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    Tips to Know if Your Motorcycle Brakes are Going Bad in 2023

Do you need the brake pads replaced after noticing wear grooves or constantly low brake fluid level? It’s not always new pads that need to be replaced to get that increased stopping power. As a motorcycle rider and lawyer, I know that properly functioning brakes are part of a whole system that is essential for your road safety. Unfortunately, on many bikes, drum and disc brakes can wear quickly, not just slowly, over time.

So eternal vigilance and a regular technician check are key if you don’t want your braking components to lose effectiveness, making it more difficult to stop your bike. This article will discuss several tips to know if your motorcycle brakes, pistons, calipers, rotor, and other metal surfaces need repair or replacement. The goal is to help riders know if anything is going bad and what you can do to maintain their brakes with a proper brake service for optimal, above normal performance. These tips could help your avoid a crash with another vehicle, so pay close attention.

Spongy or Soft Brake Lever

If your brake lever or caliper piston feels spongy or soft when you apply pressure, it may be a sign that your brake pads are worn down or that sticking springs, a hose, or a pin needs to be replaced or some adjustment must be engaged. Over time, the pad friction material will wear away, making it more difficult to stop your bike with a reduced braking effect while manning the handlebar. In addition to replacing the brake pads, you may also need to bleed your brake lines to ensure that there is no air in the system. Inspecting the bike at a garage immediately is the leading method to avoid a brake-related motorcycle accident. The hard evidence is clear. You get more satisfaction from riding when you can accelerate and brake faster than a larger, lumbering threat.

Grinding Noise

If you hear a grinding noise when you apply your brakes, it is clear that something is wrong with your braking system, such as wear indicator grooves and worn pads. This may be due to worn brake pads, so keep an eye out for warped rotors or other issues that may need to be fixed or show some love. Ignoring the grinding noise and wear indicators and continuing to ride your motorcycle can be dangerous. Bad brakes like this could cause further damage to your braking system.

Vibration or Pulsation

If you feel a vibration or pulsation in your brake lever when you apply pressure, it may be a sign that your brake rotors are warped. This can occur due to overheating, prolonged use, or other factors. If you notice any vibration or pulsation in your brakes, it is important to have them inspected by a professional mechanic.

Longer Stopping Distance

If it takes longer for your motorcycle to come to a stop than it used to, it may be a sign that your brake pads are worn down, or your brake system needs to be serviced. This can be a dangerous situation, especially in emergency braking situations. If you notice a longer stopping distance, having your brakes inspected and serviced immediately is important.

  1. Low Brake Fluid Level

If your motorcycle’s brake fluid level is low, it may be a sign of a leak in the brake system. A damaged brake line or a failing master cylinder can cause this. Low master cylinder reservoirs and brake fluid can also lead to reduced braking performance, making it more difficult to stop your motorcycle. If you notice low brake fluid levels, have your braking system inspected immediately?

  1. Unusual Smells

If you notice a burning or chemical smell when applying your brakes, it may be a sign that your brakes are overheating. This can be caused by prolonged use or riding down steep hills. Overheating can cause damage to your braking system and reduce braking performance. If you notice any unusual smells, it’s essential to pull over and allow your brakes to cool down before continuing to ride.

Maintenance Tips for Your Motorcycle Brakes

In addition to the above tips, there are several things you can do to maintain your motorcycle brakes for optimal performance.

Inspect Your Brakes Regularly

Regular inspections of your braking system can help you identify any potential problems before they become more serious. Inspect your brake pads, rotors, and brake lines regularly and have them replaced or repaired as necessary.

Inspect the Brake Lever and Pedal

When operating a motorcycle with two brakes, it is important to check both the brake pedal at the rear and the lever in front. In case of any issues, the foot pedal at the rear should be tested first. Ensure that you push the steering wheel back to ensure that it remains stable. Look for any signs of wear or damage to the brake system, and make sure to identify any issues that may arise during your ride. It’s also important to note that during a collision, the brake pedals may become bent and cause damage to the motorcycle.

Inspect the Brake Lines for Leaks and Cracks

The brake system of your motorcycle comprises closed fluid circuits that repeat the brake fluids. Although leaks are unlikely to occur, it’s essential to check the brake lines for any visible cracks or signs of leakage. If you notice any leaks or cracks in the brake lines, it’s crucial to replace them immediately to avoid any potential safety hazards. Brake lines are prone to wear and tear due to exposure to the elements, and they can break or become damaged, leading to leakage. Additionally, the bleed caps on most motorcycles can be faulty or develop leaks over time. Before replacing any parts, it’s important to identify the source of the leak to ensure that the correct components are replaced.

