Bleeding the brakes and clutch
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Thread: Bleeding the brakes and clutch

  1. #1
    Senior Member livfree's Avatar
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    Default Bleeding the brakes and clutch

    Here's my 2 cents. Hope its helpful.

    BRAKE & CLUTCH BLEEDING

    First of all, it is my understanding that “bleeding” means to remove air from the system, whereas “flushing” means to remove all of the old fluid and replace it with new, clean fluid. In the text below, I am talking about “flushing” the system, even though I don’t use the word “flush”.

    Also, for clarification, I assume that the reference to “left side” or “right side” is the same as your left or right if you were sitting on the seat looking forward.

    Below is a rough summary of Honda’s instruction as how to fill and bleed the brakes. I’ll then discuss how I filled and bled my brake system.

    In the Honda VTX 1800R Service Manual (part # 61MCV01), page 15-4, Honda describes how to drain the brake fluid. I will skip over to the next page where Honda describes how to fill/bleed the brake fluid. They first describe how to fill the FRONT master cylinder (located on the handlebar next to the front brake lever). They recommend using a brake bleeder tool. My assumption is that they are talking about a vacuum bleeder such as a MityVac. They say to connect the bleeder to the upper bleed valve on the front brake caliper. Note that they describe bleed valve in the singular but in fact there are two upper bleed valves, one on the left front caliper and one on the right front caliper. The upper right bleed valve has a 8 mm hex nut, and the upper left bleed valve has a 10 mm hex nut. Your guess is as good as mine as to why they are different. They go on to describe pumping the bleeder (they do not say to what pressure) and then loosen the bleeder valve. Add fluid to the master cylinder as the fluid is being drained out, to keep it from drawing in air.

    I’ll skip the next part, where Honda describes on page 15-6, how to bleed the front master cylinder for those who do not have a brake bleeder. I’m going to assume that you have a vacuum bleeder.

    The next section, on page 15-7, describes filling the REAR (linked) master cylinder, which is located on the right side of the engine just above the rear brake pedal. Note that the REAR master cylinder links the front and rear brakes simultaneously when the brake pedal is applied. I assume this is to provide optimum power braking, considering the beast weighs 800 lbs. Anyway, they describe the following sequence for filling/bleeding the linked brake lines:

    1. Right side caliper lower bleed valve
    2. Left side caliper lower bleed valve
    3. Rear caliper lower bleed valve

    Then connect the bleeder to the front caliper lower bleed valve. Again, note that they use the word valve in the singular, where in fact there are two lower bleed valves, one on the right front caliper and one on the left front caliper, which they alluded to above in their recommended sequence. The lower right bleed valve has a 10 mm nut, and the lower left has an 8 mm nut, just opposite of the top bleed valves. I have heard from other VTX owners, that air tends to leak by the 8 mm bleed valves, when they have been loosened and a vacuum has been applied by the bleeder. Pump the bleeder (again they do not say to what pressure) and then loosen the bleeder valve. Add fluid to the master cylinder as the fluid is being drained out, to keep it from drawing in air. And last, do the same for the rear caliper bleed valve. There is only one bleed valve, located on the top of the rear brake caliper.

    Below is the method that I used to bleed and refill (or “flushing”) my brake system:

    Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems that Honda’s instructions for brake bleeding or brake “flushing”, is over-complicated based on what other VTX members are doing to achieve the same results. So here’s the method that I used, which worked for me and apparently has worked for many other VTX’rs. I am not a motorcycle mechanic, so if anything that I say is incorrect, please let me know, but it worked for me.

    Again, just for clarification, I’m riding a 2002 VTX 1800 Retro with spokes. Whether or not that makes any difference compared to other VTX models, regarding bleeding the brake system, I’m not certain.

