Neglected Pre-Ride Motorcycle Maintenance Part 2
TAKING AIM, by Chris Maida, Editor
In the last issue, I wrote about how many owners routinely neglect their bike’s tires. This time around, we’ll look at the second important area I see many owners overlooking: their brake systems. Checking the brake pads, brake lines, and rotors takes only a few minutes, since they’re out in the open. Thankfully, these components only need to be checked every 2,500 miles. However, if you ride less than 1,000 miles a year, don’t go by the bike’s mileage in regard to the brake lines, since time is the enemy here as much as mileage. Every six months should be sufficient.
To check the brake pads, look at where both pads contact the rotor. If the metal baseplate of the pad is close (under 1/16″) to touching the rotor, change the pads. Inspect the rubber section of the brake lines for cracks, the metal areas for rust. Needless to say, you don’t want to see either one. If you do, replace the lines. For the rotors, look for bluing or grooves on either side of the rotor. Slight grooves in the rotor are normal, deep grooves are not. Also make sure the bolts are tight. You don’t have to pull out a torque wrench to check the hardware, just put a tool on them and see if they move easily. If they don’t, they’re good to go.
The last brake maintenance item is a bit more involved: changing the brake fluid. This is the area I see neglected the most. Thankfully, you only swap out the brake fluid every two years if your bike uses DOT 3 or 4. That’s how long it takes DOT 3 or 4 to absorb enough moisture to become a problem. Water inside the brake system corrodes the brake lines and such from the inside and can cause a failure even though things look fine on the outside. Just for the record, you can put DOT 4 in a DOT 3 system, but don’t put DOT 3 in a DOT 4 system. Also, DOT 5 and DOT 5.1 are not the same. Don’t interchange them!
Of course, while you’re looking at the brake system, which also includes checking the brake fluid level, you can also check the axle nuts, wheels, etc., but a long checklist is, I think, the main reason most riders don’t check anything. Personally, I recommend inspecting a few different items each time you’re about to fire off the engine. This trip it’s the brake system, next time it’s the wheels and axle nuts, etc. Sure, the best way is to check everything every time you plan on going for a ride, but that’s not going to happen in most cases. If it’s all or nothing, it’s safer, in my opinion, to check a section of your bike each time you plan on going for a ride. That said, you should always check the tires before each ride!
See you on the road.
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