How to Bleed the Brakes on Your Motorcycle
Brakes are important part of the safety systems on your motorcycle. In order to keep them working properly, brake fluid needs to be maintained and replaced regularly. Motorcycle enthusiast Matthew Bochnak provides his tips for bleeding your brakes so that they work when they’re needed.
Hey what’s up everyone, it’s Matt from HowToMotorcycleRepair.com. In today’s video, I want to show you how to bleed the brakes on your motorcycle.
So what does bleeding brakes actually mean? Well, it’s the process in which air bubbles and old brake fluid is removed from the brake system. Now there are a couple of reasons on why you would want to do this. 1. Most motorcycle manufactures recommend changing brake fluid every 2-3 years (according to motorcyclecruiser.com). Brake fluid, just like any other fluid, degrades over time and should be changed out as scheduled maintenance. 2. Your brake lever does not feel as firm as it used to. This term is referred to as a “spongy” lever or pedal feel. A spongy feel is caused by air that may be trapped in the system. Bleeding your brakes will solve both of these issues.
Now, if you don’t know when the last time your brake fluid was changed, you can judge its condition by the color. New brake fluid will be amber in color. Old fluid will look darker and appear cloudy.
Before we begin working on the motorcycle, I do want to mention that if you are unsure or uncomfortable with any of the procedures mentioned in this video, please seek professional help. Also, make sure you wear the proper safety equipment for this project, gloves and safety glasses are a must.
Let’s talk about the tools and materials you will need. A brand new unopened bottle of brake fluid. An opened bottle that has been sitting on the shelf for who knows how long, degrades just like the fluid in your motorcycle, so make sure to buy a new bottle for this project. Most motorcycles will specify what type of fluid is required right on the reservoir cap. Next, a box wrench. Some clear tubing that can be bought at any hardware store. A plastic bottle or jar to catch old fluid. Plenty of rags and old blankets.
Since brake fluid will damage paint, it is very important to protect all painted surfaces by covering the gas tank and fairings with old blankets or towels. If you spill any brake fluid, wipe it up immediately with a damp rag.
Go ahead and open up the master cylinder reservoir cap and put it aside. Here’s a quick tip that will help you pour brake fluid from the bottle with a little more control. Poke 2 small holes in the seal, one for pouring and the other for venting. Go ahead and top off the master cylinder reservoir and reinstall the cap. Reinstalling the cap is important since on some models, the master cylinder may squirt some fluid when the lever is pressed or depressed.
Since this model has a front dual disk & caliper setup, we will start with the caliper that is located furthest from the master cylinder. Remove the brake bleeder dust cap. Slide the box wrench over the brake bleeder. Next, install one end of the clear tubing over the brake bleeder, and the other into the catch jar.
So here is the 3 step bleeding procedure: 1. Squeeze the brake lever 3 times to generate pressure, and then hold the lever in. Without releasing the lever, 2. crack open the bleeder screw ¼ to ½ turn. You will feel the lever move towards the grip. When the lever contacts the grip, 3. close the bleeder screw. Whatever you do, do not release the brake lever while the bleeder screw is open, since air will be drawn into the system. (on screen text to make this clear)
Now this procedure needs to be repeated several times to flush out all the old fluid and any trapped air bubbles. So to repeat the process, pump the lever 3 times and hold, open the bleeder screw, wait for some fluid to exit into clear hose, and finally close the bleeder.
After a couple of cycles through the procedure, you will need to keep a close eye on the reservoir level, and add fluid when necessary. If you forget to add fluid, and run it dry, you will suck air into the system and you will have to start all over again.
After 10-20 cycles, you should feel the lever become very firm, no air bubbles in the clear tubing, and the fluid exiting should appear clean. Make sure the brake bleeder screw is tight, and then remove the clear tubing. Blow out and wipe up any brake fluid from the bleeder screw. Make sure to reinstall the dust cap. Now you are done with one side.
Repeat the same procedure on the opposite side, which will go much quicker since the majority of the old fluid has been replaced.
Top off the reservoir one last time. Note that there is a Min/Max window that indicates the proper level. Install the master cylinder cap. Wipe up any spilled fluid with a damp rag. According to Popular Mechanics, you can dispose of old brake fluid by pouring it over cat litter, and allowing a few days for the fluid to evaporate. Make sure to keep it away from children, pets, and open flames during this time.
Finally, test the brakes by walking the bike forward and hitting the brake lever. The brake lever should be firm and the brake should engage immediately.
Alright, well I hope you enjoyed this video on how to change your motorcycle’s brake fluid. If you’d like to see more of my videos, head over to HowToMotorcycleRepair.com, or check out my YouTube channel, MatthewMCrepair. I’m also on Facebook and Twitter. Just remember, if you are unsure of anything discussed in this video, seek the help of a professional mechanic.
Thanks for watching and see you in the next video.