    Honda says to start with the front brake master cylinder (on the handlebar). Others say they started with the rear master cylinder (lower cylinder just above the rear brake pedal). Some VTX’rs say to start by bleeding the front lower left bleed valve, and others say to start by bleeding the front lower right valve. Since there doesn’t seem be a consensus, I d started with the front master cylinder and bled the top bleed valve on the right front caliper first (as recommended by Honda), then the top valve on the left front caliper. After completing the two front brake bleed valves, I squeezed the brake handle, to make sure it wasn’t squishy, and then reinstalled the reservoir cover. Then I opened the rear brake reservoir (just above the rear brake pedal), and proceeded to bleed the two front lower bleed valves, starting with the right side then the left, and then the bleed valve on the top of the rear brake caliper. Before I bled each valve, I removed the stock bleed valve and installed a “Speed Bleeder” valve size 8125L (8125L means 8mm hex nut x .125, and the L stands for Long stem). I used this size for all 5 brake bleed valves to be consistent. The website for the Speed Bleeders is http://www.speedbleeder.com/. The neck on the Speed Bleeder tubing connector is about 1/8” to 1/4” longer than the stock valve. This gives you a little longer neck to attach your drain tube to. Also, speed bleeders, which cost $7 each, have a built-in check valve that makes it easier to do the job by yourself. The check valve prevents air from getting sucked back in. The Speed Bleeders also come with a sealant on the threads, which helps to prevent air from leaking around the threads. I noticed when I removed some of the stock bleed valves (but not all), that they had no sealant on the threads. Again, an inconsistency on Honda’s part. Also, I used an aluminum Mity-Vac Series 4000 Silverline vacuum pump ($44.52 on sale now). The website is http://www.thetoolwarehouse.net/shop/MIT-4000.html. You may be able to purchase this same pump at Sears. The aluminum Mity-Vac is more rugged than the plastic ones of course, and includes a vacuum gauge so you can watch the vacuum drop as you suck the fluid out of the brake lines. In my opinion, the Mity-Vac is a must have. Otherwise the job could take you forever, or simply fail.

    Wrap an absorbent rag or paper towel around the perimeter of the brake reservoir and the bleed valve to collect any overspill. Wipe up any drips or drools quickly. This stuff doesn’t like paint. ALSO, BE SURE TO COVER YOUR GAS TANK OR ANY OTHER VULVERABLE SERVICES, TO PROTECT THEM FROM DRIPPING BRAKE FLUID.

    Each time you squeeze the Mity-Vac, refill the reservoir with new fluid. Oh yeah, I used Valvoline Synthetic Brake Fluid. Keep checking the reservoir so it doesn’t get too low, otherwise it will allow air to be drawn in. HINT: Get the reservoir on the handlebar level by temporarily loosening the handlebar and rotating it until the reservoir is close to level (but don’t do this with the reservoir open). You’ll have to loosen the four allen-head bolts on the risers. Mark the handlebar position relative to the risers with a magic marker before you rotate it, so you can return the bars to their original position.

    With the clear drain tube attached to the speed bleeder valve, you can also pump the brakes to force fluid out, instead of using the vacuum pump. This is a slower method. Whether you use the “vacuum pump method” or the “pump the brakes” method, keep bleeding the valve until the fluid runs clear and has no bubbles in it, then close the valve until it seats. Be careful not to over-tighten the speed bleeder.

    Now that you’re an expert, do the same thing for the one clutch reservoir and the one and only clutch bleed valve, which is located under the large chrome cover on the left side of your X, directly above your kickstand. BUT….you will want to purchase the Speed Bleeder valve size 8125 for this valve, because the 8125L is too long.

    For this brake bleeding job, keep plenty of clean rags and paper towels handy. It can get messy. And don’t forget to cover the painted parts.

