How to bleed Shimano disc brakes

Bleed your Shimano stoppers the easy way

Learn how to bleed Shimano hydraulic disc brakes on our YouTube channel

If the hydraulic disc brakes on your bike are feeling spongy at the lever, then it’s normally a sign that the system has taken in some air. 

Unlike the incompressible fluid in your brake lines, the unwanted air bubbles are a compressible gas and will cause excessive movement at the lever and dramatically reduce braking performance.

Bleeding the hydraulic disc brakes on your bike may not necessarily need to be part of your routine maintenance, but it’s a fairly simple procedure and one that you shouldn’t be intimidated by.

Shimano hydraulic disc brakes are some of the most popular on the market and are also some of the nicest to work on. Follow our video above for a step-by-step guide on how to bleed your Shimano brakes. For your easy reference, a summarised guide follows below. 

You will need

Step 1

First remove the pads and push the pistons back into the caliper
First remove the pads and push the pistons back into the caliper

Mount the bike in a workstand and remove the wheel. Insert a flat-bladed screwdriver or a piston press between the brake pads and use it to push the pistons back into their bores. Remove the pad retaining pin, then pull the pads out of the caliper. Insert a Shimano bleed block.

Step 2

Carefully thread on the Shimano bleed cup
Carefully thread on the Shimano bleed cup

Use a 4mm Allen key to loosen the brake lever bar clamp. Rotate the lever such that it is horizontal with the ground and tighten. 

Use a 2.5mm Allen key to remove the bleed port screw on the top of the lever's reservoir then use a pick to remove the small o-ring. This will sometimes come out with the cap.

Thread the Shimano bleed cup clockwise into the bleed port. Don't overtighten this as it's very easy to strip the threads on the cup.

Step 3

Open the bleed valve or nipple and push on the bleed hose
Open the bleed valve or nipple and push on the bleed hose

Take the dust cover off the bleed nipple on the caliper. 

Connect a bleed hose to the bleed syringe and fill with mineral oil. Invert the syringe it and squeeze out any air bubbles. 

Put a 7mm ring spanner over the bleed nipple and attach the other end of the hose to the bleed nipple.

For non-series Shimano brakes, insert a 3mm Allen key into the bleed valve instead. 

Step 4

Push fluid into the system using a syringe
Push fluid into the system using a syringe

For all brakes, turn the spanner/Allen key anticlockwise a quarter turn. Use the syringe to force oil through the system. Stop before air enters the caliper then close the valve/nipple.

Step 5

Attach a bag to the end of the hose using a zip tie
Attach a bag to the end of the hose using a zip tie

Remove the syringe from the end of the hose. 

Put the hose, pointing down, into a bag. You can secure the bag with a zip tie, though make sure it doesn't clamp the hose shut.

Open the bleed valve/nipple. 

Pump until half of the fluid is left
Pump until half of the fluid is left

After half the oil in the bleed cup has drained out, close it. Pump the brake lever a few times, open the valve/nipple, squeeze the lever to the bar, close it, release the lever. Repeat four times.

Step 6

Close the valve/nipple and remove the bleed hose. Tap all along the brake hose to unsettle any air bubbles. Flick and release the brake lever a few times. Repeat with the brake lever tilted forwards and then back by 30 degrees. Return the lever to horizontal.

Step 7

Replace the bleed port cover
Replace the bleed port cover

Install the bleed cup’s plastic plug and remove the cup. Reinstall the bleed port screw and o-ring, taking care not to overtighten. Remove the bleed block, clean the brake caliper with a paper towel. Reinstall the pads and the wheel. Pump the brake lever to check it’s firm.

Jargon buster - What is Mineral oil?

Shimano brakes use mineral oil
Shimano brakes use mineral oil

Shimano brakes use mineral oil, as opposed to DOT fluid. It’s much less harmful to skin and can be stored longer without soaking up water from the atmosphere. DOT fluid can be more resistant to heat, though.

Jack Luke

Staff Writer, UK
Jack has been riding and fettling with bikes for his whole life. Always in search of the hippest new niche in cycling, Jack is a self-confessed gravel dork and thinks nothing of bivouacking on a beach after work. Also fond of cup and cone bearings, skids and tan wall tyres.
  • Discipline: Long days in the saddle by either road or mountain bike
  • Preferred Terrain: Happiest when on a rural road by the coast or crossing a remote mountain pass. Also partial to a cheeky gravel adventure or an arduous hike-a-bike.
  • Current Bikes: Custom Genesis Croix de Fer all road adventure wagon, Niner EMD 9.
  • Dream Bike: A rigid 44 Bikes Marauder, all black please.
  • Beer of Choice: Caesar Augustus
  • Location: Bristol, UK

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