For obvious reasons, dragging brake pads can be bad for fuel economy and pad longevity. To find the problem, it helps to have an obsessive-compulsive personality.
Trust me when I tell you that this didn’t start out to be a product test. Really, it didn’t. All I wanted to do was install a set of new brake pads.
I was in a hurry and I was heading to Montreal in the morning and, for whatever reason that happenstance always occurs at the most inopportune time, I checked my front brakes.
I found the brake pads thin. Dangerously thin. Not nearly enough pad material to get me through a 10-day, 2,000-km sojourn. Not the way I like to exercise twin Tokico monobloc calipers.
So, at 10 p.m. at night, I slapped in a pair of new EBC FA379 HH pads – a surprisingly easy process except for a couple of brake-pad holding pins made stubborn by corrosion – I just happened to have lying around because, well, preparation is really just paranoia put into action. In bed by midnight after a quick test around the block, I was ready for the long haul the next morning.
What a Drag
Except that halfway to Montreal, I noticed that fuel economy, usually a steadfastly reliable 6.0 L/100 km on the highway, was about 0.5 L/100 km high. Curious that something was amiss, I checked the front discs at the next gas stop and, yup, the front discs were warm even though I had made sure not to use them to stop at the pumps. I had me some brake drag.
So, I popped the big Strom on its centre stand, unweighted the front wheel and gave the tire a spin. Barely a single revolution. I didn’t know how freely it should spin or how freely it had spun before I changed the pads, but I was pretty sure this was not good news.
Once ensconced in Quebec cottage country, instead of immediately dipping into mandatory mojitos, I popped the EBCs out again. I figured that in my hurry to get some shut-eye the night before, I hadn’t cleaned the exposed portions of the piston and some grit was lodged in the seals. So, spare toothbrush seconded to – don’t tell the wife – motorcycle repair, I pushed the pistons out (a couple of squeezes of brake caliper without the pads in place) and soaped the hell out of them. Once again pristine, I pushed them back into the caliper – thank you, Speedbleeders, for making piston relocation easy without letting any air into the brake lines — and once again slapped the EBCs into the Tokicos.
Unfortunately, there was still no joy. Damned wheel wouldn’t spin even one turn, no matter how forcefully I ratcheted it round. Okay, this was going to need serious garage time when I got home because I must have somehow scored some pistons with that dirt. Jesus, what a newb.
Except that when I got home, the brake pistons looked pristine. No corrosion from sitting all winter. No bad scratching that would seem worthy of brake debilitation. In went all new OEM seals – no All Balls for this boy – anyway. I’d had enough dicking around with these damned brakes, so I wasn’t leaving anything to chance.