Understanding Steel-Braided Brake Lines for Motorcycles

Steel-braided brake lines are an excellent upgrade for your motorcycle’s brake system. They are designed to minimize bending and distortion even under extreme heat, ensuring that the brake levers remain in the exact location for longer periods. Compared to the standard nylon and rubber brake lines found in most motorcycles, steel-braided lines have a longer lifespan and offer better control and consistency. They provide improved responsiveness, enhanced brake performance, and better handling, which are crucial for every motorcycle rider. Installing steel-braided brake lines is a worthwhile investment that can significantly improve your overall riding experience.

Use the Right Brake Fluid

Using the right type of brake fluid is essential for optimal performance and safety. Check your owner’s manual to determine the type of brake fluid recommended for your motorcycle and use only that type.

Check the Fluid Level in the Master Cylinder

Generally, motorcycles have two master cylinders designed to perform separately. The brake cylinder is located on the rear wheels directly above the pedals and contains a reservoir. There’s usually a plastic tank inside the bike’s handlebars. Check the fluids within the pools and check their level. It is recommended to place low and high labels. Usually, brake fluid levels may indicate worn brake pads or leaky brake wires. It is better to replace the fluid and check the lines for leakages. A critical factor in determining brake fluid’s color is the reservoir.

Avoid Overheating Your Brakes

Avoid prolonged use of your brakes or riding down steep hills for extended periods. This can cause your brakes to overheat, reducing their effectiveness and potentially causing damage to your braking system.

Replace Your Motorcycle Brake Pads When Necessary

Replace your brake pads when they become worn down. Continuing to ride with worn brake pads can reduce the effectiveness of your brakes and put you at risk of an accident. Most manufacturers recommend replacing brake pads every 12,000 to 15,000 miles, but this can vary depending on the type of riding you do and the quality of the brake pads you use. If you notice any signs of worn brake pads, such as a soft brake lever or a grinding noise, have them replaced immediately.

Bleed Your Brake Lines Regularly

Air in your brake lines can reduce the effectiveness of your brakes and make it more difficult to stop your motorcycle. If you notice a spongy or soft brake lever or your brakes feel less responsive than usual, it may be a sign that you need to bleed your brake lines. This process involves removing any air from the brake lines and can be done by a professional mechanic or by following the instructions in your owner’s manual.

Maintain Proper Tension on Your Brake Cables

Proper tension on your brake cables is essential for optimal performance and safety. Over time, your brake cables may become loose or stretch, reducing the effectiveness of your brakes. Check your brake pedal and brake cable connections regularly and adjust them to ensure they are properly tensioned.

Always visually inspect your disc brakes for foreign objects and worn front brake pads in particular. Test your front brake lever and rear wheel brakes for braking power before entering the roadway. Be safe and purchase new brake pads often and closely monitor drum brakes for brake pad life and wear.


When you are riding, keep some brake cleaner and rags on hand to clean up any brake dust or debris that gets into the components on road trips. Make sure you don’t get overspray on your tires or painted parts, though, as it can reduce their life span. We use brake and carb cleaner to clean our weapons in the Marines. It will remove dirt, mud, bluing, and paint. Check the adjustment of brake shoes and learn some basic mechanics to decrease the chances of being in a crash, stranded, and exposed to the elements.

Your motorcycle’s brakes are one of your bike’s most critical safety features, and it is essential to maintain them for optimal performance. Pads need attention to increase performance and rider safety. Following the above tips and performing regular maintenance on your braking system helps ensure your brakes function correctly and keep yourself safe on the road.

If you notice any signs of worn or damaged brakes, the best way to avoid a crash is to have experts inspect and service your brakes immediately to avoid the risk of an accident. Remember, safe riding starts with properly functioning brakes, or you’ll be in the same spot as a lot of injured people who crashed.

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Michael Ehline

Michael Ehline is an inactive U.S. Marine and world-famous legal historian. Michael helped draft the Cruise Ship Safety Act and has won some of U.S. history’s largest motorcycle accident settlements. Together with his legal team, Michael and the Ehline Law Firm collect damages on behalf of clients. We pride ourselves on being available to answer your most pressing and difficult questions 24/7. We are proud sponsors of the Paul Ehline Memorial Motorcycle Ride and a Service Disabled Veteran Operated Business. (SDVOB.) We are ready to fight.