Ye' Olde Site by Joby

Howto: Bleed the clutch on a classic Ford Ranger

Bleeding the clutch on a Ranger is kind of a whole process. It doesn't work to do it the way you might have learned elsewhere, and for the love of god don't reverse bleed it. Following a mechanic donking mine all up and filling the lines with bubbles, I spent quite some time identifying a correct, manageable, and effective process for bleeding the clutch on a Ranger.

This should apply to any manual Ranger or Mazda B, from 1993 through 2011. The broad strokes likely also apply to earlier models, but having never owned or worked on one I don't know for sure.

Overview of the system

The clutch pedal controls the clutch actuation by way of a very simple hydraulic system. There's a master cylinder connected directly to the clutch pedal, which drives fluid through one line to a slave cylinder inside the bell housing under the truck. There's a reservoir under the hood above the master cylinder, and a bleed valve under the truck on the side of the bell housing.

Everything outside the bell housing can be removed with a ratchet set and a screwdriver. I would also recommend buying the specific tool for disconnecting the hydraulic line underneath the truck. It's not strictly necessary, as you can finagle it off with a screwdriver. The tool is much easier though, only costs like $5, and will keep you from damaging the little plastic ring that allows the connector to release. Don't break that ring on the quick connector, you'll have a fun adventure ahead if you do.

The problems you'll encounter

Master cylinder orientation

The primary problem with bleeding these clutches is the orientation of the master cylinder. It's mounted in the driver-side wheel well, with the plunger pointed upwards into the cab and directly connected to the pedal. This is nice in some ways. It means there's no complex linkage to break, loosen, or bind. So the clutch feel is good, and doesn't decay as a linkage wears or a cable stretches. It makes the master cylinder completely impossible to effectively bleed while it's installed though. If a bubble gets in there, you cannot get it out by bleeding the system while it's fully installed.

Bubble trap in hydraulic line

Behind the frame the line curves up to form an upside-down U. This bubble trap seems intended to keep bubbles from making it from the bleed valve up into the master cylinder. That's a good idea, in light of the master cylinder's orientation. It means you need to flush fluid through with some gusto, though, if you want to get bubbles out of that U.

If a bubble has found its way into this part of the line, you probably won't get it out with a simple gravity bleed. You'll need to aggressively pump the clutch with the bleed valve open, to move the fluid through fast enough to get a bubble down the back side of the U. Doing that means you need a helper though, to make sure the reservoir doesn't empty, because then you'll pull air into the master cylinder and need to start all over.

The instructions

1) Disconnect and remove everything

2) Bench bleed everything you just took out

3) Reconnect everything

4) Flush the system aggressively

For this step you will need:

To flush the system, you're going to hook a hose onto the bleed valve, route it back into the reservoir, get it all filled up with brake fluid, and pump like mad for a while.

This process should eventually give you a functioning clutch, despite Ford's best efforts to make a clutch hydraulic system that is as difficult as possible to bleed.