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Tools Needed: Bike lift; 8mm hex socket; ratchet; torque wrench; anti-seize; Torx T-25 screw driver; 12pt-0.25" thinwall socket (see text!); prying tool.

Skill Level: Moderate

Time: 30-45 minutes.

Overview: Your rear brakes shouldn't get used as hard, or as much, as your front ones. But because there is only one caliper on the back, they do have a habit of wearing out. Mine were getting a little thin at 18,000 miles; so I decided to replace them.

Note: As a general rule, I would recommend AGAINST doing any sort of serious "elective" maintenance task on a weekend. Why? Because if you screw something up, or get stuck - the service department at your local dealership will be closed, and you'll be stuck with a bike in pieces when your buddies are out riding. Despite this - I went ahead and did it on a Saturday afternoon.

Lastly - brake work is not particularly difficult, nor does it require expensive tools - but you should still proceed extremely carefully. A screwed up brake job can be very costly if your brakes fail you when you really need them. The procedure is pretty well documented in the manual, and in the instructions that come with the kit - but, as usual, there are a few tips the novice may want to take note of.

1) Start by putting the bike on the lift, and raising it just a few inches. This may not be strictly necessary, but having the bike up in the air will aid moving the right rear shock, and having the bike vertical will aid removal of the old pads.

2) Remove the right radiator shroud (Torx T-25 screw at the bottom.) Use a phillips screwdriver to remove the top of the rear brake reservoir. Use a clean piece of plastic hose to remove about a tablespoon of brake fluid, especially if the level is near the top of the reservoir.

3) Using an 8mm hex bit socket and a ratchet, remove the upper right shock bolt. You may want to feel inside the fender for the piece this threads into. Before you pull the shock bolt all the way out, hold the metal spacer that goes between the shock trunnion and the fender, to stop it dropping into the exhaust system. With the shock bolt and spacer removed, rotate the shock towards the rear of the bike to give you better access to the caliper.

4) The manual helpfully tells you the correct size of the brake pad pins - 12point 0.25" (one of VERY FEW standard sizes on the V-Rod). For once my tool collection failed me. The 12pt 1/4" socket I had would not fit onto the pad pins, since they are recessed into the caliper, and the thick wall of the socket would not go into the recess.. You need a thin-wall 12 point 0.25" socket here. Before you start this job, make sure you have a socket that fits right. I ended up using a 12point box wrench - which was somewhat time consuming, and I ended up with skinned knuckles.

5) The pad pins themselves are about 2 1/2" long, are slightly tapered at the end, and have fine threads on the part immediately underneath the head. They fit fairly tightly into holes in the pad backing plates, and accurately locate and secure the pads. Start by loosening the pad pins, until the threaded portion is completely clear of the caliper - but DO NOT pull them completely out at this point.

6) Once the pad pins are loose, you'll need to use a pry tool to push the inner pad against the pistons to seat them in their bores. I ended up using a long thin putty knife. You'll need to come at the pad from several angles, wedging the end of the tool on the "shoulder" between the pad material and the backing plate. Try not to scratch the rotor with the tool. When both pistons are fully seated you should have a gap of about 1/8" between the remaining pad surface and the rotor. Peek at the reservoir and make sure the fluid isn't slopping over the top (it shouldn't be if you took a little fluid out first.)

7) Now pull the pad pins out another 1/2" or so - just enough that the tapered ends clear the holes in the inner pad backing plate. The inner pad should now drop free. You may need to wiggle it a little.

8) Look at the arrangement of the backing plate and the tabs. Insert the new pad in the same orientation. You may need to rotate it to get it in, and to slide the tabs into place in the caliper. It will be a fairly tight fit (its much thicker than the old pad) - but you should not have to force it.

9) When you think the inner pad is in the right position - try pushing the pad pins back in. You may have to slide the inner pad about a little to get the holes to line up with the pins. I found once you got one pin in place, pushed all the way home with a "click" - then the other went quite quickly. Tighten the pad pins a few turns with a wrench - but not all the way down.

10) Now go and pump the brake pedal. This forces the piston against the backing plate, and jams the pad in place against the rotor. You want to do this, since you are soon going to be completely removing the pad pins, and you don't want the inner pad to move when you do so.

11) Next, repeat the prying process on the outer pad. Don't forget - there are two pistons, and you want them both completely seated in their bores. Again, you should end up with a gap of about 1/8" between pad and rotor. Now, pull both pad pins completely out. The outer pad should then drop free.

12) Take a look at the outer pad orientation, and slide the new pad in the same way. If you encounter any resistance - make sure both pistons are fully seated. If one is sticking up a little, you won't get the new pad in. If necessary - reinstall the old pad and pry on it to get the pistons seated.

13) Once you have the new pads installed, reinstall the pad pins. You may have to eyeball through the tapped holes in the caliper to tell when the pad is in place. As you push the pins in they will straighten any minor alignment issues. Push them all the way through both pads.

14) Fasten the pad pins with your handy ratchet and socket... The torque on the pad pins should be between 180-200 inch/pounds. (Note: since my socket didn't fit, I had to guesstimate with my box wrench - bad!)

15) Again, pump the brake pedal to seat the pads against the rotor. Do it a couple of times. If possible rotate the rear wheel, and check that the brake is working OK.

16) Reinstall the cover to the rear brake reservoir. You (may) want to remove a drop or two more brake fluid - or add some, if you removed too much earlier.

17) Put some antiseize on the upper shock bolt and reintall it. You may need to drop the lift slightly to get the frame to line up with the top of the shock. Torque the shock bolt to 50 foot/pounds.

18) Finish up by reinstalling the right radiator shroud. Wipe the sweat (and blood drops) off your exhaust system. Take the bike off the lift.

19) Test the brake pedal by slowly rolling the bike back and forth. The brake shouldn't be binding - and the rear brake lever should be firm. Start the bike up and do some very low speed stopping manuevers.

20) They recommend light use of the rear brake for the first hundred miles to allow the pads to become "conditioned" to the rotors. Whatever that means.

Summary: Overall replacing the rear pads was not difficult, or particularly time consuming. And my rear brakes now feel a lot firmer than they did before.
 

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