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Monday, March 29, 2010

Spring Brake - Part 1

Yesterday I talked about the importance of getting your bike ready for riding. More than just checking the oil level and tire pressure. I know some of you go all out and check the chain adjustment too but there is more to it than that if you want the bike to last and perform to new bike standards.

Yesterday I was working on an NX250 that I bought last fall as a simple, easy to ride bike that I could run errands on or loan to a friend who might be visiting. The NX series (125, 250, 650) were yet another Euro line that Honda brought to the US only to have them sell like day old fish cakes. Light, agile, electric start, stylish and fun they were dual sports that didn't fit into any cruiser/sport/power niche and people looked elsewhere for fun. Now they have a cult following that has kept prices high. The real icing on the cake is the 6-speed transmission. The 6th gear is overdrive that allows the bike to cruise at freeway speeds all day long.

Back to my point, this bike had been taken for granted. Nothing terrible but everything needed attention because the normal once-a-year maintenance had never been done. The front brake was wooden, absolutely no feel. I ordered the master cylinder kit and caliper seals and got to work. Sure enough, the brake fluid was the consistency of molasses. And about the same color.

People, brake fluid (DOT 3 & 4) are hygroscopic. That means that they absorb moisture out of the air. Water and brake fluid don't mix and the water corrodes the insides of the brake parts. Another problem is that the water can boil if the brakes are applied for an extended period. The water vapor is very compressible, relative to brake fluid, and causes a big loss of brake power. Not good for a long downhill stretch.

I had to buff out the master cylinder and put the new kit in. When I put the air hose to the brake line a disgusting collection of grunge and sludge came out the other end. The caliper required honing to cleanup the bores and get the pistons to move freely. It's a wonder that there was any braking at all! New seals went in and I bled the brakes with new fluid. Now the brakes feel like new, plenty of power without being grabby.
Pro Honda Brake Fluid DOT 4 12 oz.
All in all this cost me about $50 in parts + several hours of going to the dealer for parts and doing the work. And it all could have been avoided. Once a year, change the brake fluid and bleed your brakes! Take off the cover and pump new DOT 4 fluid through the system until it comes out as clear as it went in. 10 minutes and $5 for the fluid. That's all it takes to make your bike better and safer. Do it now!

PS: Take off the brake lever(s) and grease the pivots while you're at it. It's the little things that make a big difference.