How To Bleed Motorcycle Brakes From Empty

My guess is if you’re reading this article you need to bleed your motorcycle brakes. You’re probably in one of three scenarios.

Bleeding your brakes from empty it’s a very simple process even if the system was totally empty. If you’re doing an entire fluid change the process is probably still not that difficult, you’re just going to be cycling more fluid through the brake system. You’re just doing the same thing a bit more often.

First, you’ve installed some new brake parts and you need to bleed your motorcycle brakes from empty.

Perhaps you’re just doing some scheduled maintenance, you’re flushing out your brake fluid because it’s looking a little dark or discolored.

Or the third possibility is you have a poor brake lever or pedal feel and you want to do something to change that.

All of these scenarios are great reasons to bleed your brakes, it’s a pretty easy process and fortunately, it’s the same on most motorcycles.

This method is going to work on a wide variety of motorcycles whether you’re on a Harley or a Honda it’s not going to change that much.

Before we get into the actual process let’s talk a little bit about brake fluid. Brake fluid is VERY corrosive and that is not good for your bike.

I have seen a gas tank that had a full can of brake fluid spilled over it and it totally stripped the paint off so protect your tank at all costs.

Before you start bleeding your brakes throw a sheet over your bike, it’s a lot easier to throw a soaked rag into the laundry or into the trashcan than it is to pull a tank off to repaint it so make sure you’re protecting your painted surfaces before you start.

Just like every other fluid on your motorcycle your brake fluid needs to be changed periodically, typically you can tell when your brake fluid is due to be changed or when the fluid in the remote reservoir starts to turn brown. Clean brake fluid is practically clear so the darker the color in the reservoir typically the worse condition your brake fluid is.

What’s more, is you want to make sure you use a brand new bottle of brake fluid when you bleed your brakes, you don’t want to use that bottle that’s been sitting on your shelf for a couple of years.

As soon as you break this seal on the bottle of brake fluid it starts to take on water and begins to lose its effectiveness. Make sure you check with your owner’s manual to ensure you are using the correct type of brake fluid as not all brake fluid types are compatible.

If you’re not certain check out your master cylinder cap, there should be information molded into the cap that will give you an idea of what brake fluid is supposed to go in your motorcycle. Brakes are an important safety item, you can work on them yourself but make sure you’re doing it safely.

Replacing your brake fluid and bleeding the system of air bubbles is regular maintenance that your manual will likely suggest doing once every two years.

If you’re not certain when the last time your brake fluid was replaced color is a good indicator of age. New brake fluid is going to be pale yellow or amber in color and perfectly clear, while old stuff tends to be dark and cloudy.

In any case when it’s time to replace your brake fluid you’re going to need a few supplies. For starters, you need fresh brake fluid based on the grade that’s listed on your reservoir cap or in your owner’s manual. You will need a length of hose and a wrench that fits over the bleeder valve on your calipers.

You will also need some sort of container for the waste fluid and finally some rags or paper towels, yep that is literally all you need.

You can use a cheap piece of vinyl hose from the hardware store or you can pick up a dedicated tool like the mini bleeder from motion Pro available from AmazonOpens in a new tab.. It’s got the hose, a wrench for the bleeder valve and an internal check valve built right in, it makes the job a lot easier.

You can buy the tools needed and if you are going to service your brakes regularly then they will come in handy later.

So so you’ve got everything you need and you’re finally ready to start bleeding your brake.

The first thing you need to do is remove the dust cover from the bleeder bolt on the caliper and then install your bleeder set up on the caliper.

Run the hose into your waste container and to keep the hose from jump around or falling out and getting brake fluid everywhere. What I like to do is use a plastic bottle with a hole cut into the top just big enough so it can push the hose through.

Before you push the hose through you should put some brake fluid into the bottle then push the hose through the hole far enough so the end of the hose is submerged into the fluid. We do this to stop air from being sucked back into the brake system while we are bleeding it.

Next move to the top of the bike and if you haven’t already covered the tank with your sheet. Use some other smaller rags to cover other areas like the reservoir to stop any drips falling onto any other part of your bike.

You can now remove the cap from the reservoir and top off the brake fluid if it’s low. Once you’ve done that set the cap back on the reservoir since some master cylinders tend to spurt fluid when you release the brake lever. Pumping the brake lever it’s something you will be doing a lot of.

The whole purpose of this procedure is to push all the old brake fluid and any air bubbles out of the system. What you’re going to do now is pump the front brake to pressurize the system, you can then crack the bleeder nipple to purge some of the old fluid and any air out.

You only need to open it about a quarter to a half of a turn, any more than that and you may get seepage past the threads. With the lever still depressed go ahead and close the bleeder valve then release the brake lever and repeat pump.

You will need to repeat this process a number of times until you see there are no more air bubbles being expelled through the bottle. It’s a little bit of a tedious process but you’ll be through soon enough and your bike will thank you.

While you’re bleeding the brakes make sure you keep an eye on the fluid level in the reservoir and top it off as it gets low, otherwise, you might end up sucking air into the brake system. While that’s not the end of the world it’s going to take you even longer to push all those bubbles through the system.

When you see clear fresh fluid coming through the hose and the air bubbles start to taper off you know that you are nearly finished. You should notice that the brake lever is getting firmer to, keep bleeding the brakes until it’s pure fluid with no air bubbles and then you’re done.

Check the fluid level in the reservoir one last time to make sure it’s between the lower and the upper level and then secure the caps.

It’s always a good idea when everything buttoned up to take a moist rag and clean down the reservoir and the caliper to make sure that you’re cleaning up any brake residue.

Finally, if your bike’s got a dual-disc front end you’re going to want to repeat the whole process with the other caliper and if you’re going to bleed your rear brake it’s the same procedure except instead of pulling on a lever you’re pushing out a pedal.

Bleed Motorcycle Brakes With ABS

If you’ve just installed a set of stainless steel brake lines and your bleeding your brakes on an ABS motorcycle realize you’re going to making changes to the braking system.

While these techniques are not necessarily all that difficult if you do not feel entirely comfortable with this process we strongly suggest that you take your motorcycle into the nearest certified technician to have this process done.

Many motorcycles have ABS, the ABS pump has to be plugged into a computer and run through a special bleed routine and that typically has to be done at the dealer.

Not all motorcycles with ABS have that requirement, some bikes can be bled normally but check your factory service manual or your owners manual to know what your bike needs.

Additionally, if your motorcycle features ABS and linked brakes again we strongly suggest that you take your motorcycle into your local dealership to have the brake serviced.

That is brake bleeding 101, I hope this tutorial was helpful I hope and I hope you’ll leave your comments below because we like to hear from you until next time.


Keith Mallinson has been a motorcycle enthusiast for the past 20 years. He has owned a variety of bikes during this time, ranging from sport bikes to cruisers. Keith has a passion for all things motorcycle related, including riding, maintaining, and customizing his bikes. In addition to his personal experience with motorcycles, Keith has also kept up to date with industry news and trends. He enjoys sharing his knowledge and insights with others through his motorcycle blog. When he's not out on the open road, Keith can be found tinkering in his garage, planning his next road trip, or spending time with his family.