What Happens If You Don’t Bleed Your Brakes

Bleeding your brakes is an essential task to perform when replacing your brake fluid. The job is also crucial if, for whatever reason, your brake system has trapped air, moisture, or contamination inside. But what happens if you decide not to bleed your brakes, even when you should?

When you delay or avoid bleeding your brakes, you’ll leave air, water, or other contaminants trapped inside the brake system. That can undermine the brake system’s functionality, leaving you with spongy pedals and rusted brake components. Those problems can lead to uneven brake engagement, longer stopping distances, and total brake failure, all of which put you and your passengers in danger.

Bleeding your brakes is not something you want to take lightly. So, the following sections will help you understand the risks involved with not performing the task when necessary.

What Happens If You Don’t Bleed Your Brakes?

Bleeding your brakes isn’t part of your car’s routine maintenance. However, if you neglect to do it even though your brake system needs to be bled, here’s what you can expect to happen:

#1 Spongy Brake Pedals

The first direct issue you’ll encounter if you don’t bleed your brakes is a soft or spongy brake pedal.

A normal brake pedal is meant to feel firm whenever you press it down with your foot. That firmness gradually increases the closer the pedal gets to the floor. 

Besides that, gradual firmness also indicates that your brake system and its components are functioning correctly overall.

However, failing to bleed your brakes could leave air trapped in one or more of your vehicle’s brake lines where it doesn’t belong. That trapped air will prevent brake fluid from flowing smoothly when trying to apply the brakes.

The interaction between air and fluid in your brake lines results in a brake pedal that feels soft or spongy under your foot. Worse yet, it also means that the pressure you’re used to applying on your brakes won’t be enough to have the same braking effect.

In other words, you’ll have to press down on that pedal harder than usual just to slow your car down and stop it before you end up in a collision.

#2 Rusted Brakes And Calipers

Delaying or avoiding the task of bleeding your brakes can also cause something else besides air to get trapped in your brake lines: water. 

There are several situations where water can find its way into your car’s brake system. 

For instance, that could have happened without your knowledge the last time you had your car’s fluids changed. 

The danger with water is that, like air, water will also stay trapped in your brake lines until you bleed them.

Water in your brake fluid might not sound like a big deal. But, you should remember that water can cause a lot of damage under the hood of your car, especially if it finds its way to metal components where it doesn’t belong. Unfortunately, your brake system has quite a few of those.

More specifically, that water will cause metal parts like the calipers and rotors to rust faster and worse than usual. 

Replacing rusted parts will burn a hole in your wallet, which is already a big problem. But things could get a lot worse because those rusted parts are no longer reliable and can put you in harm’s way when you’re out on the road.

#3 Uneven Brake Engagement

A car’s brake system is designed to use hydraulic pressure to function. So each time you step down on your brake pedal, the brake system will transfer that hydraulic pressure to engage your brakes and slow your vehicle down.

Unfortunately, anything that doesn’t belong in the brake fluid, like air, dirt, or moisture, will interfere with that transfer of hydraulic pressure.

So, even though you’re pressing down on your brake pedal correctly, the brakes will engage unevenly on your wheels. That is because the brakes on one side might receive more hydraulic pressure than the other, causing one side to brake more than the other.

As you might have guessed by now, bleeding your brakes would have removed all impurities that can interfere with your brake’s functionality. But if you don’t bleed your brakes, they’ll stay there and continue causing problems until you do.

#4 Longer Stopping Distances

Above, you’ve seen how delaying or failing to bleed your brakes can make the brake pedal spongy, rust the metal brake components, and result in uneven brake engagement.

Those three outcomes, individually or together, will undermine your brake system and lengthen the vehicle’s stopping distance.

In the simplest terms possible, the stopping distance is how far your car will travel until it reaches a complete halt when the brakes are engaged. Healthy brakes will minimize that stopping distance, preventing a collision with a vehicle, obstacle, or pedestrian.

However, that’s not easy if your brakes haven’t been bled and you can’t stop your car effectively.

It’s bad enough that longer stopping distances place you and your passengers in more danger than usual. But it’s even worse that your vehicle also poses an increased threat to everyone else on the road.

#5 Total Brake Failure

When you don’t bleed your brakes even though you should, you’ll allow your brakes to develop plenty of minor issues. Still, the longer you wait to bleed your brakes, the worse those issues will get.

Air in the lines, water in the fluid, and rusted metal parts will become significantly worse the longer you avoid bleeding your brakes.

In a worst-case scenario, any combination of those problems can cause your car to experience total brake failure.

From a more technical perspective, a total brake failure means that the brake system can’t produce any hydraulic pressure at all. As a result, your brakes will not engage even when you push the brake pedal down to the floor.

A total brake failure is the worst-case scenario because you won’t be able to slow down your vehicle or stop it at all. At that stage, avoiding a collision on the road is pretty much impossible.

Final Thoughts

Whether you plan on getting your brakes bled at home or a workshop, it’s always best to do it as soon as possible. After all, the process only takes about 30 minutes to complete in the hands of an experienced mechanic with the necessary tools.

Once you know that your brake system needs it, delaying it further will simply put your vehicle at risk of more expensive repairs later.

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