Common Motorcycle Brake Problems and Their Solutions

Hi guys and gals!

I’m continuing with the series of articles on motorcycle maintenance and other helpful tips that relate to all motorcycles in general and not to cossack motorcycles only. In the light of the recent recall of 250,000 Harley bikes due to a faulty braking system (as reported by the CNN), I’ll dedicate this post to analyzing motorcycle brake problems. I’m sure I don’t have to explain the importance of brakes in any vehicle and possible consequences of their failure. So we’ll just get right down to business.

4 Common Motorcycle Brake Problems and What to Do About Them

1. Overheating and Binding

Overheating is a direct cause of brake binding, also called dragging. The latter occurs when liner binds to the brake drum and stays that way even without pressing the lever. Bear in mind that binding may occur not only because of overheating. Both of these problems can be caused by:

  • Defective springs
    Solution: replacement
  • Too-high fluid level (causes binding of disc brake)
    Solution: removing the excess
  • Jammed brake shoes
    Solution: lubricating anchor pins over which the brake shoes jam
  • Prolonged use (common cause of overheating)
    Solution: let the bike cool down
  • Seizure of the piston in the caliper
    Solution: replacing the piston and reboring the caliper

2. Grabbing Brakes

The problem called ‘grabbing brakes’ occurs when your brakes are either seized or tend to do that. The causes differ depending on the part rog the braking system where the issue occurs. This might sound stupid, buy one guy I know was so concerned about facing this problem that he called me and said: “Sell my Harley before my brakes will kill me”. Hopefully, a few hours of Internet research and a day at our garage saved the situation and he still rides his Sportster.

  • For drum breaks the causes are usually greasing linings or scoured brake drum
    Solution: cleaning and/or grounding the drum
  • Wrong shoe adjustment (can be caused by dirt and debris in the shoe)
    Solution: cleaning
  • Interchanged shoes (this reason is rare, but even the best mechanics can make mistakes)
    Solution: switching and adjusting the brake shoes

3. Brake Fluid Loss

The loss of brake fluid is by far the most common and easily solved of motorcycle brake problems. However, it’s also extremely dangerous as an insufficient level of this oil busts the efficiency of your brakes. If you don’t notice the problem in time, you can end up in a horrid situation. So, I suggest checking the levels of brake liquid regularly. Make it your personal everyday ritual.

The leak can occur due to a hole somewhere in the brake system or a poorly connected hose. The main places to check are the caliper and reservoir. If everything seems good there, check every joint in the braking system. If you can’t find the issue, go straight down to your repair and maintenance shop.

4. Air in the Braking System

If there’s air in your motorcycle braking system, it won’t work. It might function to some extent, but even a small air bubble will reduce its efficiency to a dangerous degree. This motorcycle brake problem is directly connected to the previous one as it occurs when the system develops a leak. While your braking fluid is slowly pouring out, the air is getting in. The result is inefficient brakes and a sky-high possibility of tragic accidents.

I strongly recommend to get a professional check out your bike if you develop any kind of motorcycle brake problems. No matter how minor the issue seems, it’s not worth risking your life over.

Ride safe,


Alex White
Alex White
I'm just a guy who values 3 things in life: girls, bikes and freedom. I get them all with my custom-built Dnipro MT. Cossack motorcycles are truly unique and reliable bikes if being treated right, and I decided to create this blog and share my vast experience and love for cossack bikes with other bikers all over the world. Need my help or advice? Contact me via skype or email.

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