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Using Speed Bleeders® to Change the Brake Fluid on a Valkyrie



Honda recommends changing the brake fluid, with DOT4 fluid, every 12,000 miles or two years. Splurge, and change this stuff every year (or more often, if you happen to be fortunate enough to be able to ride more miles than that each year).

Here are three articles that describe how (DOT4) brake fluid is hygroscopic and why you should change it often:

"The ABC's of Brake Fluid: Why It Is Recommended You Have Your Brake Fluid Changed Regularly," ©Tire Kingdom, Inc., 1997
"Essays: Temporary Brake Failure," Mechanical Forensics Engineering Services, LLC



Speed Bleeders® enable you to change the fluid simply, affordably, and as a one-person operation. I've used these on two bikes now -- a BMW R850R and a Valkyrie Interstate -- and I'm often pretty much of a klutz in terms of maintenance. The Speed Bleeders® have performed as advertised, and I'm completely happy with them, recommend them, etc. Other than as a satisfied customer, I have absolutely no affiliation or interest in the company, its employees, the usual disclaimers, YMMV, batteries not included, etc.



Speed Bleeders® become a permanent part of your bike, and so these steps have to be accomplished only once.

  1. Buy four Speed Bleeders®. You can read about these at Speed Bleeders®' home page, its bike page, and its "Honda Goldwing or Honda ST1100" page. That last page is relevant even though we're not dealing with Wings or ST1100s here. Honda uses multiple styles of bleeders, and may actually vary the types across time (or on a whim, or for whatever reason).

    My clutch bleeder looked like "Honda # 43352-MG9-006" shown on the "Honda Goldwing or Honda ST1100" page (about three-fourths of the way down on the page), and so I ordered one SB8125LL to replace it.

    For the three brake bleeders, I ordered three SB8125L bleeders. The SB8125 model, you will note (you did read that page, didn't you?), is the same as SB8125L, only with a shorter nipple; I think the SB8125L is easier to work with (e.g., to put a plastic tube on), although you will have some threads visible at the bottom with this model. And all three numbers have the same thread pitch, by the way.

    So, we have three SB8125L bleeders and one SB8125LL bleeder, at $7.00 each, plus shipping and handling. These are available directly at Speed Bleeders®' order page. I've seen Speed Bleeders® at AutoZone, too, but I doubt that these exact part numbers are available there (and they're probably not any cheaper, anyway). I also recommend purchasing the "Bleeder Bag / Hose Combo" ($6.00). Alternatively, you can purchase just the plastic hose ($3.00) there, or supply your own.

    Now that you have the parts:


  2. Put lots of towels and rags around everything, because brake fluid is caustic to paint.



  3. Unscrew each old bleeder and fairly quickly start threading in the replacement bleeder (to minimize slopping of brake fluid, which will ooze more than gush out when you take off the old bleeder). The clutch bleeder is under the tank, left side, just before the seat area.



  4. Torque each new bleeder to spec (a deep-well socket helps here, but I forget the size), and not an ounce more. (They will snap off. I managed to do this to one during the installation on my Beemer, in my pre-torque-wrench days; while the company was kind enough to send me a replacement gratis(!), extracting the remainder from the bike makes this, on balance, not a desirable situation.) The torque spec is fairly low, and it's in INCH-pounds. This is the relevant and actual text from Speed Bleeder's installation page:


    When you first install the Speed Bleeder® you will note a slight resistance when you reach the thread sealant. This is normal. The thread sealant is conforming to the shape of the threads to provide a seal between the internal threads of the caliper or wheel cylinder and the external threads of the Speed Bleeder®. When the Speed Bleeder® bottoms out, tighten to 32-40 in-lbs. of torque (not ft-lbs!).






The intent here is to start the season off right (for those of us who don't ride much or at all in the Winter), especially since the brake fluid's been sitting around absorbing water for months.

  1. Buy a new small container of Valvoline SynPower DOT3/4 brake fluid from your local auto-parts store, x-mart, etc. If you want to use something else, fine, except that it must be DOT4. Also, if the Phillips slots in your reservoir-cover screws are looking a bit fuzzy, now would be a good time to purchase some new ones -- lest you find yourself unable to unscrew them next year -- from your local hardware store; they are 4mm x 12mm flat-heads.
  2. Put the Speed Bleeder tube-with-bag over one of the bleeders. If you didn't buy the bag, put a clear tube over the bleeder, and the other end into a container on the floor, and try hard not to tip it over.
  3. Rotate the handlebars and maybe loosen and rotate the corresponding reservoir holder. The idea here is to get the reservoir fairly level, but perfection isn't necessary.
  4. Unscrew the reservoir cover, and remove it and the rubber insert in there. (And remember the towels, because this process could result in some slop, too.)
  5. Back out the bleeder in question "¼ to ½ turn" (I do it half a turn).
  6. Slowly and not fully (i.e., not like a maniac and don't squeeze all the way to the handlebar) squeeze the lever in question -- while at the same time slowly and carefully pour fresh brake fluid into the reservoir. What's happening here is that the old stuff will be coming out the tube (into the bag or container); this will result in the level at the reservoir going down. You don't have to maintain the level of fluid in the reservoir to the very top of the reservoir, but you don't want it to get so low, either, that air can come in near the bottom of the reservoir (where the fluid is being pushed out).
  7. Keep squeezing until you see clear liquid -- and no bubbles -- coming out the tube at the bottom. It's really easy to see the difference, and doesn't take very many squeezes.
  8. Screw the bleeder back in that ½ turn, i.e., where it was before you started, and take off the tube. Or vice versa.
  9. If this is the front brake reservoir we're talking about, put the tube on the other front brake bleeder, and perform steps 5 through 8 again. Hey, we're still not talking about a whole lot of brake fluid here.
  10. Top off the reservoir, as necessary -- keeping in mind that the rubber insert displaces a fair amount of fluid. (That is, if you actually added fluid to the very top of the reservoir, you'd slop a bunch over the side as you put the rubber thingee back in.) Put the insert back in, make sure that the lip of the insert covers the edge of the reservoir all around, put the cover over it, and screw in the two cover screws.
  11. Perform these same steps for the clutch bleeder and clutch reservoir.
  12. Perform these same steps for the rear brake bleeder and its reservoir (which requires removing the plastic see-through cover -- one bolt -- first).
  13. Pump the brakes and clutch a few times, to check that they appear to work okay. Then, go for a test ride, being careful to check things out slowly and gradually, and before you've gone very far.
  14. Dispose of the old brake fluid in an environmentally responsible and legal manner.

That's it. Good luck!

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