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Using Speed Bleeders® to Change the Brake (and Clutch) Fluid on a Valkyrie

WHY CHANGE:

Honda recommends changing the brake fluid, with DOT4 fluid, every 12,000 miles or two years. Splurge, and change this stuff every year (or more often, if you happen to be fortunate enough to be able to ride more miles than that each year).

Here are a couple of articles that describe how (DOT4) brake fluid is hygroscopic and why you should change it often:

"Essays: Temporary Brake Failure," Mechanical Forensics Engineering Services, LLC

"Information that is vital to the maintenance of brake systems and brake fluid," RACEShopper.com

WHY SPEED BLEEDERS®:

Speed Bleeders® enable you to change the fluid simply, affordably, and as a one-person operation. I've used these on two bikes now — a BMW R850R and a Valkyrie Interstate — and I'm often pretty much of a klutz in terms of maintenance. The Speed Bleeders® have performed as advertised, and I'm completely happy with them, recommend them, etc. Other than as a satisfied customer, I have absolutely no affiliation or interest in the company, its employees, the usual disclaimers, YMMV, batteries not included, etc. (Note: Speed Bleeders® are not appropriate for first installing fluid in empty brake or clutch lines. That is, if you're upgrading your lines, it will be much easier if you first use something such as a Mityvac® to suck fluid through empty lines; after that, Speed Bleeders® can then be used as described below, for routine fluid changes.)

PURCHASE AND INSTALLATION — ONE TIME ONLY:

Speed Bleeders® become a permanent part of your bike, and so these steps have to be accomplished only once.
  1. Buy four Speed Bleeders®. You can read about these at Speed Bleeders®' home page, its bike page, and its "Honda Goldwing or Honda ST1100" page. That last page is relevant even though we're not dealing with Wings or ST1100s here. Honda uses multiple styles of bleeders, and may actually vary the types across time (or on a whim, or for whatever reason).

    My clutch bleeder looked like "Honda # 43352-MG9-006" shown on the "Honda Goldwing or Honda ST1100" page (about three-fourths of the way down on the page), and so I ordered one SB8125LL to replace it.

    For the three brake bleeders, I ordered three SB8125L bleeders. The SB8125 model, you will note (you did read that page, didn't you?), is the same as SB8125L, only with a shorter nipple; I think the SB8125L is easier to work with (e.g., to put a plastic tube on), although you will have some threads visible at the bottom with this model (and possibly with the other model, too, for that matter). And all three numbers have the same thread pitch, by the way.

    So, we have three SB8125L bleeders and one SB8125LL bleeder, at $7.00 each, plus shipping and handling. These are available directly at Speed Bleeders®' order page. I've seen Speed Bleeders® at auto parts stores, too, but I doubt that these exact part numbers are available there (and they're generally more expensive there, anyway). I also recommend purchasing the "Bleeder Bag / Hose Combo" ($6.00). Alternatively, you can purchase just the plastic hose ($3.00) there, or supply your own.

    Now that you have the parts:

  2. Put lots of towels and rags around everything, because brake fluid is caustic to paint.

  3. Unscrew each old bleeder and fairly quickly start threading in the replacement bleeder (to minimize slopping of brake fluid, which will ooze more than gush out when you take off the old bleeder). The clutch bleeder is under the tank, left side, just before the seat area:

    Clutch Bleeder Area (Pointer Indicates Bleeder)

  4. Gently install each new bleeder; a 5/16" deep-well socket helps here, after starting the process with just your fingers. They will snap off. I managed to do this to one during the installation on my Beemer; while the company was kind enough to send me a replacement gratis(!), extracting the remainder from the bike makes this, on balance, not a desirable situation. Here is the relevant and actual text from Speed Bleeder's installation page (which page used to suggest a small torque range, but then changed to omit any mention of a specific torque value):

    When you first install the Speed Bleeder® you will note a slight resistance when you reach the thread sealant. This is normal. The thread sealant is conforming to the shape of the threads to provide a seal between the internal threads of the caliper or wheel cylinder and the external threads of the Speed Bleeder®. When the Speed Bleeder® bottoms out, it is closed. If it still leaks tighten it a little more. (no more than 1/8 turn) If you tighten it more you might break it off.

    If you experience considerable resistance, more than usual, when installing the Speed Bleeder you might have cross threaded the Speed Bleeder. If you have done this you probably have damaged the threads on the Speed Bleeder and should not use the damaged Speed Bleeder.
    ***DO NOT OVER TIGHTEN***


ANNUAL (OR WHENEVER) SPRING BLEEDING ROUTINE:

The intent here is to start the season off right (for those of us who don't ride much or at all in the winter), especially since the brake fluid's been sitting around absorbing water for months.
  1. Buy a fresh container of Valvoline SynPower DOT3/DOT4 brake fluid from your local auto-parts store, x-mart, etc. If you want to use something else, fine, except that it must specify DOT4. The 12oz. size should be sufficient for changing all the fluids below.

