By: Jason Giacchino
Email: offthepegs @ atvsource.com
February 2008 - Off The Pegs
Wintertime Tune Up: Brakes
If you're anything like me (and for the sake
of your wallet, I certainly hope not) then you
are likely suffering through a long and grueling
off-season. Despite the cold days and even
colder nights, this is the time of year when
long-overdue maintenance starts to look a whole
lot more doable. This month we'll dig into the
topic of brakes.
Let's take the following scenario: You have
noticed a slightly mushy feeling at the lever
despite having quite a bit of life left on your
pads. Don't panic; there are steps to take to
return to that crisp modulation your quad
offered from the showroom.
1) Replace the Fluid
Ever notice the term hygroscopic on a bottle
of brake fluid? This means brake fluid literally
draws water from the air we breathe the moment
it is exposed. The collected water then dilutes
the brake fluid's properties. The problem really
begins to show when the fluid becomes heated
during a long day of riding or even a short
period of racing. When the water heats up, it
eventually boils and becomes steam. Once you
have water vapor in the line, things get mushy
up at the lever and stay that way even after the
fluid cools back down. Drain that old
water-logged brake fluid and replace it with
fresh DOT 4.
Sintered pads feel better but eat rotors
a bit quicker.
Take a close look at the rotor when
replacing the pads.
2) How About the Pads?
Don't assume that just because there is life
left on the pads that they aren't the culprit of
spongy stoppers. Check the pad surface for
glazing which is often the result of spilled oil
or ATV cleaning agents that have gathered over
time. Now is a good time to put a fresh set on
and remember that organic brake pads feel weaker
but wear slower. Sintered metal compound pads
are going to feel grabbier but eat through
3) Speaking of the Rotor.
The general advice of any mechanic worth his
weight in rubber washers is to replace the rotor
along with the pads. Why so? Well, if the rotor
contains scratches or is even slightly warped,
it will eat through those new pads by the end of
your first ride. We here at ATV Source hate
wasting money and bet that you don't like to
either. Take a long hard look at the condition
of your rotor while you have the brakes
disassembled for maintenance. If you detect
grooves or warping, toss it like a Frisbee and
replace it right along with the pads.
In a few hours time, the system is restored
to near showroom-quality braking. I say near
because fanatics may point out that the only way
to truly duplicate that factory level of
performance is to replace the hydraulic brake
lines along with all of the other components.
Also, if you want to get really crazy, a new
master cylinder and brake lever could be part of
the equation as well. However, nine out of ten
times the culprit for mashed potato-style
braking resides right there in the components
that receive the lion's share of the abuse in
bringing your quad down to a stop.
Change your brake fluid regularly. It begins
gathering power-seeping water the moment you
open the bottle. Slap new pads on the moment you
notice the first signs of brake-fade as doing so
quickly can prevent damage to the rotor (which
in turn damages new pads). Replace the rotor
only as needed. If you were quick enough in
tossing the worn pads, the rotor could last
through several brake jobs. Finally, if after
having replaced the fluid, pads, and rotors, the
brakes still feel weak and unresponsive, it may
be time to consider replacing the line itself.
One should save the master cylinder and brake
lever for absolute last as these components are
the least likely to fail.