Front Brake Lever Freeplay Adjustment


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bstig60
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Front Brake Lever Freeplay Adjustment

Postby bstig60 » Wed May 27, 2015 1:33 pm



Some time ago I asked a similar question but never really got an answer, so here I go again. I have a 99 1500 ASP, the front brake lever will compress more than an inch before it activates the front brake. The pads are good and the master cylinder is full of fluid and there is no sign of any air in the system. I know on my 88 the front brake lever had about a 1/4 to 1/2 inch freeplay before the brake activates. I am concerned with the massive freeplay in the front brake lever on the 99. I use the front brake to hold in position on a hill when I am stopped at a light by using a couple of fingers on the lever the others on the throttle. Frequently trying to keep the brake on and access the throttle at the same time, my fingers are nearly smashed by the brake lever. Is there a way to adjust the freeplay on the front brake lever? I cannot find anything in the service manual.


Bill

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Re: Front Brake Lever Freeplay Adjustment

Postby WingAdmin » Wed May 27, 2015 2:12 pm

There is normally no way to adjust hydraulic brakes in this way, outside of aftermarket adjustable levers (or factory adjustable, in the case of some bikes).

What you need to do is to figure out what is causing the excessive free play. The normal cause for this kind of thing is air in the hydraulic system. Air is readily compressible, so the first bit of lever travel is used up compressing the air bubbles in the system. Once they are compressed sufficiently, only then does the slave piston begin to move out of its bore, pressing against the brake pads. This is a reasonably easy thing to fix, by bleeding the air out of the system. Sometimes the Wings can be difficult to bleed. When frustrated by air in the system, sometimes pumping the lever several times to build up pressure, followed by holding the lever tight to the handlebar, and then strapping it in place (I use bungee cords wrapped around and around for this) and leaving it to sit like this overnight will help. It compresses the bubbles of air and allows them to move more easily upward into the master cylinder where they can be expelled into the reservoir.

Another cause can be old brake lines. OEM brake lines are usually made out of a type of rubber, and over time they can lose their strength and stretch. When you pull the lever in, instead of transferring all the pressure to the slave cylinder, some of the hydraulic pressure is used to balloon the brake lines out. The solution for this is replacement brake lines. Often people will use stainless braided brake lines, where a mesh of stainless steel wires is wrapped around the rubber hose to prevent it from expanding.

When I had this problem on my 2000 SE, it took me a while to hunt down and find. In the brake caliper, there are rubber seals around the pistons that allow the piston to slide out while maintaining a seal for the hydraulic fluid. Under normal use, these rubber seals stick to the pistons. When you apply the brakes, the pistons move out just a very tiny amount, and the seals stick to them - so when you release the brakes, the pistons are pulled back into the caliper, as well as being pushed in by minute imperfections in the brake rotor.

When the pads wear down, the piston will eventually exceed the "stickiness" of the seals, and will slide out from under the seals a tiny bit. From that point on the seal will stick to the new, lower position on the piston, until more pad wear occurs and it happens again.

On my bike, the seals were worn and hardened and filled with gunk, and had more or less welded themselves to the pistons, so that the pistons no longer slid out from underneath them as the pads wore. Therefore most of my lever pull was used up pushing the pistons out without the pads contacting the rotors. It was only when the lever was about 3/4 of the way pulled in that the pads contacted the rotor. When the lever was released, the now stretched out seals would pull the piston way back into the caliper, leaving an oversized gap between the pads and rotor.

The solution for this was to disassemble and rebuild the front caliper, cleaning it out and replacing the seals. Once I did this, the front brake lever engaged as it should, right near the beginning of its travel.

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bstig60
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Re: Front Brake Lever Freeplay Adjustment

Postby bstig60 » Wed May 27, 2015 2:36 pm

Thanks for the quick reply. I will try the bungee cord solution first and see if that helps. Then I will try bleeding it again. Although I cannot get any more lever by pumping it up. Usually, pumping it should give me more lever if there was air in the system. I checked the fluid level and it is where it should be. Interesting about the calipers, My bike has extremely low mileage on it, but it sat for a long time. I have put a bit over 7000 miles on it since I bought it last fall and this issue has been there from day one. So its possible the calipers may be the culprit.
Bill

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Re: Front Brake Lever Freeplay Adjustment

Postby Aussie81Interstate » Wed May 27, 2015 5:21 pm

Don't discount the brake lines either.

You can tell if they are compromised or not 100% by just pulling the lever and watching the brake hose - if it flexes or moves under lever movement - that is a good indication you need to replace them. If you go with braided lines then the lever improvement and feel is quite amazing.
:)

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bstig60
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Re: Front Brake Lever Freeplay Adjustment

Postby bstig60 » Wed May 27, 2015 5:26 pm

Suggestions for stainless front brake lines?
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Re: Front Brake Lever Freeplay Adjustment

Postby RoadRogue » Wed May 27, 2015 10:27 pm

Here is where I got mine for both the 1100 and the 1500. Send Andy a PM with year,make and model of bike and your choice of colour. 8-)
viewtopic.php?f=9&t=11422
Ride safe, Todd
Over night campers welcome

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bstig60
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Re: Front Brake Lever Freeplay Adjustment

Postby bstig60 » Wed May 27, 2015 11:15 pm

Thanks, I sent him a PM this afternoon. I think I am just going to replace the right front line for now. Rear and left front seem fine.
Bill

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Re: Front Brake Lever Freeplay Adjustment

Postby Earl43P » Thu May 28, 2015 6:35 am

The brake handle is a wear item, along with the bushing it pushes into the master cylinder.
Mine got notchy just out of the blue, on my 82.
I had an extra handle from an engine donor, so I threw it on after much gnashing of teeth just like you are doing.
Tada, less play and smooth again.
When all else fails, RTFM!

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bstig60
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Re: Front Brake Lever Freeplay Adjustment

Postby bstig60 » Thu May 28, 2015 10:16 am

Thanks Earl... I thought of that, but my bike only has a little more than 10000 miles on it, so I don't see anything that would indicate excessive wear. It just has too much free play before the brake actuates. I have the lever locked down over night as Wing Admin suggested, so I will go out shortly and see what if any change has happened. I will check to see if my brake lines are expanding and if so I will replace them with stainless steel lines.
Bill

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bstig60
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Re: Front Brake Lever Freeplay Adjustment

Postby bstig60 » Thu May 28, 2015 11:25 pm

I clamped down the front brake lever and left it overnight as suggested. When I released it this morning I couldn't tell any difference. I put a micrometer on the front brake line to see if it was expanding and when the brake lever was compress as far as possible there was no measurable expansion in the brake line either just above the fender or at the master cylinder. So I don't hink it is the brake lines either. I didn't get a chance to try and bleed the system again since I needed to get ready for a ride tomorrow morning. Perhaps this weekend when I get back home. BTW: there is no problem with the braking, the front brake works perfectly, just too much free play before the brake comes on.
Bill

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Re: Front Brake Lever Freeplay Adjustment

Postby WingAdmin » Fri May 29, 2015 10:31 am

Have a look at the front caliper, at the distance between the pads and the rotor when the piston is retracted. Compare it to the left side.

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bstig60
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Re: Front Brake Lever Freeplay Adjustment

Postby bstig60 » Fri May 29, 2015 10:43 am

I will check that out this afternoon after I get to my son's place and let you know.


Bill


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