Girling Brakes?

Somebody told me they had a British car years ago, I think it was a Jaguar, and the brakes on that car used a different type of brake fluid than do most cars. If you put regular old Dot 3 in, it wouldn’t work. I think they said it was Girling brakes, or maybe Girling fluid. And the other weird thing, they said the brake bleeder valves were on the bottom! Rather than the top of the calipers. How could that work? It seems like it would impossible to bleed the brakes of air bubbles.

Girling were British brake makers. According to wiki:

"The company started as a car brake manufacturer after, in 1925, Albert H. Girling (also co-founder of Franks-Girling Universal Postage) patented a wedge actuated braking system. In 1929 he sold the patent rights to the New Hudson company. Girling later developed disc brakes, which were successful on racing cars from the early 1950s to the 1970s.[7] Girling brakes had the quirk of using natural rubber (later nitrile) seals, which caused difficulties for some American owners of British cars because of incompatibility with US brake fluids.

Girling brake manufacture was taken over by Lucas in 1938, but the patent remained held by New Hudson until this in turn was purchased by Lucas in 1943. Lucas then moved their Bendix brake and Luvax shock absorber interests into a new division which became Girling Ltd."

If the bleeders were on the bottom someone installed them on the wrong side of the car.

My first car was a 1957 Triumph TR-3 and it had Girling disc brakes (4-piston as I remember) and the bleeders were on top. They required Girling Brake Fluid, available only at British parts suppliers…

+1 for @oldtimer. Someone replaced the calipers before and put them on the wrong sides.

Buy new brake pads and swap the calipers when you do the brake job.

I presume the brake fluid used is the silicone based. Look at the owners manual or the brake fluid tank should list the type of fluid used.


I recall some European calipers that were interchangeable from left to right. The bleeder and brake hose threaded ports were identical.

RE: Bleeder on the bottom?

I found this thread about a 75 Volvo that apparently uses Girling brakes, and it appears to have bleeders both on the top and bottom of the caliper. It never ceases to amaze me, cars are just plumb full of weird and wild stuff … that’s what makes it a fun topic I guess.

Poster: "It [Volvo girling caliper] has two bleeders on the top (one on each side) and one on the bottom. Since I used a T, the top and bottom are on the same circuit.

Answer: "yes, that is true.
BUT, you need to bleed both.
First the bottom one then the top.

They are isolated till your Tee fitting, and therefore both will hold air independantly of each other…"

I remember older Volvos use Girling and ATE calipers.
I also remember the calipers had three bleeders. The calipers had multiple pistons and the bleeder on the bottom was actually on the side at the top of the lower piston.

If the caliper had one bleeder then it is upside down but if it had multiple bleeders the bottom bleeders would still not be pointing down.

Ok, that makes sense. The bleeder at the bottom is still above the lower piston, and that’s what it bleeds. Thanks for the clarification.

"I recall some European calipers that were interchangeable from left to right. The bleeder and brake hose threaded ports were identical. "

A lot of the class 4 and bigger trucks in our fleet are that way. Makes it easy for the manufacturer, and when it comes time to order a replacement part

When I first read the title I assumed a mis-spelling refering to something ‘girls’ ( instead of maybe ‘growling’ ? ) …silly me…but, you see I deal with the ‘‘GIRL’’ mis-interpretation on a daily basis and have to constantly spell the name of my dealership…G-U-R-L-E-Y motor company…NOT …’‘GIRLIE’’…:wink: )


When you tell people where you work, does anybody ever jump the gun, and accuse you of being a sexist pig, because they think you said “Girlie” . . . ?!


The British used “live” (natural) rubber seals in hydraulic systems well into the 1960s. Why? I imagine because it was what they had used since they produced the first hydraulic system. It’s a British thing with no logical (to us) explanation. DoT3 dissolves natural rubber but was frequently used in these vehicles in the U.S. when it was the most common fluid and worked in nearly everything else. Having a clutch and a master cylinder suddenly fail resulted in my enlightenment by the import parts store employees that vintage British cars required neoprene replacement seals or use of Girling fluid.