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Whether your motorcycle, moped, or scooter uses a hydraulic or mechanical brake system, both can go wrong in one way or another.

And in this episode, you’re going to discover 5 of the most common ones – and, more importantly, what you can do to solve them.

Tune in to discover:

  • 5 common brake problems – including one that affects BOTH hydraulic and mechanical brake systems
  • Why water inside your brake fluid means trouble


Hello, and welcome to another episode of 30-minute motorcycling – a podcast for those riders who are at the beginning of their own Dual Wheel Journey, where you’ll discover something new about how your motorcycle, moped, or scooter works – in less than 30 minutes.


And it doesn’t matter which type of two-wheeler you like to ride, if you need to stop (especially in an emergency), you want your brakes to work.


But the bad news is that brakes can go wrong, just like engine cooling and electrical components – but the good news is that there are things you can do to solve the problems.


And that’s the topic of this episode – we’re going to talk about 5 common motorcycle brake problems and what you can do to fix them. While there are plenty more to talk about, we’re going to stick to just 5 for this episode.


Not only that, but we’re also going to cover problems that affect both hydraulic and mechanical brake systems – if you don’t know the difference between the two, please check out episode 39 of this podcast.


Anyway, let’s get started with the first common brake problem for motorcycles – no or old brake fluid. 


This problem is just for hydraulic brake systems, which rely on brake fluid to work. No brake fluid means no brake power – which, in turn, means that it’s time to top up your brake fluid.


Or is it? Because, when was the last time you changed your brake fluid? If the fluid hasn’t been changed for two years, it doesn’t matter if it’s topped up or not – it most likely has absorbed too much water, and become ineffective


But why does water make brake fluid less effective?


There are several desirable characteristics of brake fluid – and one of them is a high boiling point of 230 degrees Celcius or 446 degrees Fahrenheit.


Compare this to the boiling point of water, which is just 100 degrees Celsius or 212 degrees Fahrenheit.


Therefore, if too much water gets into your brake fluid, it lowers the total boiling point. 


So, if you know that you haven’t changed your brake fluid in the past two years, it’s time to break out the brake bleeding kit – no pun intended.


The second common brake problem is a brake fluid leak.


If you’ve listened to episode 45 about 5 common overheating problems, you’ll remember what happens if there’s a coolant leak – the coolant won’t do its job, since it ends up in a puddle outside your bike.


The same thing happens if there’s a leak in your hydraulic brake system – if there’s no fluid, your brakes won’t work.


Fortunately, just like detecting coolant leaks, you can find a leak in your brake fluid hose by looking for puddles underneath it. 


The fluid level inside the brake fluid reservoir will also drop – another sign of a fluid leak.


And if you have a leak, it’s time to replace your brake hoses.


Let’s leave hydraulic brakes for a while, because the next two brake problems only affect mechanical brakes – the first one being that the brakes are too tight or too loose.


So even if mechanical brakes don’t require checking, topping up, and changing brake fluid, that does NOT mean that they are 100% maintenance-free.


Case in point – the brake cable, which requires a certain amount of tension to work. 


And if this is something you need to do, you’re in luck, because there’s a great video on the Tomos America YouTube channel that explains how to do it.


Even though it’s aimed towards mopeds (Tomos mopeds, obviously), the methods applies to almost all mechanical brake systems.


If you’d like to check it out, I’ve included a link to it in the episode description under “Resources.”


So, you’ve tightened (or loosened) your brake cable – but what about the condition of the cable itself?


Is it in good condition, or is it chafed or even broken in places? In the case of the latter, it’s the fourth common brake problem.


If you’re not sure what “chafed” means, it’s when the cable looks too thin in certain spots. 


Why is this bad? Well, if you just leave it like it is, one day, you’ll apply your brakes, maybe even hard, and *twang* – your brake cable snaps in half.


It might not happen right away, but it’s only a matter of time. Therefore, the sooner you detect and replace a chafed brake cable, the better.


Finally, the fifth and final brake problem we’re going to talk about is quite unique – unique in the sense that it can affect both hydraulic and mechanical brake systems.

What could that be? Unless you’re riding around on a 1970s Puch moped, your bike most likely uses brake pads to stop.


And these pads press against your brake rotors to make the bike stop, and over time, they will thin, and once the thickness is less than 3 mm or 0.11 inches, it’s time to get a set of new ones.


Start If you continue to ride on worn-out brake pads, you won’t stop when you need to, since your brake pads will eventually be reduced to nothing more than bare metal.


And if this bare metal comes into contact with your brake disc rotor (which is also made of metal, by the way), it will damage the rotor – all while making a hideous grinding noise.


So, I’ll say that again – remember to replace your brake pads when their thickness is less than 3 mm or 0.11 inches.


And that covers 5 common brake problems. There are plenty more of them, but we’ll cover those in a future episode.


Anyway, thank you for listening – I hope that you enjoyed this episode and, above all, that you discovered something new.


Until next time, keep your helmet on, and your eyes on the road. Bye!