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Old Jul 1st 2013, 11:13 PM   #1
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How To: Front Brake Bleed

Unless you have scientific instruments to measure it, fluid is not compressible. The lever in your right hand on a motorbike and the pedal in the middle (you do drive a stick, right?) of a car press on brake fluid, which basically acts as a solid that's able to curve and twist its way down to a brake caliper without losing any noticeable force in the process.

Unfortunately, air will eventually make its way into your brake fluid. Seals aren't perfect and neither is brake fluid, causing a pedal to become spongy over time. This can be dangerous under normal conditions, but can be lethal on the track, coming down steep inclines or merely riding aggressively on the street. The reason? A little air expands into a LOT of air as the temps increase. Unfortunately your lever will only give you so much travel. If 90% of the travel is compressing air, only 10% is left to compress the fluid and push your brake pads into the brake disc.

If there's only one thing you know how to do on a vehicle it should be to bleed your brakes. A 15 min. brake bleed will give you much better braking performance than $6000 AP Racing calipers clenching down on Carbon Discs with a hint of air in the system. And the nice thing about bleeding brakes is that once you know how to do it on one vehicle you can do it on any vehicle--Ford, Ferrari, VW, Porsche, Triumph, Yamaha, Lambo or Kia.

Here's how to get firm again:

Air always travels upwards when in fluid. If you're drowning and disoriented underwater breathe out a little and follow the bubbles because they go up, which is why bleeder screws are always on top of the caliper or master cylinder (*cough cough--ignore rear brake bleeder screw for now). On the Panigale there are three bleed screws for the front brakes: one on the master cylinder and one on each front caliper.



The first to attack is the master cylinder bleed screw. This is where the most air is (because it's the highest point in the system) and it takes about 60 seconds to do a bleed. For whatever reason (I think it's Italian air in the ABS system), I had to bleed the front master cylinder once every few thousand miles until the system would no longer spontaneously go limp.

If you're anywhere near the max fluid mark on the front reservoir, you don't need to worry about using any new fluid or opening up the reservoir, as bleeding the master cylinder doesn't consume a lot of fluid.

1) Take an empty water bottle and cut a small notch in it.
2) Take some clear tubing and shove it into the bottle (see pic at bottom).
3) Remove the rubber seal from the top of the master cylinder bleed screw, pop on a 12 point wrench (I think it's an 11mm or 12mm?), then attach the other end of the clear tubing.
4) Pump the front brake lever aggressively a few times, then hold it.
5) Crack the bleed screw open (lefty loosey!) slightly and you'll feel the brake lever squish down closer to the right clip on--as this is happening you'll see some foaming bubbles coming out of the bleed screw into the tubing. That's the air causing your braking woes.
6) Prior to the lever squishing down all the way, tighten the bleed screw.
7) Pump the lever again, then crack the screw open again. You'll see less and less air bubbles as you repeat this. Once there are no bubbles, you're done (should only take a few times.
8) Tighten the bleed screw, remove the hose and put the rubber seal back on the nipple.
(On the road I'd do this at a gas station with nothing more than a rag over the nipple to trap the air/fluid. The same procedure can be done with the clutch.)
9) Enjoy nice firm brake feel.

WORDS OF CAUTION:
DO NOT LET THE FLUID IN THE RESERVOIR DROP BELOW THE MIN. LEVEL. IF IT DOES, YOU'LL PUMP AIR BACK INTO THE SYSTEM.

DO NOT GET FLUID ON THE PAINT. BRAKE FLUID WORKS BETTER THAN PAINT THINNER AT REMOVING IT. HAVE WINDEX, WATER AND RAGS STANDING BY JUST IN CASE, OTHERWISE YOU'LL BE USING SPIT AND THE SHIRT ON YOUR BACK TO PREVENT DAMAGE (yes, that's been my backup method).

WEARING GLOVES AND EYE PROTECTION IS A WINNING IDEA.

NO NEED TO GET HERCULEAN ON THE BLEED SCREWS. (The nice part about using a 12 point box wrench is you only need to return the wrench to the point at which you started to determine torque. (If the wrench is at 6 o'clock before you loosened the bleed screw, make sure when you tighten it it's again at 6 o'clock.)

Now that the master cylinder is bled, it's time for the front calipers.



1) Remove rubber grommet from right side front caliper nipple.
2) Place 8mm box end wrench onto the bleed screw.
3) Connect one end of the clear tubing to nipple and the other to an empty bottle.
4) Remove the two philips-head screws from the top of the master cylinder reservoir. If the fluid isn't at the max mark, add more fluid (dot 4 or above, but not silicon fluid). Standard dot 4 will be fine if you don't brake like a madman. RBF 600 or Motul racing fluid if you do. Keep the rubber seal on top of the fluid res. after filling the reservoir, as brake fluid is hydroscopic and exposure to air will allow it to absorb moisture in the atmosphere, lowering its boiling point.
5) Pump front brake lever a few times and hold.
6) Crack bleeder screw slightly, until you see air/bubbles in the tubing.
7) Prior to brake lever contacting clip-on, close bleeder screw and repeat step 6 until there are no air bubbles, making sure the fluid reservoir is never empty.
8) Remove hose, re-attach rubber nipple cover.
9) Repeat for left side caliper.
10) When finished check brake lever to make sure your brakes work before accelerating out of your driveway towards that two way stop sign at the bottom of the steep hill down the road.....

*To flush fluid, perform the above, but make sure you go through 2-3 reservoirs of new brake fluid per caliper. Again, do not let the fluid reservoir go empty, or you'll have A LOT of air in the system to bleed out.
Thanks from Montfort, Frosty, Phl and 15 others

Last edited by AntiHero; Jul 11th 2013 at 07:25 AM.
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Old Jul 1st 2013, 11:19 PM   #2
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Very nice descriptive write up!
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Old Jul 1st 2013, 11:33 PM   #3
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Excellent
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Old Jul 1st 2013, 11:49 PM   #4
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Thanks AntiHero, This is going to sound sarcastic, but isn't meant to. " I can't wait for the rear brake sequel....
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Old Jul 2nd 2013, 01:20 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by 1199 dreamer View Post
Thanks AntiHero, This is going to sound sarcastic, but isn't meant to. " I can't wait for the rear brake sequel....
Kapow: http://ducati1199.com/guides/13063-h...tml#post104081
Thanks from hfrohar
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Old Jul 2nd 2013, 03:20 AM   #6
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I take it then there are no implications from the ABS ?
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Old Jul 2nd 2013, 05:03 AM   #7
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ABS - dealer said no.

Thanks for the write up AH. Done a hundred times, never wrote it up.

When I find the time, I will do a timelapse of the fairing change street/track.
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Old Jul 2nd 2013, 05:33 AM   #8
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This is one of the first things I learned when I started driving. You would be surprised how many times bleeding brakes after a few months makes that little bit of difference, on a car or bike.

Great write-up!!

P.S. I got lazy after my 20's and ended up buying a MightyVac (sp?) brake bleeder. Made it just that much easier to do.
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Old Jul 2nd 2013, 09:03 AM   #9
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Awesome! Thanks Dennis... Does look simple enough. Most of the stuff I read or watched had you bleeding the front calipers only.

So, I have a vacuum pump, does that mean I don't have to pump the brake lever?

Last edited by bronch; Jul 2nd 2013 at 09:22 AM.
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Old Jul 2nd 2013, 11:05 AM   #10
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With a vacuum bleeder you won't need to pump, correct. Just make sure if you're using a pump bleeder you shut the bleeder screw mid-pump, or you could allow a small amount of air to get into the system.
Thanks from bronch
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