Saturday, November 10, 2007

My First Brake Bleed for Maria

Today was the day I'd been prepping for about a month, with some of the parts bought months ago. I had, when I first bought the motorcycle a year ago, let the Beemer dealer whom I don't trust anymore to service my motorcycle; do the annual brake bleeding of the wheel circuits and the bi-annual bleeding of the ABS control circuits in November.

So, Maria, my R1150RT was due again for the required annual bleeding of the wheel circuits for both front and rear brakes. I had also planned, since the gas tank had to be off to do the brake bleeds; to also replace the fuel filter which was supposed to have been changed out at the 36K service interval. If things went really well, I would also tackle the ABS control circuit bleeds too.

I took off the fairings and the gas tank last night, that turned out to be pretty easy actually.

She looks quite slim without the fairings and the gas tank!

Right after breakfast this morning, I started work. My guides were the DVDs put out by Jim VonBaden of and a pdf "how to" guide I'd found on which I followed pretty much the whole operation. Link to Jim's site for the DVDs. Link to advrider site and the pdf file in question. Both sources made the operations seem very doable even for non-mechanical types like me who have aspirations to becoming a wrencher!

I'd bought, months ago, speedbleeder valves for both the front and rear brake calipers. These went on first, removing the stock bleeder valves was a bit messy but no big deal otherwise. I took my time securing the speedbleeders since I did not want to strip the threads or break off the new valves. No issues, got them secured and tested them for leaks by actuating the brakes.

I am not going to describe the steps involved with bleeding the brakes since they're plainly written in the above reference. Just some notes of things I ran into or observations I made.

Speedbleeders are the bomb! Truly do they make brake bleeding a one man operation, specially for motorcycles with ABS brakes since the motorcycle manufacturer thoughtfully has provide a powered pumping mechanism to push the fluid out the valves.

I found the color of the old brake fluid was a bit darker than the new brake fluid. I'd have to describe it as a dark red beer color. The new stuff look like pilsner beer, a light yellow.

I ran a full bottle of new DOT4 brake fluid through each of the two front wheel circuits to ensure all the old brake fluid was gone. Ditto for the rear brake wheel circuit. Did I mention speedbleeders are the bomb!? Oh, and the mini-stan funnel is a must! Well worth the $60 I had paid months ago though apparently you can also make your own.

Pic of Mini-Stan funnel in place from bmwsporttouring's kmg_365, he's put together a guide to do this as well. Check it out here: Link.

Lesson Learned: The fancy turkey baster my loving wife had gotten me was destroyed pretty quickly by the brake fluid! Must get the cheaper kind or some sort of large syringe that can take the corrosive effects of brake fluid for the next time! I lucked out in that I spotted the corrosion before little pieces of the baster fell down the brake fluid reservoir on the ABS module! As it was, I was using forceps to pull a small piece out that luckily was clinging to the edge and had not fallen in! That, would have sucked.

Lesson learned the hard way: When the guide says "finger tight" and "plastic parts may be brittle", take it to heart! I foolishly used a socket wrench to tighten the front circuit reservoir and ended up breaking off the top half of the damn cover cap! 2.5 hours, $62, and 140 miles in the cage later I had obtained the assembly which included new reservoir cover caps. BMW of Denver was closed for Employee Appreciation Day, Foothills BMW and Colorado Springs BMW did not have it in stock. The motorcycling gods finally took pity on me and I found the assembly part I needed at Northern Colorado BMW:

The circle shows the cap I broke off by being stupid

So, I got the new cover cap in place and then "entertained" the notion of doing the control circuits next. Turns out you have to disconnect the hoses leading to the ABS reservoir cover caps to get the right pieces/wires out of the way to get to the bleed valves so I decided to wait one more year when they're actually due for a brake bleed. Why tempt the motorcycling gods right? I also plan on buying the speedbleeder valves for the control circuit bleeding next year and also the one for the clutch bleeder valve!

I moved on to the next major service task, replacing the fuel filter.

It takes a bit of fiddling around and moving the fuel filter/fuel pump assembly in order to get it out of the tank without damaging the fuel level indicator wire. Take your time and it will come out eventually. Make sure, as mentioned in the DVD, to mark the orientation of the flange which mounts the fuel pump onto the gas tank, it helps when putting things back together!

Major hassle for this service turned out to be the stupid hose clamps used by BMW to assembly this unit. It apparently requires a special tool to actuate these clamps and pliers were unsuccessful in trying to operate them. I ended up using fuel-injection rated fuel clamps (which I had pre-bought at the dealer thanks to Mike O's advice) to secure the new fuel filter in place. I also had to go to the auto parts store to get clamps to replace the POS bmw clamps on the two hoses one has to disconnect before removing the fuel pump assembly from the tank! What a pain, not to mention time waster.

Although I had marked the two fuel hoses inside the gas tank before disconnecting them, letting them fall back into the tank erased the markings I'd done with a sharpie pen! I ended up mixing them up and hooking them backwards when I first replaced the fuel pump assembly into the tank and secured it in place.

How do I know this? Because after I humped the tank (which had about a gallon left) over to the motorcycle, put it in place, reconnected all involved hoses, wiring connector and fired up the motorcycle. She ran fine for maybe one minute or two then died. Oh shit I said to myself, what did I do wrong when repeated attempts to restart the motorcycle failed. I even tried putting some more gas in, no go.

So, I took all the connectors back off, humped the tank over to the workspace and removed the fuel pump assembly ONCE again, swapped the hoses that are in the tank around and put everything back together again. All the while I am doing this I am praying that it was that simple a mistake and my prayers were answered! The motorcycle fired right up after I got the tank back in place and connectors hooked up. Good stuff. I let it run while I secured the tank and glove box and air scoop back in place. Wheeew.

You have to take your time with the fuel line "quick disconnects", not only are they plastic and apparently prone to breaking but while they do come apart pretty easily, they take a bit of patience to put back together. The lower of the two gave me quite the hard time. I think a bit of oil on the o-ring next time will help. I had pre-bought a quick-disconnect assembly which I did not use so it'll be a good spare to have.

Took her out for a test ride before I put the fairings back in place, both the engine and the brakes worked fine. No leaks at all from the gas tank flange which is part of the fuel pump assembly.

Had some "issues" putting the fairings back into place though. I managed to strip one mounting bracket on the right side of the motorcycle so will have to order that on Tuesday when the dealer is open. Had a couple of other screws give me some problem but got past those. Ended up putting the fairings on, taking them back off, back on and then back off a couple of extra times before everything was fastened!

The piece I stripped the screw hole on is circled above

Still, a very good learning experience for me. I saved perhaps $300 dollars by doing it myself which I can spend on a new front tire and more gas for riding! I now am confident I can do wheel circuit brake bleeds on an ABS equipped motorcycle with no problems, specially if you have speedbleeders mounted! I highly recommend them to anyone wanting to service their motorcycle or car for that matter!

I am so glad one only has to replace the dang fuel filter every 40k miles or so! What a pain, but it will be easier next time since I have the better clamps in place now.

This pretty much took all day, will hopefully go on a long ride tomorrow to celebrate.

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