Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Why I shouldn't work on my own bike...

While dealing with my bearing fiasco, I noticed that my rear brake pads were due for replacement and promptly ordered new pads all the way around. The front pads were fine but I knew I'd better have a set in my tool chest for when the time came to change them out. While picking up the pads from the shop, the ever helpful young man at the counter asked when the last time I changed the brake fluid in the bike. Way to up-sell. Well I said, I haven't had the bike a year yet and the previous owner was a retired shop class teacher and we know how meticulous they can be, so I would say about a year. I checked the sight glass in the front master cylinder/reservoir and sure enough it could definitely use a change.

I bought some Speed Bleeders over a wet dream I had thinking I'd attempt bleeding my own brakes. I've bled brakes before and it is so much easier with two people but I am more work at my own pace, enjoy the peace and quiet, mutter to myself, kinda guy. Speed Bleeders would make the job so much easier and maybe, just maybe I wouldn't be so reluctant to change my brake fluid next time.

After a week of going round and round looking for the absolute best, high performance, race quality, motorcycle specific DOT4 brake fluid that money could buy, I settled on Galfer Brand and I was all set.

I started with the front bleeders and had the old ones out and the new ones installed in no time at all. I was standing proud in my garage that I hadn't stripped out the aluminum threads on the brake calipers. However, in my eagerness I realized that now I was committed. The delicate integrity of brake fluid has been tainted, the seal broken and there is air in the system, there is no pressure behind the lever and the bike is officially out of commission. I gazed upon the two little innocent looking Phillips bolt heads holding down the cover of the reservoir.

Being from Canada I was born and raised on Robertson drivers, such a wonderful invention, I applaud you Mr. Robertson.

And I have learned to appreciate many other socket type heads throughout the years.

I have a set of hex keys and even a few torx driver bits in my arsenal. All wonderful to use but seeing a Phillips type head will bring this grown man to tears. Why, oh why does this style still exist? Most useless fads come and go, giving way for new and innovative replacements. Take music media for example, just in my lifetime I've seen vinyl records, reel to reel and 8 track tapes make way for cassette tapes and compact discs. Now they're obsolete with MP3 and digital media taking over to the point that I don't even know what to call it. (Where's my cane?) So why do we hold on to such a poor design as the Phillips head? Why?

So anyway, you see where this is going, right? Yes, these two little thorns would be no different and knowing that an aluminum reservoir and steel bolts create a wonderful galvanic reaction, I took my time and approached the task slowly, delicately and with utmost precision. Needless to say, I stripped out the head and reached for my drill. I drilled out the first bolt head hoping to leave enough material to grab with a pair of vise-grips once I got the cover off... well, it worked in theory.I went after the other side and drilled a small hole being careful not to lose the head of the bolt this time. I inserted a screw extractor, with a few taps of the hammer I managed to get a good purchase on the screw and slowly turned counterclockwise until... the extractor snapped. Shit! Shit! Shit! and much, much more expletives.

Deep breath and muttering to myself. I used a center punch and hammer, slowly tapping the screw from its grip. That's one out, the cover is off and I emptied the reservoir and stuffed a paper towel to catch any shavings, now back to the other side. Using a smaller bit I drilled out the broken bolt just a wee bit more and the next day I bought another extractor. You would think I'd be smart and buy a better quality extractor than the one I just broke right? The new extractor filled the well I had just drilled and the drill bit is no match for the remnants of the new extractor.

I went ahead and flushed the system, bled the brakes and replaced the cover with the one bolt while I ponder going after the other with a rotary tool and left hand drill bit, purchasing a better quality extractor or replacing the whole reservoir and master cylinder. As long as I get to it before the rain comes.

And I did replace the one bolt with a stainless steel hex head.

I did ride to work today, what a difference new fluid makes. The Speed Bleeders made it simple to flush and bleed the system. I recommend them.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I think anyone working in any kind of vehicle has run into these type of issues. And I agree completely about the continued use of Phillips head screws. When I was teaching my son to change the fluids in his car, I told him to always remove the filler before the drain. He thought it was odd as he hadn't run into the undriveable vehicle before.

    BTW, stainless into aluminum needs anti-sieze on the threads. And thank you for the recommendation of the Speed Bleeders. I was. wondering how well they work. And nice that you got your bike back on the road after the bearing mishap.


  3. We all have those days. The speed Bleeders look like an excellent product and i should chase some up for myself.

  4. Interestingly, I have been contemplating changing the brake flued in the FJR. It has been way too long. On the one hand, thanks for pointing to the speed bleeders. On the other, now I'm thinking maybe I should go to a shop!

    After all, I don't have a reputation to protect, being a sissy street rider instead of tough Tiger Rider. :)

  5. I will take the bolt out and use anti-seize on both Lucy and Max, as well as every bike I buy from now on. I recommend that everybody check your reservoir bolts regularly, replace them with a socket-head type bolt, use anti-seize and don't let them corrode.
    The Speed Bleeders are the cat's meow, once they are installed there is no excuse not to flush and bleed your brakes annually. It only took me 10 minutes if that to flush and bleed both front and rear systems. Easy peasy.

  6. You did just about everything right. The only advice I could add is the next time you are staring at a phillips head, smear some valve grinding compound (Permatex) or rubbing compound or even some Comet into the head to help the screwdriver grip. Wera makes a good screwdriver with serrated laser cuts in the side to help grip. If you use an anti-seize compound on the threads always be mindfull of the change in torque specs. Most torque specs are given for dry clean threads, you can roughly decrease torque (calculate 15%-25% reduction) as the slippier surface will decrease friction.

  7. Oh soooo familiar! I too fit the bill of “If Something Can Go Wrong, It’ll Happen To Me”. Glad to see your success and triumph over it and enjoy your fresh brake system. Phillips Head screws are my worst enemy!


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