Maintenance | 15 Jun 2021

How To Care For Your Motorcycle’s Disc Brakes

Things that go fast should come to a halt with equal urgency when the need arises. It’s for this simple reason that high performance motorcycles come equipped with high performance brakes. And when it comes to braking efficiency, disc brakes have proven their mettle as the most reliable system for dropping the anchors. There was a time when disc brakes were used only on higher capacity motorcycles. However, with an enhanced emphasis on safety by the regulatory authorities, disc brakes have made their way on lower capacity motorcycles as well. Now while disc brakes are quite dependable and require minimal upkeep, there is a certain degree of maintenance which is required to keep them performing optimally. In this article, we’ll tell you about all the important aspects of disc brakes which you need to look after in order to keep them performing like new.

Keep The Brake Fluid Reservoir Topped Up

The brake fluid reservoir for the front disc is usually mounted on the handlebar while the reservoir unit for the rear disc can either be found behind the right or left hand side heel plate attached to the footpeg. The brake fluid reservoir has a sight glass which allows you to check the fluid level. Make sure that you keep the brake fluid topped up to the correct level at all times. If a top up is needed, carefully open the lid and fill it up. It is advisable that you don’t let the fluid drop on the body panels of your motorcycle as brake fluid is corrosive in nature and can spoil the paintwork.

Bleed The Brakes Periodically

Bleeding the brakes is a process aimed at removing the air trapped inside the hydraulic brake system on your vehicle. Since air is highly compressible, any air bubbles trapped in the brake lines can lead to a limp feel in the brake lever along with weak and inefficient braking performance. To remove the air in your brake system, open up the bleeder screw placed on the caliper and then press the brake lever. It will pressurize the system, letting out the air and some brake fluid as well. The bleeder screw shouldn’t remain open when the brake lever is released or else, it will suck in more air. As the brake fluid is discharged, the master cylinder reservoir should be topped up so that it doesn’t run out of fluid.

Check Brake Pads Regularly

Brake pads are the most abused part of the braking equipment as they bite on the disc rotor, and have to deal with extremely high levels of friction and heat. They undergo a lot of stress and a regular check on their health and wear is of paramount importance to keep the braking system in good health. There is an inspection hole in the dust shield on the caliper to help you look at the brake pads inside. If you think that the disc pads need a replacement, do it right away. Not replacing the disc pads in a timely manner can expose the disc rotor to the metal plate holding the brake pads in place and may damage the entire assembly. Needless to say, replacing the entire brake assembly as opposed to just the pads would cost you a much higher sum of money.

Keep The Disc Rotors Clean

Riding in the dirt and slush could result in dirt and grime accumulating around the disc rotor and in the calliper assembly. If you notice a gradual drop in stopping power of your motorcycle, it might be because of all the grime that might have found its way inside the braking assembly. Although a water jet-spray should do the job, if you want to give the rotor a thorough clean-up, you can use a specialized brake cleaner. You can also use Isopropyl alcohol based solutions but stay a mile away from gasoline, kerosene and diesel because they are all derived from petroleum and might leave oil residue behind, drastically reducing the braking efficiency.

Rub The Brake Pads When Required

It is very common for grime to get accumulated on the top surface of the brake pads, thus considerably decreasing the braking efficiency. If they still have some life in them, you can take a sanding paper and rub the disc pads against it to clean the dirt and expose the new, more efficient layer of the brake pad for optimal braking performance.

Check Caliper Alignment

Sometimes the brake pads rub against the rotor even when the brake lever is not engaged. This generally happens because of bad caliper alignment. Ensure that the calipers are properly aligned to ensure longevity of both brake-pads and rotors.

Inspect Calipers periodically

In modern-day motorcycles, disc brake calipers can be had in two flavours – older style floating calipers and the more modern, and expensive, fixed calipers. Oftentimes, the braking issues you’re experiencing with your motorcycle may be attributed to the degeneration of calipers, or some other fault pertaining to the calipers. For caliper inspection, you should take a good look at the mounting points. You would want to look for cracks, stripped threads, corrosion and galling. Accelerated brake-pad deterioration is also a very convincing sign of issues with brake calipers.

Bed-In The Brakes

If you have just replaced the disc pads of your braking equipment, it is advisable to bed them in first before embarking on a long ride. Just like a new motorcycle’s engine needs running-in to perform at its full potential, the disc pads need bedding in too. Find an empty stretch, build up some speed and squeeze the brake lever progressively to bring the motorcycle to a near stop. Accelerate again from this point, and repeat the process eight to ten times to build some heat within the system and help the brakes bed in properly.
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