    Good Luck

    Livfree
    genet@oest.com or whudzahp@pivot.net
    03 1800R (purchased in Texas in 2013 with 20,000 miles), Spiegler brake/clutch line kit, custom paint job by BD's Cycles from North Carolina, Mussy 2 into 2 exhaust, PCIII, Hypercharger Pro, Ultimate Lowrider seats, Edge extra large saddlebags, Clearview +4" windshield, Aeromach 6" risers, Uniq Cycle Sounds speakers, lots of Kuryakyn chrome, NC Paladin engine guard, etc. "Always Expect the Unexpected"

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  3. #2
    Senior Member Bareass172's Avatar
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    Pretty good post - only other thing I can offer is that if you have the bike on a lift turning the bars left or right usually levels out the reservoirs without having to rotate the entire bar assembly. I swung mine to the left side to bleed the front brakes and the right side to bleed the clutch - I just used a bungee cord to hold the bars in place once there.
    Thanks for the time it took to do the write-up, I'm sure lots will benefit from it.

  4. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bareass172
    Pretty good post - only other thing I can offer is that if you have the bike on a lift turning the bars left or right usually levels out the reservoirs without having to rotate the entire bar assembly. I swung mine to the left side to bleed the front brakes and the right side to bleed the clutch - I just used a bungee cord to hold the bars in place once there.
    Thanks for the time it took to do the write-up, I'm sure lots will benefit from it.
    If I don't have the vacuum bleed/flush kit, can I still flush clutch fluid with loosening the bleed valve and keep filling reservoir? Does gravity drain the fluid with a flush kit?
    http://bigbikeriders.com/photopost/data ... 21-med.JPG

    2002 VTX 1800C, Sport Shield, Toolbag, Tailight mod,
    License plate relocated, custom grips.

    Link to pics....http://www.bigbikeriders.com/photopo...r=1819&cat=500

  5. #4
    Senior Member Michael's Avatar
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    You need Vacuum to pull the old fluid out or pressure from the other end to push the fluid out. You need this force to keep air from finding it's way into the system. There are several ways to accomplish this.
    A $28 Mityvac at Auto Zone is a good start. . Changed out my clutch fluid yesterday. Alot of folks use speed bleeders which I may pruchase at some point but for now the MITYVAC is the way to go.
    Mike

  6. #5
    Senior Member Bareass172's Avatar
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    It won't gravity drain and a MityVac while very helpful isn't TOTALLY necessary. You can still bleed the same way people have bled these lines for years - pump the clutch, open the bleeder, clutch will "pump" down more, close the bleeder, release the clutch - rinse, repeat.
    Not too hard to do but sorta requires 2 people to be easy.

  7. #6
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    That seems too complex. What ever happened to the old tried and true method of holding the bleed nipple wrench with one hand, squeezing the lever with the other, and catching the squirting fluid in a rag with your third hand?
    The First and Fifth ammendments guarantee your right to prove your stupidity, or keep it a secret. Choose wisely.

    His - 2002 1800 Retro, Candy Red, Roadhouse slip-ons, Leatherlykes, Hondaline w/s, Hondaline light bar.
    Her's- 2004 1300 Retro, Black, Leatherlykes, Memphis Shades w/s, Hondaline light bar

  8. #7
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    I just finished helping my brother put on the L&R forward controls which required bleeding the rear brake and the front lower bleeders.

    We used the mighty vac, this worked awsome for pulling the old fluid thru BUT when we had clear/clean fluid the the pedal was still soft!

    We then did it the old fashion way of pumping the pedal--hold & release the the bleeder & re-tighten the bleeder. this requires 2 people.

    The L&R's work well & he can stop---even better

    Steve T

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    here you are jimbo
    Black 02 Retro 1800S 43,601 miles
    Dark Red 06 GL1800 48,784 miles
    Riding Hondas since the late 60's
    Born 07/24/42 Grassvalley,Calif.
    Grew up in Rocklin,Lincoln,Roseville

  10. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bareass172
    It won't gravity drain and a MityVac while very helpful isn't TOTALLY necessary. You can still bleed the same way people have bled these lines for years - pump the clutch, open the bleeder, clutch will "pump" down more, close the bleeder, release the clutch - rinse, repeat.
    Not too hard to do but sorta requires 2 people to be easy.
    I did it by myself no prob......but I'm a big guy with a loooong reach

  11. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by GR8PHUNN
    here you are jimbo
    sorry this is prety elementary stuff this was not even close to my problem

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