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Friday, January 27, 2023

The Mother of All Brake Pad Reviews

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.

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