Front brake is a little "off" - Kawasaki Vulcan Forum : Vulcan Forums
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post #1 of 26 (permalink) Old 03-17-2012, 08:40 PM Thread Starter
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Front brake is a little "off"

Hey all,

My front brake has always felt a little weak but I'm told that's just part of owning a VN900. But lately I've been noticing an oddity about the front brake control. It seems to be kind of "draggy". Have you ever had a car with a throttle cable (back when cars had throttle cables, heh) that ha stretched or corroded? It doesn't move in smooth flowing motions it kind of jerks from one spot to the next? Well that's what mine does, but only when applying the brake a little harder. I'm going to clean and lube the cable but wanted your opinions in if it could be anything else while I'm tinkering with it.

The other thing is, and this may just be a VN900 issue or it might be an issue with my bike. It takes a considerable amount of force to hold the bike on a hill with the front brake, but I don't have trouble stopping, even stopping hard / emergency stopping at speed. I'm a new rider so that might just be something that's normal but I wanted to make sure!

Thanks all,

John

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post #2 of 26 (permalink) Old 03-17-2012, 09:25 PM
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The 900's brakes won't win any awards for stopping power, but they should operate smoothly without jerking or catching.

You may need to tear the calipers down and give them a good cleaning, and change the fluid. (The brakes are not cable-operated, they're hydraulic.)

There are also some spots in the levers that need to be greased once in a while. Details are in the service manual.

Joe
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post #3 of 26 (permalink) Old 03-17-2012, 09:38 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by siriusjoe View Post
The 900's brakes won't win any awards for stopping power, but they should operate smoothly without jerking or catching.

You may need to tear the calipers down and give them a good cleaning, and change the fluid. (The brakes are not cable-operated, they're hydraulic.)

There are also some spots in the levers that need to be greased once in a while. Details are in the service manual.

Joe

It's not so much that the brakes are grabbing as the control itself is. I'll look into greasing that lever... That makes sense. That's probably it.

How about the difficulty holding on a hill? I mean you have to squeeze hard to keep the bike from rolling. Is that normal or is there an issue?

"8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

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post #4 of 26 (permalink) Old 03-17-2012, 09:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Romans5.8 View Post
It's not so much that the brakes are grabbing as the control itself is. I'll look into greasing that lever... That makes sense. That's probably it.

How about the difficulty holding on a hill? I mean you have to squeeze hard to keep the bike from rolling. Is that normal or is there an issue?
Have you bled the brakes recently and added new fluid? After a few thousand miles of stop 'n go, the fluid near the calipers can absorb a little extra heat and get "squishy", so that the longer the fluid is under pressure, the more it gives. Cars do it too, with the brake pedal slowly sinking until it bottoms out after a stop.

If that doesn't help, I'd take a deeper look.

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post #5 of 26 (permalink) Old 03-17-2012, 09:58 PM
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How about the difficulty holding on a hill? I mean you have to squeeze hard to keep the bike from rolling. Is that normal or is there an issue?
Doesn't sound normal to me. I suppose it depends on how steep the hill is, but I don't recall ever having trouble keeping my 900 from rolling while stopped.

When was the last time you inspected the brake pads? Maybe they're worn. Or maybe a fluid issue like Pretzel said.

Joe
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post #6 of 26 (permalink) Old 03-17-2012, 10:06 PM
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Same suggestion.... Do a brake bleed first, may fix both issues. Then next fix will be a caliper rebuild.

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post #7 of 26 (permalink) Old 03-17-2012, 10:35 PM Thread Starter
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I'll do the fluid. Pads are fine. They looked fine to me, and on top of that last week I had the safety inspection done for the year and the dealer told me they had about 60% left.

I played with it a bit and looked closer and I think the grabbing is a lube issue for the handle. There's a faint squeaking in the handle. I'll bleed the brakes, both front and rear. Easy enough right? Loosen the bleed screw, pump the brakes while replacing the fluid in the master cylinder? Continue until fresh fluid is consistently coming out of the bleed screw?

Is there anything I need to do to the master cylinder when I bleed the brakes? Any seals that I should replace, or anything like that? I've done a brake bleed on a car before, but never a bike.

Just while I'm at it... what would indicate I need a caliper rebuild? It's an '06 with only 15k miles (9k when I bought it in September). I don't know how it's been ridden before, but as long as I've been riding it it's been mostly highway (especially 55mph state highways with limited stopping). I live in a rural area, I don't use my brakes much. In fact, most of the time I can just downshift and coast and brake at the very end, so in other words, they aren't being used severely.

The odd thing is, even though it's been giving me trouble at a stop, when I had to make an emergency stop a while back (commercial truck pulled out into my lane head on) I was able to stop VERY quickly. I grabbed the front hard and hit the rear, locked up both but immediately let off the front enough to keep it from being locked up (I think I left the rear locked up, don't remember... it happened pretty fast LOL). So in other words, it had the braking power to handle that emergency stop (plus all of the low speed emergency stop practice I did). It just seems oddly weak at a dead stop. Pretzels suggestion about fluid break down makes the most sense, so that's what I'll do!

Any recommendations on fluid? Any particular fluid that might improve performance, or last longer? I've just always used whatever was on the shelf (or I had sitting around anyway) in my cars... but since these brakes aren't the best I'd like to use some good stuff. Plus, it seems like there is a lot less fluid in my bike than my car.... so it would seem that the fluid would break down quicker, so longer lasting fluid seems like a plus.

Hey thanks folks!

-John

"8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Romans 5:8 (NIV)

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post #8 of 26 (permalink) Old 03-17-2012, 11:46 PM
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What made me think of a caliper rebuild was the comment on the brakes were grabbing (but not under hard braking). When the pistons are dirty or fluid is contaminated the pistons sticks (does not return smoothly), potentially causing the pads to grab when they should have retracted. Just a theory (and some experince with Mountain Bike brakes).

As for fluid stay with recommended brake fluid as they are not all the same. Different boiling points, and motorcycle brakes will run hotter than cars.

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post #9 of 26 (permalink) Old 03-17-2012, 11:51 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bosco View Post
What made me think of a caliper rebuild was the comment on the brakes were grabbing (but not under hard braking). When the pistons are dirty or fluid is contaminated the pistons sticks (does not return smoothly), potentially causing the pads to grab when they should have retracted. Just a theory (and some experince with Mountain Bike brakes).

As for fluid stay with recommended brake fluid as they are not all the same. Different boiling points, and motorcycle brakes will run hotter than cars.
No the brakes aren't grabbing (sorry, I did a poor job explaining this). Let me try it this way- there is resistance in spots as I pull the brake lever. So I cannot pull it in a smoth fluid motion, as I pull the brake (I.e. apply) it "grabs" making me have to pull it a bit harder. I believe that's due to a poorly lubed lever. Ive gotten caught in two spring showers now so I bet there may be some gunk or corrosion in there.

"8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Romans 5:8 (NIV)

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post #10 of 26 (permalink) Old 03-18-2012, 12:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Romans5.8 View Post
No the brakes aren't grabbing (sorry, I did a poor job explaining this). Let me try it this way- there is resistance in spots as I pull the brake lever. So I cannot pull it in a smoth fluid motion, as I pull the brake (I.e. apply) it "grabs" making me have to pull it a bit harder. I believe that's due to a poorly lubed lever. Ive gotten caught in two spring showers now so I bet there may be some gunk or corrosion in there.
Okay, got it. A good cleaning and lube should fix that issue. I would still bleed the brakes for the other issue as you should be able to hold the bike on a hill with the front brake.

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