Motorcycle Brake Caliper Troubleshooting

Written by anastasia blackwood
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Motorcycle Brake Caliper Troubleshooting
Motorcycle brake calipers are typically attached to the motorcycle forks. (frein image by Frédéric Prochasson from

Your motorcycle's calipers are an important part of your braking system. Sometimes, braking problems arise that require you to inspect the calipers to determine if they are the culprit. They often malfunction because they have become dirty over time, even when you properly maintain your brake system. The calipers are a vital element in the stopping power of your motorcycle, so they should be checked regularly. If a problem with braking arises, you should begin by troubleshooting your calipers.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Wire brush
  • Brake cleaner
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Seals
  • Compressed air

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  1. 1

    Inspect your vehicle for signs of a sticking caliper. Check for uneven brake pad wear--a brake pad that is thinner on one end than the other. Pads should wear evenly. Another sign is poor braking power, or the motorcycle pulling in a certain direction when you apply the brake.

  2. 2

    Remove the caliper by following the instructions in your motorcycle manual. Disconnect the brake line from the caliper. Do not let the brake fluid leak onto any painted parts of the motorcycle.

  3. 3

    Remove the brake pads from the caliper, then clean the caliper with brake cleaner. Apply the brake cleaner generously, then scrub the inner surfaces with the wire brush.

  4. 4

    Remove the pistons with needle-nose pliers and set them aside in a safe location, as they will be reinserted later.

  5. 5

    Remove the old seals that are located in the holes you removed the pistons from. After the seals are removed, apply brake cleaner into the holes and blow them out with the compressed air.

  6. 6

    Check the pistons for smoothness and ensure that they are clean. If they are dirty, clean them with the brake cleaner before reinserting them into the caliper.

  7. 7

    Insert the brake pads into the calipers, then reinstall the calipers onto the bike.

  8. 8

    Take your motorcycle for a short ride to see if the caliper problem has been resolved. If the problem persists, do not hesitate to replace the calipers completely or have a mechanic look at your motorcycle.

Tips and warnings

  • Motorcycle calipers are relatively cheap and should be replaced if cleaning them does not resolve the problem.
  • Do not let brake fluid come in contact with your motorcycle, as it is corrosive and may damage the paint.

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