Maintaining your motorcycle's brakes is vital for your safety and control. Brakes are the key safety feature, and regular maintenance ensures they work effectively, allowing you to stop quickly and avoid accidents. Motorcycles require precise braking, making a well-maintained brake system crucial for swift and accurate stops. Neglecting maintenance can lead to reduced performance and increased risks. By prioritizing brake upkeep, you can identify issues early, prevent costly damages, and enjoy a safer riding experience.
We’ve talked about your brake pads and rotors before, and how it’s important to look after them and make sure they’re in good condition. This time around, let’s take a closer look at an unseen, yet equally vital element of your braking system: brake fluid. Brake fluid plays a crucial role in the operation of a vehicle's braking system. When the brake lever or pedal is pressed, hydraulic pressure is created in the brake lines, and this pressure is transmitted through the brake fluid. The fluid's incompressible nature allows it to transfer the force from the brake pedal or lever to the brake calipers, causing the brake pads to clamp onto the rotors and generate the friction needed to slow down or stop the vehicle.
As with all fluids in our motorcycle, brake fluid degrades over time. As it degrades, it loses its ability to remain incompressible, resulting in dramatically reduced braking performance. As mentioned earlier, your brakes are really the only way for you to come to a complete stop in a safe and controlled manner, so it’s absolutely essential that they’re always performing at their best. That said, here are 5 telltale signs that your brake fluid needs replacing.
Spongy brake lever
A spongy brake lever can indicate that it's time to replace your brake fluid. Brake fluid is hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs moisture over time, which can lead to a decrease in its performance and the formation of air bubbles in the brake system. When air enters the brake lines, it compresses more easily than brake fluid, resulting in a spongy or soft brake lever feel. By replacing the old brake fluid with fresh fluid, you eliminate the moisture and air bubbles, restoring the proper hydraulic pressure and improving the responsiveness and firmness of your brake lever.
Inconsistent brake feel
Inconsistent brake feel, where the brakes may feel soft or mushy at times and firm at others, can be an indication that it's time to replace your brake fluid. Brake fluid, as it ages, tends to absorb moisture, leading to its contamination with water, debris, and contaminants. This contamination affects the fluid's ability to transmit hydraulic pressure consistently. As a result, air bubbles may form in the brake system, causing the brakes to feel spongy or inconsistent when the pedal is pressed.
Brake fade at high temperatures
Brake fade, the loss of braking power or effectiveness under prolonged or intense braking, can indicate that it's time to replace your brake fluid. Over time, brake fluid can accumulate moisture, contaminants, and debris, which can lower its boiling point. When the brake fluid reaches its boiling point, it can vaporize, leading to the formation of gas bubbles in the brake lines. These gas bubbles are compressible, causing a decrease in braking efficiency and resulting in brake fade.
Murky brake fluid in the reservoir
Murky or dark-colored brake fluid can be an indicator that it's time to replace your brake fluid. Over a period of time, brake fluid can gather impurities, moisture, and debris from the brake system, resulting in the fluid taking on a murky or dark appearance. The presence of particles and impurities in murky brake fluid can potentially hinder the performance of the brake system. To ensure the brakes function optimally, it is recommended to replace the old, murky brake fluid with fresh fluid. This replacement process eliminates contaminants and provides clean, transparent fluid, promoting efficient brake operation and maintaining overall brake system integrity.
Low brake fluid levels without any leaks
Low brake fluid levels without any signs of leaks can indicate that it's time to replace your brake fluid. Brake fluid plays a critical role in the hydraulic system that operates your brakes, and its level should remain relatively stable. Over time, brake fluid can absorb moisture from the air, which causes it to expand. This expansion can lead to a decrease in the overall volume of brake fluid in the reservoir, resulting in low fluid levels. By replacing the old brake fluid with fresh fluid, you ensure that you have an adequate and uncontaminated supply of fluid in the system. This replacement helps maintain proper brake function and prevents potential issues that can arise from insufficient fluid levels, such as reduced braking performance or the risk of air entering the system.