Front brakes seizing up / tight after several uses - Instructions on how to fix
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Thread: Front brakes seizing up / tight after several uses - Instructions on how to fix

  1. #1
    Junior Member SamRus's Avatar
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    Front brakes seizing up / tight after several uses - Instructions on how to fix

    Hey guys,

    Figured I'd post this as an FYI for anyone who might encounter such problem in the future. Longdistancerider (Jim) pointed me to the solution, so the credit goes to him. This definitely applies to the 400/450 series, but might apply to other bikes as well.

    Problem description: Front brakes work, but after several applications/uses, they get tighter and tighter, until they bring your bike to a stop, and you won't be able to push it even an inch forward. If you're going at any significant speed, your brake pads might be smoking when the brakes seize up and force you to pull over. Cracking the bleed screw on the brake caliper resolves the problem only temporarily, and the brakes seize up after few more applications/uses all over again.

    Resolution: There are 2 holes on top of your master cylinder, and they both need to be clean and clear. Most likely, the smaller hole is plugged, and you need to clean it out. The smaller hole is the one that allows for pressure to be released after you apply the brakes. Here's what I'm talking about:

    1. Condition of my master cylinder prior to cleaning:
    Front brakes seizing up / tight after several uses -  Instructions on how to fix-0_81d50_cf29f280_xxl.jpg

    2. This is how it should be:
    Front brakes seizing up / tight after several uses -  Instructions on how to fix-0_81d4f_409c40da_-2-xxl.jpg

    *Even though these instructions do not cover replacing the piston inside of the master cylinder, it is strongly advisable to do so..

    My steps (lengthy):
    1. Remove the rear-view mirror
    2. Remove the brake lever using a 10 mm socket or wrench on the bottom nut, and a flat screwdriver on the top screw.
    3. Remove the brake switch from the underside of the master cylinder using a JIS screw-driver that came with your bike.
    4. Crack the bleeder screw on the caliper, and drain the fluid through a tube into some container to dispose of properly
    5. Cover up all painted areas (mainly gas tank) with some thick rags/tarp, whatever you have handy, to prevent accidentally spilled brake fluid from damaging your paint.
    6. Once your master cylinder is more-or-less empty and the area is prepped, disconnect the banjo bolt (use 14 mm bolt) and the brake hose from the master cylinder. Wrap the hose end in some rags or a zip-lock bag, and secure it to some cables with a zip-tie.
    7. Remove the cap from the brake fluid reservoir using JIS screw driver, and clean inside of the reservoir with a rag to remove any loose fluid.
    8. Remove the master cylinder from the handlebars using 10 mm socket.
    9. Remove the brake fluid reservoir from the master cylinder. It is attached to the master cylinder only by 2 JIS screws that we removed in step 7, and a rubber O-Ring. I used 2 flat screwdrivers to slide between the reservoir and the master cylinder, and pulling on both of them to lift up the reservoir and separate it from the master cylinder. This could also be done without removing the brake cylinder from the handlebar (which would eliminate steps 6 and 8), but it might also cause some spillage and might make it a bit harder to clean it. So I did it off the bike, it could be done either way. You might see something like photo #1 above.
    10. Clean that area, reassemble in the reverse order. Fill up the reservoir with new brake fluid. Bleed the brake system really well.

    Hope this helps. If you see anything that I missed, or that could be done better, let me know and I'll correct it.
    It took me about 1.5 hours, but I was taking my sweet time. I'm sure you can do it a lot faster.
    Good luck everyone, and happy riding!
    Last edited by SamRus; 07-21-2014 at 10:41 AM.
    1982 Honda CM450a - Hondamatic - 11K miles
    1984 Honda CB650sc - Nighthawk - 33K miles
    2007 Kawasaki Ninja 250 - 27K miles [Sold]

  2. #2
    Senior Member phil71's Avatar
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    Jeebus.. that looks terrible. you didn't put a new piston in there after that?

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    Junior Member SamRus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by phil71 View Post
    Jeebus.. that looks terrible. you didn't put a new piston in there after that?
    No, but I drove it quite a bit today, and the brakes seem to work excellent.The fluid coming out was clean also.
    1982 Honda CM450a - Hondamatic - 11K miles
    1984 Honda CB650sc - Nighthawk - 33K miles
    2007 Kawasaki Ninja 250 - 27K miles [Sold]

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  5. #4
    Senior Member phil71's Avatar
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    It's not that.. Front brakes seizing up / tight after several uses -  Instructions on how to fix-z1e_0934.jpg see those two rubber bits.. they have been pushing through and against crunchy rust.. they are also as old as the master.. AND for the last little bit, they've been working doubletime to hold all that pressure when the thing was stuck.
    Know what I mean?

  6. #5
    Junior Member SamRus's Avatar
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    Sure, that makes sense, thanks!
    1982 Honda CM450a - Hondamatic - 11K miles
    1984 Honda CB650sc - Nighthawk - 33K miles
    2007 Kawasaki Ninja 250 - 27K miles [Sold]

  7. #6
    Super Moderator longdistancerider's Avatar
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    Good write up Sam
    Stickied now
    Jim O'Brien
    1979 CM400T "road bike" modified for travelling
    1978 CB400T1 restored
    1972 CL350 nuts and bolts restore in progress


    https://www.hondatwins.net/forums/22...d-attempt.html and https://www.hondatwins.net/forums/1-...r-attempt.html
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  8. #7
    Senior Member JustinLee's Avatar
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    Im guessing this is my issue. Was driving to town this morning and it was getting tight, then my rear tire blew out (just put new tire and new tube on!) . Talk about crapping your pants.
    2 - CD175 K0 projects
    CL175 K6
    CB450 K6
    1981 CB750

    1971 Yamaha CS3
    Honda CD90 on the other side of the world

  9. #8
    Junior Member BTheGh0st's Avatar
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    any suggestions on what to clean the master cylinder with? I was just gonna use a baking powder solution but don't know if there's anything more recommended
    -BLinKs
    '81 CM400C "Project Spectre"

  10. #9
    Super Moderator longdistancerider's Avatar
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    Anything that doesn't react to aluminum is good. When I hone a cylinder I use brake fluid. For painting use Brake Caliper paint or an epoxy paint.
    Jim O'Brien
    1979 CM400T "road bike" modified for travelling
    1978 CB400T1 restored
    1972 CL350 nuts and bolts restore in progress


    https://www.hondatwins.net/forums/22...d-attempt.html and https://www.hondatwins.net/forums/1-...r-attempt.html
    Road Trip https://www.hondatwins.net/forums/11...here-i-go.html or "where's Jim now?"
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  11. #10
    Junior Member RonyD's Avatar
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    Excellent thread, as my bike has this issue now, took apart master, cannot get small hole cleared, looks like previous owner jammed something in there in the past or used a dull drill bit and covered the orifice, how big is small hole? As I am forced to drill it through, or looking at new master. Thanks!

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