confirm where the bleeding valve is. Take advantage of gravity to bleed the slave cylinder and use the line wrench to open the bleeder valve to the cylinder, making sure that there is a drain pan under the cylinder to hold the drained fluid. Leave the bleeder open for about three minutes to let gravity bleed the slave cylinder.

Close the bleeder valve and attach tubing to the bleeder nipple. Pump the clutch pedal about 15 times to build pressure and hold it down for a while. Test the clutch before repeating the process until only brake fluid flows from the bleeder on the slave cylinder.

If you are using a hand-operated vacuum pump, the process is more straightforward. All you need to do is use the bleeder valve on the slave cylinder. Attach the vacuum pump to the slave cylinder and use it to sack air bubbles from the cylinder. Close the bleeder valve once the brake fluid flows steadily without air bubbles. When the slave cylinder has been bled, you can start the vehicle and test the clutch.

If the problem has been resolved, there will be no hissing sounds or air coming out of the system.

How Will I Know it Needs to be Bled?

If you do not bleed your dysfunctional clutch in good time, there is a chance that the ride quality will reduce, and other components of the clutch system will get damaged. Here are some of the signs that will help you determine if your clutch needs to be bled.

Change of the pedal travel

Normally, the clutch pedal should move between ¾ and one inch without any effort. It will then require a bit more effort to make it move all the way to the floor. When there is air in the clutch system, there will be a change of pedal travel, affecting how the clutch engages and disengages.

Difficulties in disengaging the clutch

The air in the clutch system will take up a considerable amount of the space that the fluid needs to build pressure. When this happens, you will experience difficulties in disengaging the clutch. You may also notice some resistance level in the gearshift lever, making it hard for you to find the next gear.

Imprecise pedal feel

Your clutch pedal should feel smooth and consistently springy when you press it down. When your clutch pedal feels soft and spongy, it may be because there is air in the clutch system. The air compresses at a different rate than clutch fluid, leading to such inconsistencies. This problem could also cause lurching when shifting gears and unnecessary wear and tear on different components of the clutch system.

How long will it take?

Generally, bleeding a hydraulic clutch is a simple process that will help to save you both time and money. However, you will need to grasp the basics and have the right materials for the job.

Bleeding a hydraulic clutch involves leaving the bleeder open and allowing gravity to bleed the slave cylinder. Bleeding is a short process that takes between one and three minutes. Also, take time to test the clutch once you are done with bleeding to make sure it is functioning optimally.

I Bled My Clutch, But I’m Still Having Problems

In case you bleed your clutch but do not achieve the expected results, you should consider getting a mechanic who understands hydraulic systems to inspect the clutch master cylinder and offer a long-term solution. At Sapphire Hydraulics, we provide knowledgeable and reliable hydraulic repair services to help keep your hydraulic system functioning optimally. We also perform on-site mobile repairs that ensure convenience and save you time. Contact us today to learn more information about our services.