    If the slots in your reservoir-cover screws are looking a bit fuzzy, now would be a good time to purchase some new ones — lest you find yourself unable to unscrew them next year — from your local hardware store. They are 4mm x 12mm flat-heads for the front reservoirs. Note: "Geezer" of the Valkyrie Riders Cruiser Club has pointed out that these are "crosspoint" screws, not Phillips. I've since learned that the correct terminology is Japanese Industrial Standard (JIS). Thus, be careful removing them; your best bet is to buy a set of JIS screwdrivers, which can be had for about $20. By the time I found this out, I'd long since replaced the four front reservoir screws, but I do recall having difficulty removing them the first time. (The rear-brake reservoir cover screws, on the other hand, are, I believe, 4mm x 42mm; as these seem less prone to wear, I haven't ever replaced them.)

  2. Put the Speed Bleeder tube-with-bag over one of the bleeders (and if you're using a box-end wrench for this — see step 5, below — put the wrench over the bleeder first). If you didn't buy the bag, put a clear tube over the bleeder, and the other end into a container on the floor, and try hard not to tip it over.

  3. Rotate the handlebars and optionally loosen and rotate the corresponding reservoir (by slightly loosening the two 5mm Allen bolts that are holding the reservoir clamps onto the handlebars):

    Reservoir Handlebar Clamp (Pointers Indicate Bolts)

    The idea here is to get the reservoir fairly level, but perfection isn't necessary. Now snug up those two bolts, if you loosened them a moment ago.

  4. Unscrew the reservoir cover, and remove it, the plastic cover, and the rubber insert in there. (And remember to cover the tank, etc., with towels, because this process could result in some slop, too.)

  5. Back out the bleeder in question "¼ to ½ turn." I do this about half a turn, e.g., from an upper wrench position to a lower one, without removing the wrench; an 8mm wrench can be used here, if you don't have the slightly smaller 5/16" size:

    Before Loosening Bleeder After Loosening Bleeder

  6. Slowly and not fully (i.e., not like a maniac, and don't squeeze all the way to the handlebar) squeeze the lever in question — while at the same time slowly and carefully pour fresh brake fluid into the reservoir. What's happening here is that the old stuff will be coming out the tube (into the bag or container); this will result in the level's going down at the reservoir. You don't have to maintain the level of fluid in the reservoir to the very top of the reservoir, but you don't want it to get so low, either, that air can come in near the bottom of the reservoir (where the fluid is being pushed out).

  7. Keep squeezing until you see fresh clear liquid — and no bubbles — coming out the tube at the bottom. It's really easy to see the difference, and doesn't take very many squeezes.

  8. Screw the bleeder back in that ½ turn, i.e., where it was before you started, and take off the tube.

  9. If this is the front brake reservoir we're talking about, put the tube on the other front brake bleeder, and perform steps 5 through 8 again. Hey, we're still not talking about a whole lot of brake fluid here.

  10. Top off the reservoir, as necessary — keeping in mind that the rubber insert displaces a fair amount of fluid. (That is, if you actually added fluid to the very top of the reservoir, you'd slop a bunch over the side as you put the rubber cover back in.) Put the insert back in, make sure that the lip of the insert covers the edge of the reservoir all around, put the plastic and metal covers over it, and screw in the two cover screws. And if you had repositioned the reservoir earlier, re-loosen those two allen bolts, turn the reservoir back to its original position, and re-tighten the bolts (to 9 ft-lbs, if you check the torque on this sort of thing).

  11. Perform these same steps for the clutch bleeder and clutch reservoir.

  12. Perform these same steps for the rear brake bleeder and its reservoir (which requires removing the plastic see-through cover — one 8mm bolt — first, and gently pressing down on the rear-brake foot-lever):

    Rear Brake Reservoir Cover (Pointer Indicates Bolt)

    Note: if you have a Tourer or an Interstate, accessing the rear brake bleeder is easier if you remove the left saddlebag first. This entails first removing a 10mm nut and spacer underneath the back of the Honda bag guards (if you have them), and then three 8mm bolts and one 10mm bolt inside the saddlebag.

  13. Pump the brakes and clutch a few times, to check that they appear to work OK. Then, go for a test ride, being careful to check things out slowly and gradually, and before you've gone very far.

  14. Dispose of the old brake fluid in an environmentally responsible and legal manner. If you bought the fluid drain-bag, you can force the old fluid into a container by gently squeezing on the bag for a while.

That's it. Good luck!



Bill Pollack
2003
Schodack, NY


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